After a surprise release on Thursday afternoon that left the Rams eating a significant amount of dead cap, Todd Gurley didn’t have to wait long to find a new home…
Todd Gurley is signing with the #Falcons, per source. It’s a one-year deal for the 25-year-old running back.
— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) March 20, 2020
Todd Gurley Career Stats
Gurley returns to the state where he played college football coming off a down year. After being diagnosed with an arthritic condition in his knee, we spent an offseason of speculation on if and how much Gurley would have his workload reduced in 2019.
He went from second in touches per game in 2018 (22.5) all the way down to 17th (16.9) a year ago. His efficiency was sapped, losing 3.1 yards per catch, 1.1 yards per carry, and 1.6 yards per touch on that reduced workload.
His explosiveness dried up, posting a run of 10 or more yards on 35.8% of his rushing attempts after 46.0% and 49.4% over his first two seasons playing in Sean McVay’s system.
There were some positives, however. Gurley broke a tackle on 18.5% of his touches, which was up from 13.3% in 2018 and 16.6% in 2017. Gurley also maintained a nose for the end zone, scoring 14 times. He’s now scored double-digit times in four of his five NFL seasons.
The Rams offensive line also deserves some of the blame here. Per Football Outsiders, the Rams went from first in Adjusted Line Yards created (5.49) in 2018 all the way down to 19th (4.26) a year ago. Gurley averaged 1.06 yards before contact per carry after 1.68 yards prior to contact in 2018. The Atlanta situation may not be much of an improvement as they ranked 24th in Adjusted Line Yards created a year ago.
There’s still a question on if Gurley’s arthritic knee or the state of the Rams’ offense in totality played a larger role in the decline of his performance a year ago, but combined they were an unsuccessful cocktail of inefficiency.
We’ve seen Gurley struggle in that department before during his second season in 2016 before roaring back as the top-scoring back in fantasy points per game the following two seasons, but there seems to be less optimism for the soon to be 26-year-old at this time due to that knee issue.
That said, Gurley lands in a spot with a chasm of vacated opportunity. The Falcons are missing 52.4% of their 2019 rushing attempts from the roster (fourth-most) and 39.8% of their team targets from a year ago, the most in the league. Gurley can live for fantasy at ~250 touches, but needs his receiving work to rebound. The Falcons gave their running backs 113 targets in the passing game compared to 62 for the Rams a year ago. Recently released Devonta Freeman accounted for 70 of those targets.
A one-year deal doesn’t obligate Atlanta to hand all that over to Gurley if he’s once again ineffective. It also means Atlanta should still be expected to take a running back in this upcoming draft at some point, But Gurley should be expected to have a shot at proving himself. Atlanta has been 13th (23.8 points per game) and ninth (25.9 points) in scoring as a team the past two seasons, so at the floor-level, he has an inline to contribute as a touchdown scorer. I still view Gurley as an RB2 option in 2020.
Leaving Los Angeles, Gurley relinquishes 56.8% of the Rams rushing attempts, meaning the Rams will turn the offense over to second-year back Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown or another potential back not yet on the roster. The early favorite would be Henderson, who the Rams drafted with the 70th overall pick a year ago, but his rookie season performance leaves a cloud of doubt that doesn’t make things a slam dunk. Henderson managed just 43 touches for 184 yards and zero touchdowns as a rookie. There were consistent whispers that he struggled to adapt to the zone blocking scheme after being steadily given a tarmac in Memphis.
Brown held an edge on Henderson for most of the season, totaling 71 touches for 271 yards. Where he particularly had an edge was near the goal line. Brown had nine carries inside of the 10-yard line, converting five for scores while Henderson had two carries all season from that area of the field with zero carries inside of the 5-yard line.
I’d still anticipate that the Rams add another running back to the fold this offseason, but I believe Henderson gets a shot to take over as the lead back in his second season. Even in that scenario, the 222-pound Brown could still remain a touchdown thorn in the side of Henderson’s upside.