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Fantasy Players - Rookie Watch 2015

Rookie Watch – Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams

Todd Gurley
No one knew which back would go first – Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon or Georgia’s Todd Gurley. The two had been neck-and-neck all season and all throughout the scouting process. Certainly no one guessed the first back would go No. 10 to St. Louis – an unexpected landing spot and the first top 10 back in three years?

A changing mindset about the running back position? Nah, Gurley is just that good.

The pick also caught Rams running back Zac Stacy’s attention, who tweeted, “Yikes;” by the end of the weekend he was wearing Jets green. To further show its commitment, St. Louis invested in second round tackle Rob Havenstein to help solidify the offensive line.

Gurley enters camp with at least one red flag: fresh off suspension he tore his ACL and missed the second half of the 2014 season. Some question whether he will be fully healed in time for the start of the season. The Rams decided he had too much upside to worry about the potential of a few lost weeks.

Dissecting the depth chart: The Rams believe they have a solid backfield now with Gurley and 2014 pick Tre Mason, who led the team in rushing and averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Beyond that it’s a bit tricky. Benjamin Cunningham was handed the ball 66 times last season, but never had double-digit carries in a single game. Still, his 45 receptions from a year ago will keep him in the mix. Isaiah Pead? Eh, not worth much thought. Mason is the returning starter, and the man with the job to lose – the question becomes: how long will it take him to lose it to Gurley?

Just the stats: In three years with the Bulldogs Gurley averaged 6.4 yards per carry. His best year was 2012, but Gurley was consistent the past two seasons despite battling injury. Georgia used him more as a receiver in 2013 than any other season, during which he proved capable (37 catches, 441 yards, six touchdowns). He [played in only six games in 2014, but gained 100 or more yards in five (he averaged 12.2 yards per carry in the one game he did not). His worst outing was his last – a 138-yard effort against Auburn in which he carried 29 times, but for “just” 4.8 yards per attempt. He played in two bowl games, both against Nebraska, and gained a combined 211 yards on 44 carries with 101 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

2015 Projection: 190 carries, 912 yards, 6 TDs, 22 receptions, 182 yards, 1 TD

2014 rookie comparison: Jeremy Hill, Bengals
Hill’s 1,124 yards were eighth most in the NFL in 2014, and his nine rushing scores tied him for third most. Hill posted five 100-yard games combined in the months of November and December. Gurley has more talent and just as much supporting help to match those totals. He’ll start the season slow (injury, split time) but he’ll be cruising by Week 6.

Interesting fact that won’t help you: Gurley hails from Tarboro, North Carolina, the same town that produced Kelvin Bryant, who gained 1,440 yards in 1983 to claim the USFL’s MVP.

What he’s worth: Gurley is a solid late second round gamble in most leagues. Gordon will be the preferred rookie back, but Gurley is a capable low No. 1 or high-end No. 2 back whose only roadblock to success is his own health.

Follow Mike Beacom on Twitter @mikebeacom
By Mike Beacom