It’s looking more and more likely that we’ve already seen the best of Todd Gurley. It’s tough staying on top at the running back position.
Gurley has been remarkably productive the last two years, but he’s also taken a pounding while piling up almost 4,000 yards. Gurley sat out the last two games to rest a knee that was giving him problems late in the year and wasn’t as effective in the postseason. Now a report from Jeff Howe of The Athletic indicates Gurley is battling arthritis in his left knee. That’s the same knee that needed to an ACL repair when he was at Georgia.
GM Les Snead on Thursday at the combine conceded that the Rams are considering lightening Gurley’s workload.
“Are we going to give him the amount of load that he’s had in the past? Or are we going to lessen that load to, let’s say keep him fresher for the season and for seasons beyond,” Snead said. “If you go that route … you have to have a good, let’s call it ‘Batman and Robin’ combination, or add another superhero figure into that and figure out how you’re gonna do it. … So we’re in the process of figuring that out.”
For fantasy purposes, Gurley still has value, but I think the days of him putting up insane numbers are gone. The days of him playing like a young LaDainian Tomlinson or Marshall Faulk are past. They got nice production out of C.J. Anderson late in the year. It would make a lot of sense to use him (or a back like him), giving Gurley a better chance of being explosive and productive in the postseason.
This is how it generally plays out with running backs, where the attrition is high. Of the top 50 running backs in this century, only 17 of them (about 1 in 3) came back the next year and put up top-5 numbers again. Another 11 finished with top-10 numbers, but 22 of the 50 didn’t. Almost all of those running backs were selected in the first and second rounds of fantasy drafts.
Of those top-50 runners, only 11 came back the next year and finished with more total yards (rushing and receiving). Only 10 scored as many touchdowns.
In general, when selecting a running back who ranked in the top 5, there’s an 80 percent chance he’s going to finish with fewer yards, and there’s an 80 percent chance he’s going to score fewer touchdowns.
With the wear and tear piling up on Gurley’s knee, he looks like a slam dunk to finish with fewer yards and touchdowns. If you draft Gurley for 2019, it should be with the hope he will put up top-10 numbers. I think his days as a top-5 fantasy back are over.
On this chart below, you’re looking at the top 50 backs from the 2000-2017 seasons, plus four from last year who are in bold. The backs are in order by their overall production using standard scoring (2006 LaDainian Tomlinson was the most productive, and 2000 Marshall Faulk was No. 2).
But the numbers I’m showing aren’t what the backs did in their standout years. Instead, I’m showing their production for the next season. Total yards, touchdowns and fantasy points (standard scoring). The age indicates they’re age at the end of that season (Gurley, remarkably, is only 24 now and will be 25 at the end of the year). The final column is the rank – where the player ranked among running backs in that season.
If a player finished with more yards, he has a black dot in front of his name. If he scored more touchdowns, he has a black dot.
|DECLINE OF ELITE RUNNING BACKS|
|2007||LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.||28||1,949||18||306.9||1|
|2001||Marshall Faulk, St.L.||28||2,147||21||342.7||1|
|2004||Priest Holmes, K.C.||31||1,079||15||197.9||12|
|2003||•Priest Holmes, K.C.||30||2,110||27||373.0||1|
|2006||Shaun Alexander, Sea.||29||944||7||136.4||28|
|2010||Chris Johnson, Tenn.||25||1,609||12||232.9||5|
|2004||Ahman Green, G.B.||27||1,438||8||195.8||14|
|2004||•LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.||25||1,776||18||285.6||3|
|2002||Marshall Faulk, St.L.||29||1,490||10||209.0||14|
|2001||Edgerrin James, Ind.||23||855||3||105.5||31|
|2006||•Larry Johnson, K.C.||27||2,199||19||333.9||2|
|2007||Larry Johnson, K.C.||28||745||4||98.5||40|
|2017||David Johnson, Ariz.||26||90||0||9.0||117|
|2011||Arian Foster, Hou.||25||1,841||12||256.1||4|
|2007||Steven Jackson, St.L.||24||1,273||6||167.3||14|
|2003||Ricky Williams, Mia.||26||1,723||10||232.3||9|
|2018||•Todd Gurley, LAR||24||1,831||21||315.1||1|
|2006||••LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.||27||2,323||31||426.3||1|
|2019||Todd Gurley, LAR||25||???||?||???||?|
|2014||Jamaal Charles, K.C.||28||1,324||14||216.4||7|
|2013||Adrian Peterson, Minn.||28||1,437||11||209.7||6|
|2004||Jamal Lewis, Balt.||25||1,122||7||154.2||25|
|2003||••LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.||24||2,370||17||343.0||3|
|2006||Tiki Barber, NYG||31||2,127||5||242.7||7|
|2008||LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.||29||1,536||12||225.6||7|
|2005||••Shaun Alexander, Sea.||28||1,958||28||363.8||1|
|2015||DeMarco Murray, Dall.||27||1,024||7||144.4||18|
|2012||Ray Rice, Balt.||25||1,621||10||222.1||6|
|2005||•Tiki Barber, NYG||30||2,390||11||307.0||4|
|2017||Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.||22||1,252||9||179.2||9|
|2019||Saquon Barkley, NYG||22||???||?||???||?|
|2001||Eddie George, Tenn.||28||1,218||5||151.8||19|
|2010||Adrian Peterson, Minn.||25||1,639||13||241.9||3|
|2003||•Clinton Portis, Den.||22||1,905||14||276.5||5|
|2015||LeVeon Bell, Pitt.||23||692||3||87.2||46|
|2005||••LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.||26||1,832||20||315.2||3|
|2009||DeAngelo Williams, Car.||26||1,369||7||180.9||14|
|2008||•Brian Westbrook, Phil.||29||1,338||14||217.8||10|
|2012||LeSean McCoy, Phil.||24||1,213||5||151.3||21|
|2019||Christian McCaffrey, Car.||23||???||?||???||?|
|2014||LeSean McCoy, Phil.||26||1,474||5||177.4||11|
|2005||Curtis Martin, NYJ||32||853||5||115.3||29|
|2002||••Priest Holmes, K.C.||29||2,287||24||372.7||1|
|2004||Clinton Portis, Den.||23||1,550||7||201.0||11|
|2009||Michael Turner, Atl.||27||906||10||150.6||23|
|2019||Alvin Kamara, N.O.||24||???||?||???||?|
|2010||Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac.||25||1,641||7||206.1||12|
|2007||Frank Gore, S.F.||24||1,538||6||189.8||9|
|2003||•Shaun Alexander, Sea.||26||1,730||16||269.0||6|
|2003||•Deuce McAllister, N.O.||25||2,157||8||263.7||7|
|2015||Marshawn Lynch, Sea.||29||497||3||69.7||56|
|2004||••Shaun Alexander, Sea.||27||1,866||20||306.6||1|
|2006||Edgerrin James, Ind.||28||1,376||6||173.6||20|
|2007||Willie Parker, Pitt.||27||1,480||2||160.0||16|