After the Rams cut Todd Gurley and ate the majority of his 2020 contract, he only lasted 24 hours on the open market. The Falcons took a shot on the former Offensive Player of the Year on a one-year deal worth up to $5M. Gurley is still just 25, but his 2019 film left a lot to be desired -- he showed limited agility and offered little in the passing game, which was a stark contrast to his four previous seasons. Atlanta is a great landing spot for Gurley on the surface, but his low-risk deal will not hold the Falcons back from spending a premium pick on the position in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Gurley fell into the end-zone 14 times last year and his touchdown dependency helped pave the way to a decent RB14 fantasy finish (PPR), but his underlying efficiency showed that he is a player on the fringe. Gurley was 32nd-of-44 RBs in yards after contact and 31st in explosive gains (10 or more yards) last season after ranking top-10 in both YAC and explosive gains in 2018.
If the Falcons decide not to use some of their early draft capital on a running back -- they are slated to pick at 16, 47, and 78 overall in Rounds 1-3 -- Gurley could, in theory, just replicate his 2019 season in L.A. with Atlanta. Devonta Freeman’s departure opens up 243 available touches (17.4 per game) and Matt Ryan is a pretty significant upgrade in quarterback-play over Jared Goff. The Falcons are as consistent as it gets on offense every year, ranking top-10 in yards gained per drive in each of the last six seasons. The Falcons are also returning 5-of-5 starters along the offensive line and even though they struggled to run the ball last season, Atlanta’s run-blocking looks better on paper than Los Angeles’ at this point.
Gurley could maintain double-digit touchdown upside and be a floor RB2 in 2020 if there is little competition for touches on the depth chart behind him. If the Falcons take a talented Day 2 back (like Cam Akers or Clyde Edwards-Helaire), it’ll be hard to envision a scenario where Gurley is an attractive choice in re-draft leagues or as a buy-low in dynasty.
With Gurley gone and only two picks in the top-100 at the Rams disposal in the NFL Draft, it looks like HC Sean McVay will start the 2020 season with some sort of timeshare between Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown. While Brown was the second back in line for touches behind Gurley for much of 2019, Henderson is far more talented and led the 2019 RB class in both yards created per attempt and yards gained per route run. Remember, the Rams moved up in the draft to take Henderson last year and Brown is entering the final year of his two-year deal with the team.
Henderson is talented enough to beat out Brown in training camp for the starting job, but I never expected him to be a bell-cow back like Gurley was in his prime. Instead, Henderson’s style closely mirrors Alvin Kamara and Austin Ekeler and I could see him thriving in a lead role where he gets 12-15 carries and 3-5 targets per game while Brown mixes in as a change-of-pace and goal-line back. Hopefully, McVay views Henderson in a similar light.
The only bad news is that Los Angeles’ offensive line dampens a bit of my enthusiasm surrounding a potential Henderson breakout campaign. McVay was forced to try all different types of combinations to help his ailing line last year and little is on the way in terms of improvements. It doesn’t help that their best lineman, LT Andrew Whitworth, is now 38-years-old. After ranking 10th in yards before contact per attempt in 2018, the Rams slid all the way to 26th this past year.
Cost is always key in fantasy football and Henderson’s average draft position will be one I’ll closely monitor this summer. In the meantime, I’m trying to buy as much Henderson as possible in dynasty. He’s a hard player to price in keeper formats but Henderson’s upside is exponentially greater than his acquisition cost, even after Gurley was cut. There are maybe 20-25 running backs I’d rather have straight up over Henderson in dynasty right now.
Quick Thoughts on the 2020 Rams
So far this offseason, the Rams have lost Dante Fowler, Todd Gurley, Corey Littleton, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Eric Weddle (retired), DC Wade Phillips is gone, and Brandin Cooks is rumored to be on the trade block. The Rams obviously still have a ton of blue-chip talent, but their past trades -- combined with paying Gurley and Goff a ton of money -- has limited GM Les Snead’s flexibility.
In the most competitive division in the NFL, I could see a scenario where the 49ers, Seahawks, and Cardinals all end up being better than the Rams in 2020. If that’s the case, Los Angeles is going to be in a bunch of tight games and will be forced to throw the ball to try and keep the score close. Cooper Kupp (WR4) and Robert Woods (WR14) are both coming off of fantastic fantasy seasons and may see even more volume if the Rams trail more this coming year. Both Woods and Kupp are currently being selected outside of the top-10 wide receivers in early average draft position with Woods (WR16; mid-4th round ADP) looking like a great buy in particular.