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Falcons player profile: RB Todd Gurley

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We’re kicking off our Falcons player profile series with a look at the projected starters. We begin our preview of RB with big free agent addition Todd Gurley, who will be expected to carry the load for Atlanta in 2020.

NFL: DEC 29 Cardinals at Rams Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.

We’ll get things started with the projected starters. After covering QB, we’re moving on to the next position in the backfield: RB. The Falcons cut long-time starter Devonta Freeman this offseason and replaced him with free agent Todd Gurley, but the depth remains largely unchanged from 2019.

Today we take a closer look at big-time free agent addition Todd Gurley, who will carry the load for the Falcons in 2020 and look to improve upon Devonta Freeman’s pedestrian 2019 season.

RB Todd Gurley

Age: 25 (26 during the 2020 season)

Contract: $5.5M cap hit in 2020, free agent in 2021

Career Production: 73 games played, 72 games started | 1265 carries, 5404 yards, 4.3 YPC, 58 TD | 218 receptions, 2090 yards, 9.6 YPR, 12 TD

2019 Production: 15 games played, 15 games started | 223 carries, 857 yards, 3.8 YPC, 12 TD | 31 receptions, 207 yards, 6.7 YPR, 2 TD

Previous Teams: Drafted 1st round (#10 overall) by the St. Louis Rams (2015), Los Angeles Rams (2016-2019), Atlanta Falcons (2020)

Measurables:

One of the most electric RBs in recent college football history, Todd Gurley joined the NFL with much fanfare in 2015. Selected in the top-10 by the Rams, Gurley had a strong first season in the league despite being saddled with an archaic Jeff Fisher offense, posting 1106 yards in just 12 starts. His production would nosedive in 2016, however, as the Rams offense finished last in the league in scoring and Fisher was fired after a 4-9 start to the season. After offensive wunderkind Sean McVay took over in 2017, Gurley saw a huge uptick in production and earned his first All-Pro honors.

Gurley had an even better 2018 season as the Rams once again had one of the NFL’s best offenses, setting career highs in YPC (4.9) and rushing TDs (17) despite playing in just 14 games. The one weakness Gurley has, however, is health, and it finally seemed to catch up to him in 2019. While Gurley suited up for 15 games, he was clearly not fully healthy this past season. The general malaise of the Rams last season—a porous offensive line and the league appearing to “catch-up” to McVay’s offense—culminated in a down year for Gurley.

The Rams elected to bite the bullet and eat a ton of dead cap to move on from Gurley in 2020, in an attempt to clear space for future seasons. That made Gurley a free agent for the first time in his career coming off a disappointing season. The Falcons brought him in on a significantly cheaper deal (a 1-year, $5.5M contract) to see if he can return to his 2018 brilliance—or even something close to it. While Gurley isn’t likely to produce like an All Pro in Atlanta, his athleticism and build are better-suited to the more generic rushing concepts in Dirk Koetter’s offense than Devonta Freeman’s plus elusiveness and vision.

Health is the big question mark with Gurley, and the Falcons would be wise to incorporate a committee approach to keep him fresh throughout the season. Gurley should be an upgrade as one of the NFL’s best short-yardage and red-zone weapons, and he’s an underrated pass catcher despite his pedestrian 2019 season. Ultimately, much of Gurley’s success depends on Koetter’s ability to improve his run concepts and playcalling for the 2020 season, and the overall state of Atlanta’s offensive line.

Projection: Don’t look for All Pro production from the pairing of Todd Gurley and Dirk Koetter, but I’d expect for Gurley to flirt with a 1000-yard season if he can play 14-15 mostly-healthy games. Also expect an uptick in targets as a receiver. Above all, Gurley should help the Falcons convert in short-yardage situations and in the red zone, and I’d expect him to continue his trend of double-digit TDs in 2020.