NFP Prospect Focus: Todd Gurley

There has been a lot written about Georgia running back Todd Gurley. When healthy, he is one of the most talented running backs in this draft. He has all the tools to be a top NFL back: size, speed, power. He is a very good receiver out of the backfield. But durability will be a question. Before we talk about the injury, let’s break down his strengths and weaknesses. Strengths A 6’1 – 222, he has great size. He is well built with a thick and well-muscled upper and lower body. He shows an excellent burst and has very good play speed (was a top sprinter and hurdler in high school). He’s a quick starter with no false step. Has good, not great, vision but can find the cutback lanes. He is very powerful in the open field and extremely hard to tackle. He is a physical runner who punishes tacklers. He consistently gets yards after contact. He has very good balance and shows the ability to stop and start. He can make a cut in the hole to find daylight. He is best as an off tackle and outside runner, showing patience to set up and follow blocks and has the speed to go the distance. He has very good hands, runs good pass routes, and can adjust to the ball. He gets up field quickly after a reception and shows good ability to make people miss in the open field with his quick-cutting ability. He has been an excellent kickoff returner his entire college career. He shows a willingness to pass block. Weaknesses He has a tendency to run tall, and that hurts his power in short yardage situations. In a game in the 2013 season, he was given the ball three times in a row in a 2nd, 3rd and 4th and 1 situation and failed to get the first down. He needs to work on his pass protection technique and also needs to be more aware in blitz pickup. Durability is an obvious concern. He suffered an ankle injury in 2013 and missed three games, and he suffered an ACL injury late in the 2014 season and had surgery. His physical running style makes him prone to injury. He takes a lot of big hits. He showed poor decision making by accepting money from a memorabilia agent for signing jersey’s helmets, pictures etc. That led to a four game NCAA suspension. He injured his knee right after he came back from the suspension. Summation Before the knee injury, Gurley was the odds on favorite to be the first running back taken in the draft. Though he runs tall, his style of play projects very favorably to having a good NFL career. Like most college running backs, he needs work on pass blocking, but that will come with coaching. He has the traits to step in and be very productive right from the get go. He can also be most clubs' number one kickoff returner. When healthy, he is probably the most physical runner to come out since Adrian Peterson. The key phrase is “when healthy”. While Gurley’s knee was shown to be stable at the medical rechecks last week, he is still far from stepping on the field. He won’t be nine months out from his surgery until opening weekend in September. What that means is that during OTA’s and training camp he won’t be 100% and will need to be monitored. He won’t be ready for full practices until late in training camp, if at all. Once he is deemed “100%”, will he be the same back we saw last fall? No one knows the answer to that question. He could lose some speed or lateral movement or he could be better than he was before the injury. With the unknowns, does a team take a chance using a first round pick on him? One draft analyst recently had Gurley going as high as 6th overall in a mock draft. I find that absurd with all the unanswered questions. Personally, I see Gurley as a wild card. While he could go in the first round, I feel it is much more likely that he will go in the second. The reason for that is we might not see the real Todd Gurley until 2016 if at all. No matter where he gets drafted, there will be an element of risk with him playing the running back position. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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