Fantasy Football: Don’t Draft Todd Gurley In the First Round

Todd Gurley Fantasy
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 03: Todd Gurley II #30 of the Los Angeles Rams rushes against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)

Perhaps the biggest off-season storyline in the NFL landscape concerns Todd Gurley and his mysterious knee injury. After serving as the unquestioned lead back throughout the majority of the 2018 season, the Los Angeles Rams superstar split carries with journeyman C.J. Anderson throughout the postseason run. The Rams didn’t list Gurley on the injury report, yet they still chose to use a committee approach down the final stretch.

Almost a month after the Super Bowl, we finally know more about Gurley’s injury. According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Gurley has arthritis in his knee. This explains his strange usage and should scare fantasy football players away from taking him over guys like Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley.

Fantasy Football: Todd Gurley Not a First-Round Pick

Injuries are inevitable in football, so trying to prepare against random, freak injuries is a fruitless effort. However, some players are more injury-prone than others thanks to pre-existing conditions in their respective bodies. Basically, when evaluating an injury, the first question should be whether this is a systemic injury or a one-time freak incident.

In Gurley’s case, arthritis is a systemic injury. Howe didn’t call out a specific type of arthritis, so it’s time to do some research. The three most common knee-based arthritis diagnosis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and posttraumatic arthritis. Given a full disclaimer that I don’t have a medical degree, Gurley most likely has posttraumatic arthritis, which develops after a previous injury to the knee. Gurley injured his knee late in 2018 and also tore his ACL back in college, so he has the prior history.

While arthritis has no official cure, this isn’t a career-ending injury for Gurley. The Rams have options to minimize the pain and could even consider stem cell treatment options as a worst-case scenario. Nobody knows how healthy Gurley will be at the start of the 2019 season, but it doesn’t really matter. This injury ensured that Gurley should not be a first-round pick in your upcoming fantasy drafts.

A No-Win Situation

As previously mentioned, there’s no known cure for arthritis. The Rams and Gurley can minimize its’ effects using a variety of treatments, but the fact remains that Gurley’s knee will never be 100% healthy. From the perspective of the Los Angeles Rams, they can either ride Gurley into the ground and hope his body holds up, or try to preserve him for the entirety of the season.

Either option is bad news for fantasy owners. Part of the reason Gurley was such a great fantasy asset is that he was the unquestioned bell cow back in the Los Angeles backfield. Throughout the first 14 weeks of the season, Gurley never played in fewer than 68% of the snaps. He only played less than 75% of snaps one time, and that was in a 34-0 blowout victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

As fantastic as Gurley was for your fantasy team, this usage actually hurt the Los Angeles Rams in the long run. By the time the postseason rolled around, Gurley was a broken down shell of himself. In the last two games of the season, Gurley ran for just 45 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries.

The Rams are in win-now mode and will do everything they can to take home a title while Jared Goff is still on his rookie contract. The smart thing for the Rams to do is to get another back to complement Gurley and split snaps. Doing this would increase Gurley’s chances of entering the postseason with a clean bill of health, as his knees clearly aren’t capable of taking on a full 16-game schedule as the unquestioned starter.

Even if the Rams don’t change up their backfield, Gurley won’t deliver a full 16-game slate of games. The running back broke down in Week 14 of this season, and he still has the injury which caused him to miss so much time in the first place. Gurley simply cannot survive a full season as the bell cow back, and you should expect him to miss a good amount of time in 2019 if he’s given the same workload. He’s still a good piece to have on your fantasy roster, but there are better players you can get in the first round.

Last Word on Todd Gurley in Fantasy Football

Todd Gurley was the best fantasy running back when healthy last year, but his 2019 fortunes are not looking good. Jeff Howe reported that Gurley has arthritis in his left knee, meaning that the talented running back will never truly be 100% for the rest of his career.

From a team-building standpoint, the Rams will need to adjust their offensive strategy. Los Angeles has to know that Gurley cannot be the unquestioned workhorse if they want him healthy heading into the postseason. In order to increase his odds of staying healthy, they’ll add another capable running back who will eat into Gurley’s touches.

None of this is to say that Gurley has no fantasy relevance. Even with an injured knee, Gurley is still a dangerous player capable of making plays as a runner and a receiver. However, he won’t repeat his 2018 heroics. Right now, expect Gurley to be a low-end RB1 or a high-end RB2 worthy of a second-round pick.

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