Advice

Look Out Above: Todd Gurley is a Great Risk/Reward Pick

Todd Gurley has been called the greatest running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, the RotoViz staff had Gurley significantly higher than other rookie RBs in the post-draft rankings, and he was being drafted in early off-season MFL10s in the late-third round before he went the the St Louis Rams at number 10 overall. 

Since the draft, Gurley’s ADP has been falling steadily. His MFL10 ADP over the last week is right around 45 overall.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 10.30.01 AM

What’s interesting is that Gurley’s ADP was actually rising pre-draft, even though the earliest reports that he could start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP) were coming out nearly a month before the draft. Now we’re seeing reports that Gurley is making progress and aims to participate in training camp. If that happens, the chance of him going on the PUP list could be greatly diminished.

Downside Scenario

Let’s say that Gurley doesn’t participate in training camp and is placed on the PUP list, meaning he’ll miss at six games. How far could he fall? We can use his backfield-mate Tre Mason’s ADP as a guide.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 10.38.49 AM

If Gurley is placed on the PUP list I believe his and Mason’s ADP will narrow, but in that scenario Gurley will still be looking at potentially nine games with starter reps,1 whereas Mason would only have six. I realize that Gurley could be held out for more than six weeks, but I think the worst-case scenario is their ADPs coming together at around 55. Remember, Le’Veon Bell is likely going to miss three games this year, and his ADP is still first overall.

Some of the drop in Gurley’s post-draft ADP could be due to committee concerns, not just games missed. I developed a “Weighted Touches” formula in a series of articles to see how our projected usage for RBs aligned with their positional ADP rank.

PlayerRush AttsRecsWeighted TouchesADP Rank10 Games12 Games14 Games
Todd Gurley1752827323436.8364312
Tre Mason1472322834NANANA

In the last three columns I prorated for 16 games our staff’s composite weighted touch projection based on the assumption Gurley would miss either six, four, or two games. I can’t say exactly how many games, but I doubt any of our staff were assuming less than two.

His prorated full-season usage projection would be third among RBs if you prorate from 10 games, 11th from 12 games, and 22nd from 14 games. He’s currently being drafted at RB23. I know prorating doesn’t solve all the issues, but it gives you an idea of how good his production will be during the weeks he plays, and fantasy football is a week-by-week game.

Upside Scenario

Looking at what’s happened to the ADP of Melvin Gordon, an inferior prospect,2 gives us a guide for Gurley’s ADP if he isn’t placed on PUP.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 10.32.46 AM

Gordon’s ADP over the past week is 28.5 overall and rising. Even if Gurley avoids PUP, he might not match Gordon’s current ADP due to lingering ACL concerns and the possible perception that SD was a better landing spot than STL. But I believe Gurley could get into the mid-third round before flawed backs that he currently goes after, like Andre Ellington and Latavius Murray.

We can also get more context of where a healthy Gurley would go by looking at the historical relationship between NFL Draft position and PPR ADP.

rb_rook_draft_pos

The 2015 ADPs are based on recent MFL10 drafts, but the historical ADPs are based on regular PPR leagues over the last five years. Because the MFL10 format is early-RB dominant, Gurley and Gordon should be going early than historical norms. If you assume that a healthy Gurley would get the same MFL10 premium as Gordon, he could go in the first 25 picks.

Conclusion

Even if you think there’s a greater chance that Gurley hits the PUP list than not, I believe that his 10 ADP pick downside is worth the potential 15 pick upside. Of course, as we get earlier in the draft picks are worth more, so the 15 pick upside is greater than the absolute number implies. If you’re following the optimal MFL10 strategy and taking four RBs early, you won’t be missing that much in the first handful of weeks if Gurley is out; Your other RBs should be healthy and can easily fill the two RB spots on the MFL10 roster.

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  1. This is the 16-week MFL10 format with no playoffs.  (back)
  2. I don’t think this needs to be debated. You’d be hard-pressed to find any draft analyst with Gordon above Gurley  (back)
By Kevin Cole | @Cole_Kev | Archive

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  1. Shouldn't Gurley be referred to as the greatest running back prospect since Trent Richardson who was the last RB to be referred to as the best since AP. One thing that has surprised me is the lack of concern for a college back that has had trouble staying healthy and has produced only 1 1000+ yard season as a starter. IN the years he went down, he was replaced by players that had similar stats. Has there ever been a college back with a similar college career that went on to dominate in the pros? AP had over 1000 yards every year and 1900 as a freshman so his stats are far better.

  2. The case for Gurley is a lot more rooted in film than even a lot of numbers guys seem to admit. We don't even have workout numbers for him. That's not to say he's not an incredible talent, his per game production is great, his efficiency is great, and he was productive as a receiver and on limited opportunities on returns. But even given that he was a top 10 pick, I don't think he would be held in such high esteem if it weren't for his film.

    I know Kevin disagrees with me on this, but I think the one problem with his stance is that it assumes Gurley misses five games at most. If he's not healthy to the point that he ends up on PUP then he might not be quite healthy enough to start Week 7. And for whatever reason, no one knows for sure, Mason didn't start for the Rams for awhile despite the other runners being inefficient. I don't think it's out of the question that Gurley sees limited use due to issues in pass protection or something. And if Mason is playing well they'll likely have limited reason to rush Gurley into a workhorse role. And Fisher likes Benny Cunningham as a 3rd down back.

    TL;DR- Even if Gurley plays as soon as Week 7 he might not take on a workhorse role until weeks later.

  3. Justin, I feel like you jumped in my brain and pulled out my entire opinion on Gurley. Well said.

  4. Can we get your updated take on this Kevin, given that Gurley avoided the PUP. What can we realistically expect his production to be and should we be using this news to sell high or hold fast for a league winning pick? Your prescience on his value is valuable information for us that took the risk drafting him.

  5. I guess it all depends on what sort of ADP he settles in at. My analysis was really focused on MFL10 or redraft leagues, not dynasty where PUP concerns were less relevant. It was also focused less on a personal opinion of how good he'll be this year, but more on how his ADP risk was skewed to the upside. In the next week or so, I assume his value might still be a little depressed, as it normally takes a couple weeks for drafters to fully bake news into ADP.

    I think many of the concerns on Gurley that Justin Winn voiced above are legitimate, so I wouldn't draft Gurley if his price gets into the 3rd round.

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