We continue our pre-draft profiles with a look at top running back prospect Todd Gurley. Gurley is an interesting player and his draft status is even more interesting. He showed the talent to be a top 5 pick in the NFL draft over three seasons. As a freshman he rushed for 1385 yards and 17 touchdowns in 12 games. Gurley’s production dropped off every season after that though. As a sophomore, he rushed for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games, but he suffered an ankle injury. As a junior, he dealt with a suspension related to taking improper benefits, but once he was re-instated, he suffered an ACL injury that ended his season in his first game back. His season numbers were 911 yards and 9 touchdowns in 6 games. It was a far better yards per carry season, but his health was once again a limiting factor.
Todd Gurley could be the unanimous best running back in the draft it it was not for Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon having a crazy good season and posting a good forty time at the combine. Between Gordon ‘s success and Gurley’s injuries, Gurley is fighting to be a first round pick. There have been mock drafts projecting him as high as 11th overall, and there are mock drafts not even listing a first round running back. With the depth at the position in this year’s draft, I only expect one running back to go in the first round, if any at all. The reason being that teams know that if they miss out on the top one or two backs, there will be plenty more to choose from with similar production and speed.
Gurley’s ACL tear prevented him from doing most of the workouts at the combine. He also likely will not do anything at his pro day to keep him on a positive rehab schedule. Teams are likely doing medical check ups on him and getting a feel for his football IQ and personality to see if he is a good fit for them. Given that he does not have any data as far as his speed, it is difficult to know how fast he really is. One of his strengths is his combination of power and speed. His film shows it, but college game speed can be deceptive. I did a little research to see what his speed was coming out of high school. I found a Clemson recruiting website tigernet.com that lists his speed at 4.30 in the forty. His official forty would have likely been between 4.4 and 4.5 had he been healthy enough to run. With that said though, at 6’1 222lbs, Gurley is a beast to tackle.
Gurley is explosive as a runner. He looks to finish runs and prefers to run through a tackler as opposed to around him. He has soft hands that allow him to catch the ball well out of the backfield when needed. Gurley specializes as a power runner which fits with what Joique Bell does for the team already. One of the most overlooked parts of Gurley’s game is that he rarely fumbles. He has 3 fumbles on 510 carries. He holds the ball very tight to his body to protect it as best as he can. He is being compared to Marshawn Lynch who is arguably the best running back in the NFL right now, and he is a majority part of the reason that the Seattle Seahawks have been to two Super Bowls in two seasons, winning the first one.
There are some concerns with Gurley, one of which being his health. In three seasons, he has had two injuries. One was to his ankle and one was a season ending ACL tear. The ACL tear is the more concerning one as it affects his confidence and his speed. Outside of that, there are concerns about his vision, his inability to adapt to a zone run scheme, and his lack of patience. He also has limited time in pass protection and in the times when he was expected to block, he did not do well. All in all though, he could be one of the best running backs in the NFL if he is put in the right scheme. He could also be a bust due to his injury history and durability concerns. All in all, his limited carries over his college career gives teams hope that he has a long NFL career ahead of him.
While it is still unknown why the Lions would be looking at him as an option given Bell’s solid play as a power back and the team’s consistent approach at having a speed back pair with a power back, his ability is undeniable. Martin Mayhew had Gurley in for a pre-draft visit already. He likely sees what Lynch did for Seattle and is anticipating a similar outcome if added to Detroit’s roster. Would Mayhew actually draft Gurley? He has shown a tendency to draft the best player available regardless of need. He stated last season that he wanted to draft the best player at his position in the first round as opposed to the second or third best player at a position of need. With the Lions drafting at 23, they will likely be faced with this scenario. Mayhew could be looking at the 4th best defensive tackle, 2nd or 3rd best offensive tackle, 2nd or 3rd best corner, and the best running back on the board when the Lions pick and it would be easy for him to select the best running back regardless of other needs.