Buy, Sell, Hold: Todd Gurley Edition

Buy, Sell, Hold: Todd Gurley Edition
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So you own Todd Gurley in a dynasty league. What should you do with him?

Three months ago the idea of doing anything with Todd Gurley in a dynasty league, aside from profiting, was pretty far out of the realm of possibilities. He was on his way, at worst, to a top-3 finish among fantasy running backs.

Then came a mysterious knee injury against Philadelphia. Without much information, he was held out of the final two games of the regular season. In the playoffs he looked like a shell of himself. Worst of all? C.J. Anderson stepped in and rushed for 300 yards and two touchdowns in the final two regular season games.

It is still unclear why he was used so sparingly in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl. After rushing for 115 yards on 16 carries against Dallas in the Divisional round, he touched the ball a total of 16 times in the two biggest games of the year.

In short, Gurley’s stock suddenly looked shaky.

What we know today is that Gurley has arthritis in his knee that stems from a 2014 ACL tear while he was at Georgia. What we don’t know is how much he will be limited moving forward. John Breech believes there is some concern within the organization about the severity of the injury.

Sean McVay has even said publicly that the team isn’t ruling out stem cell treatment on Gurley’s knee. At 24 years of age he should be entering his prime but the concerns are starting to pile up.

Workload

Over the past three years, Gurley has been top-5 among NFL running backs in touches every season:

  • 2016: 321 Touches – 5th
  • 2017: 343 Touches – 3rd
  • 2018: 314 Touches – 4th

In his rookie year (2015) he touched the ball 250 times giving him over 1200 combined touches his first four years in the league.

Based on volume alone, he has been a shoe-in RB1 since his first snap. But with McVay calling the offense, Gurley rose to greatness as the Rams’ primary beneficiary in the Red Zone and the passing game. Leading the league in touchdowns while essentially functioning as a WR3 masquerading as an RB1, Gurley was one of the unicorns of the position. A true three-down running back.

If Gurley’s workload was to suddenly shift to a timeshare scenario, even in the 70-30 range, his reign as a top-3 fantasy back would certainly be over. Truthfully, with Christian McCaffery and Ezekiel Elliott both catching 80+ passes this past year it might be anyway. So it is fair to wonder what his projections might look like if operating at less than his normal touch share.

Time Share?

Most people would use box score analysis and conclude the playoffs are a harbinger of things to come. While I think it might be a good starting point, those games are not the best indicator of how the Rams offense would look in a timeshare scenario.

For starters, the Dallas game proved the Rams offense can support more than one running back if playing with the lead. The New Orleans game showed how disastrous things could be if the Rams were playing from behind. These two games were on opposite ends of the game flow spectrum.

The Super Bowl was an unmitigated disaster offensively for the Rams. The running game on the whole was ineffective which rendered their play-action game useless. McVay is smart enough to understand the dynamic Gurley brings to the table over a plodder like Anderson. I find it hard to believe, all things equal anyway, the Rams would consider lightening Gurley’s load too much.

With seven months to prepare for 2019, I would assume Gurley and the Rams will do everything they can to get him back to peak performance. The problem, of course, is whether or not his knee can hold up over 16 games. No one will be able to know that answer for sure so anyone who claims otherwise is speculating.

Gurley entering some sort of time share will lower his floor dramatically. If his touchdown equity stays at 2017-2018 levels he is still an RB1, but with more volatility. Maybe something like his 2015 year but with more receptions:

  • 230 Carries/1100 Yards/10 TDs
  • 40 Receptions/420 Yards/2 TDs

Still makes for a solid fantasy back but nowhere near what we are accustomed to.

Buying Gurley

A simple Google search of “Toddy Gurley” yields page upon page about his injury and what his future holds but not much else. Its almost as if his 2018 season didn’t happen.

If you are into risky investments, now is the time to buy low on Todd Gurley. You will potentially run into a panicked owner who is reading blurbs on everything I outlined above. The question, naturally, is at what cost?

If you can convince the Gurley owner that he is about to be subjected to a decreased workload and, possibly, reduced efficiency then congratulations – You have a steal. I would be sending subtle reminders of his workload and the 2014 ACL tear with each offer. Anything you can do to push an evolving narrative that could drive down his price is fair game.

League context and roster construction will ultimately dictate what the final cost will be. Remember: Just three months ago, Todd Gurley was likely untouchable. At the very least, he was going to cost a fortune.

Here are some deals where owners are buying Gurley in dynasty for far less than sticker price:

1.02, 1.03, 1.05 and Marlon Mack for Todd Gurley and TY Hilton

F3/DLF writer @TylerGheeNFL submitted this and given the context of his team, the logic is sound. He owns Anderson so Gurley made sense to acquire. He also has LeVeon Bell so if you want a high ceiling/low floor backfield, he’s got it. To me, rookie picks have more variance than current NFL players so this deal for me is a win despite the questions surrounding Todd Gurley. Adding Hilton is icing on the cake.

Taken at face value, Twitter agrees:

Carson Wentz, Christian McCaffery, Mike Evans for Todd Gurley, Patrick Mahomes, 1.03

IDP Guys own @FFTraderJoe submitted this monster which, despite my mancrush on Mahomes, is an overpay for me. McCaffery is an RB1 and a WR1 packaged together – I have him higher than Gurley on F3’s upcoming dynasty ranks.

Evans over the 1.03 in a rookie draft is a no-brainer. Mahomes is significantly more valuable than Wentz but not nearly enough to make up for the CMC/Evans combo. I would take that side of this deal every time. For what its worth, however, Twitter disagrees:

Selling Gurley

If you own Gurley and want to jump off the train before it derails, you try and sell him now. This can be tricky because putting him on the block sends an S.O.S. of sorts.

Start with any owner who might have tried and acquired him over the past six months. Go back to that person and see if they are still interested. Don’t bring up the injury or the workload specifically; if the other owner does, acknowledge it but downplay it. Point to Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Knowshon Moreno: Three backs who thrived despite knee issues.

Engaging in trade dialogue will likely mean taking less than you want right now. This is where you have to set your own trade floor and stick to it. There is still a chance Todd Gurley is his peak self for another year or two, no matter what the current news cycle says. In other words, sell low but don’t give him away.

Three deals I have seen where the Gurley owner traded him for a decent return:

Todd Gurley for Tyreek Hill and Aaron Jones

I think the current market for Gurley probably looks like this. Hill is a high ceiling WR1 who plays with the best QB in football. His arrow is pointing straight up.

Jones is the wild card. I would imagine the Gurley owner believes Jones is about to take off in Green Bay. There is risk in going from Gurley to Jones but if Gurley has his workload cut and Jones sees an increase in touches, these two may end up closer than you think. This deal will hinge on Jones staying healthy and getting more work.

Todd Gurley for Mike Evans and Kerryon Johnson

@DynastyDingo made this deal right after the NFC Championship, making the return of Evans all the more impressive. I am a Kerryon Johnson believer so I really like this deal.

Much like the trade for Hill and Jones, this seems to be where the market with Gurley is at right now. You can get mid-tier WR1 with a volatile RB2.

1.10 and Todd Gurley for 1.05, Sony Michel, and Joe Mixon

This feels like a steal, especially given Mixon’s role and Michel’s own touchdown equity. In fact, the Gurley owner didn’t accept much of a discount here at all. Mixon is just 22 and looking like he will evolve into a three-down feature back himself.

Michel, while 24 years old with his own knee concerns, has shown week-winner appeal. He should continue to dominate snaps inside the Red Zone for a strong Patriots offense. Good deal for the former Todd Gurley owner here.

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Holding Gurley

Matthew Betz (@TheFantasyPT) wrote a good article about Gurley’s knee and what we might come to expect. He believes the days of 300+ touches are over but brings up a good point regarding Gurley’s production:

“Let’s just say for example that Gurley gets 75% of the workload he did in 2019. If he scores 1.12 points per touch on roughly 230 total touches (75% of 307), he scores about 258 fantasy points. This still would have made him RB6 in 2018.”

I projected him for 264 points in a PPR next season. We might be seeing a baseline for production moving forward here.

If you drafted Todd Gurley in a dynasty league, holding him doesn’t cost you a thing. You have already received a great return on your investment. While the current news about his knee is discouraging, his ACL tear came in 2014. Barring a new injury that wasn’t reported, the arthritis isn’t a new development. It was always going to be an issue. Unless you get overwhelmed by an offer, I think the best move is to ride it out.

For those of you who traded for Gurley prior to December 2018, I don’t think you have any other choice but to hold. You don’t profit in dynasty leagues over time buying high and selling low. When it comes to Gurley, the price over the last 24 months has been astronomical so it would be almost impossible to return adequate value.

A general rule of life is that things are usually never as good or as bad as they first seem. I think patience is on your side whether you own him or not because his value isn’t going to magically go anywhere until we see him at training camp. For my money, Gurley is a hold if I own him but I’m not buying unless I get a steep discount. Monitor his progress and be prepared to jump if you feel like you can get him on the cheap.

Thanks for reading – you can find me on Twitter @JasonKamlowsky to talk about anything with fantasy football or baseball. Also be sure to follow @F3Pod and @IDPGuys and check out the content on theffranchise.com and idpguys.org for everything fantasy football related.