LA’s Warhorse: Todd Gurley’s Mileage at a Maximum by GNFF Godfather @GNFF_Godfather
For the past four years, Todd Gurley has been a complete warrior on the gridiron in an era where the running back position continues to depreciate. A two-time All-Pro, Gurley has touched the ball 1,229 times for 6,430 yards and scored 56 touchdowns since entering the league in 2015. Let’s put those stats into perspective. No active running back in the NFL has carried or received the ball for more yardage or scores through the last four seasons than Gurley.
ACTIVE RB RANKING IN TOTAL TOUCHES (2015-18):
1. TODD GURLEY/RAMS – (RUSHING) 1042/4547/46 (RECEIVING) 187/1883/10
2. MELVIN GORDON/CHARGERS – (RUSHING) 897/3628/28 (RECEIVING) 182/1577/10
3. LESEAN MCCOY/BILLS – (RUSHING) 885/3814/25 (RECEIVING) 175/1334/5
4. FRANK GORE/BILLS – (RUSHING) 940/3675/13 (RECEIVING) 113/913/7
5. LAMAR MILLER/TEXANS – (RUSHING) 910/3806/21 (RECEIVING) 139/1075/7
6. EZEKIEL ELLIOTT/COWBOYS – (RUSHING) 868/4048/28 (RECEIVING) 135/1199/6
7. DEVONTA FREEMAN/FALCONS – (RUSHING) 832/3068/29 (RECEIVING) 168/1380/6
The running backs on the list above have all touched the ball at least 1,000 times since 2015. Gordon is the closest in touches compared to Gurley with 1,079 (150 less). Gurley’s mileage at only 24 years old is truly something to marvel at. In 58 games as a Ram, his “Workhorse Consumption Rate” is nearly 30% a year. This means Gurley has eaten up an average of almost a third of the team’s total offensive yardage each season. Let’s not forget Sean McVay’s offense is arguably the most dynamic in the league, featuring a franchise QB in Jared Goff and a versatile wide receiver corps. Gurley is competing for touches with talented weapons and is not necessarily leaned on as much as he was in his first two years of his career. Bottom line – what he’s done is impressive to say the least.
But the end appears to be near for the “Warhorse”. Inflammation hit Gurley’s knee last season, causing him to miss two games. The same knee he tore up in 2014 at Georgia. If you haven’t heard already, the Rams front office is concerned. NFL insider Jay Glazer gave his take on Gurley’s arthritis.
“The sky isn’t falling but even now, they’re being smart about it. It did swell up on him last year, this is a knee that has had wear and tear. Eventually, you’re going to factor this in especially with them having to sit him down the stretch last year,” said Glazer. “It’s not all doom and gloom, but it is definitely something you have to monitor and be prepared for in case that thing blows up on him again. We already learned that lesson last year. That’s why he isn’t doing any on-field work yet.”
In the meantime, the Rams traded up 24 spots in the 2019 NFL Draft to pick Memphis running back Darrell Henderson. The team also matched the Detroit Lions offer sheet to keep Malcolm Brown as backfield insurance, signing him to a two-year, $3.3 million deal. These moves are signs that Todd Gurley’s workhorse days may become history. What happens when TG does not touch the ball more than 18 times in a game? Here’s what an average stat line looks like in this situation that has come up in 19 total games.
15 touches, 73 yards.
You read that right. Volume is key for any player to produce unless he’s got home run speed or he’s a major red zone threat. Gurley’s speed doesn’t seem like it will improve if he’s fighting arthritis in his knee and his red zone opportunities may decline if he’s getting less touches because of the knee concern. Compare Gurley to the all-time great running backs in scrimmage yards through their first four seasons in the league and he’s not far behind. It’s also important to remember how pass-happy the NFL is now.
TOP FIVE NFL RBS IN SCRIMMAGE YARDS – FIRST FOUR SEASONS IN NFL
1. LADAINIAN TOMLINSON (7921) – (RUSHING) 1363/5899/54 (RECEIVING) 291/2022/6
2. ERIC DICKERSON (7842) – (RUSHING) 1465/6974/57 (RECEIVING) 118/874/2
3. ADRIAN PETERSON (6952) – (RUSHING) 1198/5782/52 (RECEIVING) 119/11702
4. BARRY SANDERS (6968) – (RUSHING) 1189/5674/52 (RECEIVING) 130/1294/5
5. MARCUS ALLEN (6942) – (RUSHING) 1081/4638/44 (RECEIVING) 237/2304/13
None of these five backs started their careers coming off a torn ACL. Take note of that.
At the top, Tomlinson averaged 413.5 touches a year over his first four seasons as a San Diego Charger. Gurley averaged 106.25 less (307.25/YR) touches. Let’s magnify the scope on that comparison. Gurley’s career average of 5.2 yards per touch multiplied by Tomlinson’s average volume from 2001-2004 would give Gurley a production of 2,163 scrimmage yards per year, totaling 8,653 yards after four seasons. But that’s not a reality in this day and age of NFL offenses. It’s safe to say Gurley has been fed maximum volume as a Ram.
Former San Diego Chargers physician, Dr. David Chao has said it’s not uncommon for arthritis to start after an ACL tear. Think of the cartilage like tread on your tires and arthritis can be the cause to wear and tear on that tread. Of course, too much tread is a problem.
Chao says Gurley’s knee issue is a sign he won’t be getting 250-plus carries and 300-plus total touches in the long-term future. Gurley reportedly wants to play six pounds lighter (218) instead of his usual 224 pounds. It remains to be known if that will help his knee pain.
According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Gurley’s current Dynasty ADP is 1.08 but has been drafted as low as 2.01. In PPR redrafts, he’s gone as low as 2.08. Fantasy GMs are definitely up to date on his situation, causing his stock to slide steadily.
With Gurley’s career mileage put in perspective, it’s time to appreciate what he’s done and salute the Warhorse as we’ve most likely witnessed the most prime portion of his career hit its peak.
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