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.

2007LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.281,94918306.91
2001Marshall Faulk, St.L.282,14721342.71
2004Priest Holmes, K.C.311,07915197.912
2003•Priest Holmes, K.C.302,11027373.01
2006Shaun Alexander, Sea.299447136.428
2010Chris Johnson, Tenn.251,60912232.95
2004Ahman Green, G.B.271,4388195.814
2004•LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.251,77618285.63
2002Marshall Faulk, St.L.291,49010209.014
2001Edgerrin James, Ind.238553105.531
2006•Larry Johnson, K.C.272,19919333.92
2007Larry Johnson, K.C.28745498.540
2017David Johnson, Ariz.269009.0117
2011Arian Foster, Hou.251,84112256.14
2007Steven Jackson, St.L.241,2736167.314
2003Ricky Williams, Mia.261,72310232.39
2018•Todd Gurley, LAR241,83121315.11
2006••LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.272,32331426.31
2019Todd Gurley, LAR25????????
2014Jamaal Charles, K.C.281,32414216.47
2013Adrian Peterson, Minn.281,43711209.76
2004Jamal Lewis, Balt.251,1227154.225
2003••LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.242,37017343.03
2006Tiki Barber, NYG312,1275242.77
2008LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.291,53612225.67
2005••Shaun Alexander, Sea.281,95828363.81
2015DeMarco Murray, Dall.271,0247144.418
2012Ray Rice, Balt.251,62110222.16
2005•Tiki Barber, NYG302,39011307.04
2017Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.221,2529179.29
2019Saquon Barkley, NYG22????????
2001Eddie George, Tenn.281,2185151.819
2010Adrian Peterson, Minn.251,63913241.93
2003•Clinton Portis, Den.221,90514276.55
2015LeVeon Bell, Pitt.23692387.246
2005••LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.261,83220315.23
2009DeAngelo Williams, Car.261,3697180.914
2008•Brian Westbrook, Phil.291,33814217.810
2012LeSean McCoy, Phil.241,2135151.321
2019Christian McCaffrey, Car.23????????
2014LeSean McCoy, Phil.261,4745177.411
2005Curtis Martin, NYJ328535115.329
2002••Priest Holmes, K.C.292,28724372.71
2004Clinton Portis, Den.231,5507201.011
2009Michael Turner, Atl.2790610150.623
2019Alvin Kamara, N.O.24????????
2010Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac.251,6417206.112
2007Frank Gore, S.F.241,5386189.89
2003•Shaun Alexander, Sea.261,73016269.06
2003•Deuce McAllister, N.O.252,1578263.77
2015Marshawn Lynch, Sea.29497369.756
2004••Shaun Alexander, Sea.271,86620306.61
2006Edgerrin James, Ind.281,3766173.620
2007Willie Parker, Pitt.271,4802160.016

—Ian Allan