Thoughts on Drafting Todd Gurley

With questions surrounding his knee, the Footballguys staff offers opinions on drafting Todd Gurley

Since he missed time at the end of the 2018 season and the Rams' playoff run, there has been at least a little worry about Todd Gurley and his knee issue. Normally, after an offseason of rest, a nagging injury is no longer worrisome, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Insider, Jay Glazer, recently reported that Gurley's knee issue is a real concern both for Gurley and for the Rams.

“Nope, it’s not overblown. I think the biggest test will be what happens early in the season. If he runs and it doesn’t blow up and the Rams are able to use him as a workhorse, then a lot of those concerns will go away. If not, they’re going to have to get a little creative. They would be wise to be prepared because the knee has gone through a lot from college to now, so they’ve got to brace for it swelling up again,” Glazer wrote.

Footballguys' injury guru, Dr. Jene Bramel, has weighed in as well:

Gurley himself says he is "feeling pretty good" but doesn't know "how I'm going to be feeling six months from now."

Although the Rams refuse to use the word arthritis, it's reasonable to come to the conclusion Gurley is dealing with a chronic, degenerative condition.

Many ACL injuries are associated with some cartilage damage (Gurley tore the ACL in his left knee in 2014). A reassuring MRI study usually means no ligament or meniscus injury requiring immediate rehab or repair to return. Most players have some degree of "wear and tear" in their joints. Stem cell therapy is controversial, poorly studied, and generally ineffective -- but often sought out by players looking to heal or regenerate poorly-healing tissue. And May discussions about managing workloads in a player who's already admitting he won't know how he'll be feeling after the season begins further underlines the concern.

I'm not painting a rosy picture here. However, while it's very likely the length of Gurley's playing career will be shortened by the condition of his left knee, it's still entirely possible he'll be able to play effectively in the short term. We don't know how significant Gurley's cartilage loss may be. Many NFL players -- including running backs -- manage cartilage loss and chronic inflammation well enough to remain effective.

But it's a near-certainty we'll see Gurley on the injury report frequently in the future. The Rams are already committed to limiting Gurley's practice workload and have already identified a talented back to limit his in-game workloads. 225-275 effective and possibly elite touches is still a reasonable projection. Unfortunately, it's unlikely Gurley can manage a 275+ rush and 80+ target season.

But what does all of this mean for your draft? We asked our staff that question.

Clayton Gray

I'm pretty perturbed this story was written by Glazer because Todd Gurley has been a clear avoid for me since last year's playoffs for two reasons:

  1. Gurley's knee isn't something that can be fixed through rehab and/or surgery. He'll have this for the rest of career and it can only get worse.
  2. Since they couldn't use him as normal during the playoffs and Super Bowl, the Rams clearly know they mismanaged Gurley in 2018.

Gone are Gurley's workhorse number of touches. Even if his knee never flares up, the Rams are going to manage his snaps to increase the chances he'll be productive in the postseason. I wouldn't be surprised if Gurley is nothing more than a third-down back very soon -- maybe even this season.

This update from Glazer leaves me unchanged on Gurley's prognosis going forward. I'm avoiding him in re-draft and in dynasty. If I already have him on a dynasty team, I'll wait for this news to fade a little and try to sell.

Jason Wood

I’m completely on the other side here. Glazer’s report has zero new information. Gurley will be managed, sure, but all backs are these days. He’s still a good bet for 10+ touchdowns and 1200++ yards from scrimmage. My only hope is these reports keep coming so his ADP keeps falling. He’ll be on quite a few of my rosters if that’s the case.

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