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Scouting Report: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

Scouting Report: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

A potential monster
By: Pete Davidson : April 22, 2015 10:22am

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Big. Strong. Fast. Decisive. Versatile. Todd Gurley is exactly what today’s NFL teams are looking for in a lead back. He checks all the boxes with the exception of the one marked health. If Gurley was currently healthy, I think he’d be a lock to be the first back off the board in this year’s draft. In fact, even with his ACL injury, he’s still potentially the first back off the board. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Here we have perhaps the deepest running back class ever, and a guy with a fresh ACL tear could be taken ahead of the whole lot—a lot that includes Melvin Gordon.

Having said all that, I’m not so sure that taking Gurley at the head of the class is such a great move. I’m always skeptical with ACL injuries. I know they have become incredibly good at repair and rehab techniques get better every year. They’ve become really good at these things. I get that. Adrian Peterson’s recovery is the most famous, and often cited, example. Just don’t forget the guys who never came back at the same level, like Rashard Mendenhall, Cadillac Williams, Tim Hightower or Montario Hardesty. Not every knee is the same and not every ACL reconstruction is the same. While it’s reasonable to expect a return by Gurley, and while it’s entirely possible that he comes back as good as ever, it’s also possible that he’s never quite the same.

Now that I’ve articulated Gurley’s downside, it’s a good idea to point out the positives regarding his injury. First of all, it happened on November 15th, and that gives Gurley time to be ready for the 2015 season. The specifics of injury itself also give us some reason for optimism. Gurley did not suffer tremendous surrounding damage like Marcus Lattimore did. It looked like a clean tear that didn’t take the medial collateral ligament with it and there have been no reports of meniscus (cartilage) damage. These are very positive things. Dr. James Andrews has also expressed optimism for Gurley, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. So, while it’s important to not fill in the blanks ahead of time, it’s also looking good so far for Gurley. He projects to be back on the field in mid-July give or take a few weeks. In fact, he was recently deemed healthy after his recheck in Indianapolis.

Of course, there’s a difference between being healthy, being cleared for contact and being the old Todd Gurley. These are all different stages of his comeback. He’s cleared stage one.

Now that we’ve exhausted the angles on Gurley’s health, let’s get back to why he’s such a big topic of discussion … his game. While Gurley checked most all of the boxes as I mentioned at the start of the report, Gurley offered this take on his own weaknesses at the combine.

“The weaknesses in my game are definitely anything without the ball. I definitely can learn a lot from pass protection. I might not do it correctly sometimes, but I definitely have the heart to do. That’s about it, I feel.”

This mirrors our take on Gurley. He’s such a primary weapon, that he didn’t do as much pass protection as some backs might, but he’s also willing to get dirty when you watch his game film. He plays hard and he’s a good athlete. He should continue to improve as a pass protector.

COMBINE

  • Height - 6’1”
  • Weight - 222
  • Hand - 10
  • Arm - 32.5”
  • Bench - 17 reps

He didn’t do much, but he proved that he’s still large and he benched relatively well. Based on his game film, we estimate Gurley’s speed to be a shade better than 4.50, which is very good for a back his size.

ATTRIBUTES

  • Size - Gurley’s got close to the ideal build for a back and it fits his running style well.
  • Power - He knows how to use his size to his advantage. He’s got a good stiff-arm and will lower his pads to finish runs—usually bouncing off contact for extra yards. Runs through arm tackles like a hot knife through butter.
  • Balance - Call it what you want, but Gurley is hard to knock off his base and very hard to tackle once he’s got some momentum. He also tends to get himself in good leverage situations which makes his stiff arm look effortless at times. A lot of backs use the stiff arm as a defensive maneuver. Gurley is a master of the offensive stiff arm.
  • Speed - Due to his knee injury, there is no timed speed for Gurley, but, as I mentioned, he plays at 4.50 or better according to what we see on film and he’s a guy who builds to high speed. His long straight line speed might be better than our estimation of his 40 time.
  • Burst - Gurley is a decisive downhill back and once he sees the hole, he hits it with gusto and a strong burst.
  • Cuts - Gurley makes strong cuts and can use that ability to negotiate tight space. He’s not going to shake and bake, but he’ll put a foot in the ground and make an authoritative cut. He’s primarily a one-cut downhill back, but he can be more than that when need be.
  • Style - Gurley runs exactly how he’s supposed to based on his skill set. It’s nothing complicated. What you get is sort of Eddie Lacy meets Duke Johnson. Natural downhill power and an in your face running style. Like Johnson and Lacy, Gurley doesn’t open up angles for would-be tacklers—cutting more vertically than east or west—getting into the defender’s kitchen quickly. This is how he gets so many defenders on their heels. He’s a good fit for a power scheme or a zone scheme.
  • Vision - Makes good decisions and makes them fast. Gurley gets downhill quickly and runs to daylight well.
  • Goal line - You want a back who will own the stripe? This is your guy. It doesn’t get much better than Gurley down near the stripe.
  • Receiving ability - I like what I see here. Gurley is a three-down running back and is likely to be the primary back in all situations. He’ll get a breather here or there, but he’ll suck up most of the oxygen wherever he goes, like Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson.
  • Pass protection - As I mentioned earlier, we agree with Gurley’s take on his own pass pro chops. He’s raw but he’ll improve and he knows it’s important at the next level. I’d be surprised if this was a bugaboo for him at the NFL level.
  • Ball security - It’s notable that he lost only two fumbles (3 total fumbles) as a collegian over 575 total touches (510 carries + 65 receptions.)
  • Return ability - While I doubt his new employer will put him at risk on special teams very often, if at all, Gurley is a serious weapon as a kick returner.
  • Production - When on the field, Gurley ran all over the SEC.  Take a look.  

FILM ROOM

There are six of Gurley’s games available at DraftBreakdown. Check them out.

Here’s a good look at Gurley versus Clemson from 2014.

Here’s a look at Gurley’s collegiate highlights.

CONCLUSIONS

It’s all about the knee and we’ll have a window into what the best doctors think on draft day. If Gurley goes high, then things have checked out well. If he slips, that could be a red flag. We don’t have much doubt that Gurley’s the best back on the board as long as he is playing at 100 percent.

The fantasy value questions are not hard to answer. First, as I alluded to, we’ll take our cue from the NFL on draft day. The higher he’s taken, the more confidence we’ll have that his knee is on the right track. If things look good, he’s going to be in our top five long term prospects and potentially number one.

In dynasty and long term leagues, you need to take your situation and tolerance for risk into account. If you have a solid ground game in place and can afford a player who might be slow to get his feet wet as a rookie, then Gurley is going to have a lot of appeal because he has the most upside of all the backs. If you have a shallow running game and need early success, then Gurley will be riskier for you. You might want to consider a trade back so you can take advantage of the depth of the position rather than go all-in on a stud. It’s about your individual circumstances and disposition. Personally, if all things are equal, I’d be inclined to roll the dice, but with my eyes wide open—fully understanding the risk I am taking.

We’ll know even more about Gurley’s situation once he has a team. If he lands in the right place, you may be able to cover yourself by moving for the other back on that team. For example, if Gurley goes to Arizona, you could probably land Andre Ellington on the cheap to cover your tail. If he goes to Baltimore, I’m thinking the guy who owns Justin Forsett will be willing to sell.

In redraft formats, we’ll have to gauge the new offense and the new depth chart. If Gurley’s 100 percent and starting from day one in a good offense, the sky is the limit. If he gets taken by a team like Indianapolis, his long term value goes through the proverbial ceiling but his 2015 value becomes limited by Frank Gore. Dallas is another scenario. He could be an RB1 right out of the box with the Cowboys. That offensive line and passing game will keep the box manageable and the goal line opportunities will be plentiful.

I look forward to updating Gurley’s value in our post-draft rankings.
 

 

 

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