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FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Drafting Todd Gurley

Thu Jun 13 2:58pm ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Gurley is tough call for owners


Every season there seems to be a player or two that is a tough call for fantasy teams, a polarizing figure. Well, this year that player is Todd Gurley. He was third overall in fantasy running back scoring last year but saw his playing time decrease down the stretch and in the playoffs because of a sore knee, a knee that has been surgically repaired in the past. There are questions surrounding his health and workload for the coming season, making where to draft Gurley a tough call for fantasy teams. 

So I thought it would be interesting to get some insight from some top fantasy experts. My question to them: Where do you feel comfortable drafting Todd Gurley this year and why? 

Here are the results: 

"I don’t hold out a lot of hope for Todd Gurley returning to his perch as a top running back this season. The Rams needed him the most down the stretch and he was completely ineffective. Their silence during the playoffs and the offseason only lead me to believe things are worse than they seem. If the Rams still have him in their offensive plans, I’d expect they’ll limit his touches to make sure he can handle a reduced workload.

Running backs have the shortest shelf life of any skill position so it’s possible he may never be back to what he was early in 2018. For that reason I’m avoiding Gurley in fantasy drafts this season…unless he falls into huge value territory, possibly in Round 4 or 5."

-Steve Gardner (USA Today)

“While I wouldn’t take Gurley in the first round, I’d feel comfortable drafting him in the second. Yes, his workload is going to decline this season. However, he still plays for an electric offense and should be among the league leaders in red zone rushing attempts, so I don’t think touchdowns will be all that hard for him to come by.”

-Mike Barner (RTSports)

“I am 100 percent comfortable drafting Gurley in the second round IF I have a running back in the first round.  He goes right before Joe Mixon for me.  He has had 1,800-plus yards from scrimmage each of the last two years and averages 15 touchdowns.  The knee is a HUGE worry, so you have to have a running back in Round 1 and then take him as a RB2.  If you draft DeAndre Hopkins in the first, you have to take a more sure thing.  I think he has 10-12 touchdowns this year and 1,600 scrimmage yards with 50-plus receptions.  That is 300-plus points in a PPR. BOOM.”

-Rick Wolf (Fantasy Alarm)

“Depending on draft slot, late third or early forth round, which means he will probably not be on any of my teams.  I think the top three draft picks are critical to a successful season, and at this point, I can’t trust Gurley to be productive or even playing.  I think the Rams will be cautious with him this year, and when he does play, he won’t be the ‘bell cow’ he’s been in the past.”

-Charlie Wiegert (RTSports)

“Given the information we have at the moment, I would not hesitate to take Gurley early in the second round and perhaps as early as No. 10 overall. Even if we trim 25 percent of his production (touches, yards, touchdowns, etc.) across the board in each of his two years under HC Sean McVay, he still would have finished as the RB8 in 2018 and RB5 in 2017. Yes, there is substantial risk in investing significant draft capital into a running back with a knee ‘condition’ like Gurley has, but how does his risk make him all that different from just about every fantasy back going in the same area (Mixon, Chubb, Cook) or right after him (Damien Williams, Devonta Freeman, Fournette)?” 

-Doug Orth (FF Today)

“For me personally, the draft would have to fall ‘perfectly’ in order for me to take Gurley at 2.08 with the list of guys I’ve made out, I feel like you’re risking too much for guys who are proven (Mike Evans, Zach Ertz) but I would take Gurley over the likes of Dalvin Cook or Nick Chubb due to the question marks of their own (Cook injury history, Chubb effectiveness in the passing game + Kareem Hunt factor once his suspension is up).”

-Stephen Hawley (’17 Fantasy Championship winner and #5 ranked fantasy player on RTSports)

"There's definite concern over the knee, but if I'm drafting at the tail-end of the first round, I would consider grabbing Gurley, especially if I'm on the wheel and can guarantee another solid running back with my second pick. The only problem I have is how Darrell Henderson is a must-handcuff and you probably have to reach before you would normally draft him to ensure you get him. It's one of those situations where those who don't believe in Gurley will make their move in the middle rounds just to screw you over; just like those who didn't own Le'Veon Bell made it a point to target DeAngelo Williams."

-Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm)

“Every pick carries some risk but avoiding risk early in drafts is always a strategy I like to employ. I know many will say go big or go home, but I think playing it a little safe with your early picks is the smart move when it comes to injury, playing time, etc. So for me, I would not take Gurley until the mid to late second round of drafts this year. I can’t invest early in a running back with a potentially bad knee and a decrease in playing time from past seasons. And if I’m picking early, I want to make sure I have already used my first-round pick on a running back before grabbing Gurley. That would make me much more comfortable with selecting Gurley for my team.” 

-Jeff Paur (RTSports)

Hopefully, this article helps your decision making when it comes to Gurley for the coming year. There doesn't seem to be a right answer when it comes to drafting him, but maybe hearing from some of these experts will help make a decision for you when it comes to Gurley. He is shaping up as a make or break fantasy player for the coming year, a critical player in fantasy drafts. Good luck in navigating all your drafts. 

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

Player Notes
Rodney Anderson Jul 17 5:10pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals rookie running back Rodney Anderson (knee) is expected to open the 2019 season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. If he does, Anderson will have to miss the first six games of the season and will be significantly behind in the battle for backup minutes in Cincinnati. This news likely means that Anderson's rookie season is going to be a fantasy nonfactor, though he still has value in dynasty leagues, where he has a chance to be the future number-two back behind Joe Mixon.

From RotoBaller

Jake Butt Jul 17 2:13pm ET

Denver Broncos TE Jake Butt (knee) will be eased back into practice during the early portion of training camp, according to head coach Vic Fangio.

Mike Williams Jul 17 2:10pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams burst onto the scene last season with his team-leading 10 touchdowns, but he's just getting started. Williams and teammate Keenan Allen were named the third-best receiver duo by NFL.com analyst James Jones, and Jones pointed out that 2019 might be a huge year for Williams thanks to a bit of subtraction. Tyrell Williams departed for Oakland, and his 65 targets from last season will now be spread out amongst those who are left, most likely Mike Williams. Assuming Melvin Gordon returns to the lineup, Williams could be one of the very best "third" options in the league this year and could easily turn into an undercover superstar.

From RotoBaller

Emmanuel Sanders Jul 17 2:03pm ET

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles') will not open camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, according to team president John Elway.

Fantasy Spin: Sanders is a tough decision later in drafts this year. He's aging, and he's coming off an Achilles' injury. He's a risky WR4 or a WR5 flyer.

Melvin Gordon Jul 17 2:00pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon clarified over the weekend that even though he is pushing for a new contract, he still wants to stay with the Chargers if he can. Gordon spoke out because he was upset that people were saying that he didn't want to go back to the Chargers, but he still reiterated, "You know, I want to get paid." Gordon is entering the final year of his five-year rookie contract, and his agent has already openly expressed that Gordon will hold out and demand a trade if he is not given a new deal. Gordon's got some leverage as the team's primary running back, but the recent drop in value amongst running backs and cross-town troubles between the Rams and Todd Gurley will likely play a major role in the offers made to him. It would be surprising if this issue was solved before training camp.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Burbridge Jul 17 1:13pm ET

Denver Broncos WR Aaron Burbridge announced his retirement Wednesday, July 17.

Austin Hooper Jul 17 11:03am ET

Atlanta Falcons TE Austin Hooper caught 71 of 88 targets last season for an 80.7 percent catch ratio. In comparison, former TE Tony Gonzalez's best catch ratio was 75 percent in 2012. 'Hooper, the improvement just keeps getting better,' Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. 'Now, he's ready to go to another level, and I'm looking forward to seeing him make that growth.'

Fantasy Spin: That catch ratio can be looked at in different lenses and could be an aberration. Hooper delivered a 71-660-4 season, and he could improve upon that or level off. He's a solid midrange TE1 in PPR formats.

Yannick Ngakoue Jul 17 10:53am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue will have to report to training camp no later than Aug. 5 in order to accrue his fourth season and avoid becoming a restricted free-agent after the season.

Myles Garrett Jul 17 9:43am ET

Cleveland Browns DE Myles Garrett said that he was limited to a couple of moves at the line under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and he feels he has more freedom this year. Garrett was known for using a long-arm technique to create space and neutralize an opposing lineman's ability to set their feet deep. 'You can be as strong or fast as you want, but speed chop and power move aren't always going to work,' Garrett said. 'You have to mix up what you're doing. Sometimes you have to stutter step, sometimes you have to spin inside, you have to run some games. You have to have some freedom to throw different looks at them, and we didn't always have that.'

Rob Gronkowski Jul 17 9:18am ET

A source close to retired tight end Rob Gronkowski places his potential for unretiring at 40 percent in 2019. Gronkowski isn't thinking of football right now and is enjoying his retirement, but he could decide to return once the season starts. If quarterback Tom Brady makes an appeal to Gronk, the future Hall of Famer could come back. Gronkowski has said that he's lost only 18 pounds since retiring, and it's believed that head coach Bill Belichick wouldn't stop Gronkowski if he wanted to return. This is probably still more of a long shot, but it shouldn't be ruled out. Gronk battled injuries throughout his career and seemed to slow down in 2018, but his return would send shock waves through the fantasy industry. He had 47 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last year. You'd be better off using a roster spot on someone else this fall, even if it's intriguing to think about.

Grady Jarrett Jul 17 9:17am ET

The Atlanta Falcons and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett agreed to a four-year contract extension on Monday. The contract is expected to be worth $68 million with $38 million guaranteed, according to a source. He was initially set to receive the $15.209 million franchise tag if a deal wasn't worked out by Monday. The team can now move on to extensions for receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Deion Jones. The Falcons and Deion Jones' representation will meet face-to-face on Wednesday. Jarrett, a fifth-round pick in 2015, has been a top defender for Atlanta and had 53 total pressures in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. He also had six sacks, three forced fumbles and a team-high 16 QB hits.

Joe Mixon Jul 17 6:00am ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon will look to improve after a solid 2018 season. After accruing just 626 yards on the ground during his rookie campaign, Mixon eclipsed the millennium mark last season to finish with 1,168 yards to go along with nine total trips to the end zone. Though it has been argued that he isn't a top-five back, he will begin his first season under the tutelage of new head coach Zac Taylor, who served as an assistant under Sean McVay. Taylor, who will mirror some parts of the Rams' playbook initially, will utilize the same packages that helped running back Todd Gurley become a fantasy success. As a result, Mixon has a better chance than most to have a dominant season despite being behind a weaker offensive line, and as long as he can remain healthy.

From RotoBaller

Alfred Blue Jul 17 3:03am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Alfred Blue is the 'frontrunner' for the No. 2 spot behind RB Leonard Fournette, in the opinion of The Florida Times-Union's John Reid.

Fantasy Spin: There are some other recognizable names on the depth chart, including Thomas Rawls and rookie Ryquell Armstead, but Blue has been penciled in as RB2 since he signed with the Jags. He remains a decent late-round handcuff for Fournette owners.

Delanie Walker Jul 16 11:40pm ET

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, in the opinion of Titans Online's Jim Wyatt. Tight end Jonnu Smith (knee), whose season ended in Week 14, isn't a lock to be ready after having missed all of the offseason workouts. Walker could be on the Physically Unable to Perform list during training camp, but the veteran should be ready for Week 1. The 34-year-old is more of a risk now than ever as a TE1, but he could come at a nice value later in drafts if he can stay healthy. After all, he has had at least 800 receiving yards since 2014 if you take out last year's injury.

From RotoBaller

Emmanuel Sanders Jul 16 11:20pm ET

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) said he's "definitely not going to be full-go from the jump" at the start of training camp. He will gradually work into full activities and wants "to be ready for Week 1." It's no lock that the 32-year-old will be ready for Week 1, so that definitely makes him a risky fantasy proposition going into the 2019 season. Sanders started his Denver tenure with three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-16, but he's underwhelmed since. He bounced back some with 71 receptions for 868 yards and four touchdowns in only 12 games last season. Sanders hasn't played in a full season since 2016 and will obviously have injury concerns again this year.

From RotoBaller

Jake Butt Jul 16 10:53pm ET

Denver Broncos TE Jake Butt (knee) was limited to individual drills for most of the offseason as he continued to recover from surgery on his torn anterior cruciate ligament. He believes he will do more 'team things' at start of camp while the team slowly works his reps back to where they were, according to Aric DiLalla of the team's website.

Larry Fitzgerald Jul 16 10:50pm ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been impressed with the tempo of new head coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense. The Cardinals ranked 20th in the league in pace (time between plays) in neutral situations last year, but that is expected to change drastically in 2019. Fitzgerald said the new offense contains less verbiage that when Bruce Arians was the head coach, and players are expected to process pre-snap adjustments faster. It means that Arizona's skill players should see more bulk this year, which is good for their fantasy value. The offense will ebb and flow based on how rookie quarterback Kyler Murray fares, but the early returns are very promising.

From RotoBaller

Drew Lock Jul 16 10:50pm ET

Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, a second-round pick, remains the only unsigned rookie on the team. Offensive guard Drew Risner, who was selected a pick before Lock at 41 overall, signed a deal worth $7.14 million on Tuesday. According to multiple sources, Lock's representatives are seeking a "quarterback premium." There is hope that he'll sign before the team's first meeting on Wednesday and first practice on Thursday, but there's also the chance that Lock isn't present for the start of training camp. The Broncos made assurances to Risner that Lock won't receive a richer contract. Lock has long-term upside in dynasty/keeper leagues, but he won't have much redraft value as the expected backup to veteran Joe Flacco to begin the season.

From RotoBaller

Javon Wims Jul 16 10:43pm ET

Chicago Bears WR Javon Wims is a player who 'probably deserves more attention' after performing well during offseason workouts and appears primed to compete for a role on offense in training camp, according to Larry Mayer of the team's website.

Derrick Henry Jul 16 9:33pm ET

Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry ran for 625 yards and eight touchdowns on 97 carries in five December games last season. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith intends to ride Henry in 2019, according to Jim Wyatt of the team's website.

Fantasy Spin: Henry is entering the final year of his contract and has a solid offensive line in front of him, which may be the two most important reasons why the Titans may not care about running him into the ground. Other reasons may include Smith not knowing if Marcus Mariota can hold up his end of the deal. If Smith stays true to his word, Henry has as good of a chance to lead the league in carries and rushing yards as any back.