I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Todd Gurley, RB , Georgia - 6'1, 231 - Junior
As we move on to the running backs in this draft, let's start with the premise that there are many talented backs in this crop. As many as 8 seem worthy of the Top 3 rounds before we dive in and give each the 200 snap treatment. We will attempt to look at all of them before we get to March.
Let's also point out here and throughout this running back study that there are some very anti-running back thought movements in the NFL these days and in some cases, they seem based in fact and experience. But, sometimes, the pendulum swings too far. I am starting to think the casual stripping of RB value across the league is one of those cases where the media and fans assume that RBs are now available everywhere and for the smallest cost. This is just not accurate. Even in today's game - where the RB is at its lowest stature ever, most of the dominant rushers are still Top 50 picks. Adrian Peterson was pick #7, Marshawn Lynch pick #12, and the idea that special is still special remains the same.
That is why with Todd Gurley, the premise that you don't spend a premium pick on a RB is just foolish talk. He has every quality you seek in a game breaking runner. For his study we examined Clemson, South Carolina, and Tennessee which were most of our few choices from his abbreviated 2014.
What I liked: There is too much to discuss in this category. He is just silly in his ability with his size, his disposition, his relentless effort, and then his track-star speed. This combination of skills is rare as can be and makes many look to Adrian Peterson as a fair comp coming out of college. He absolutely does it all. He runs a fine screen game and has hands that can catch well. He is a willing and generally capable blitz pickup guy which is one of those prerequisites in the NFL. But, more than anything, he is one of those rare "every play may be a touchdown" running backs that is great when his line blocks, but he is able to make guys miss on his own and once he breaks through the line, almost no defensive back can pull off the combination task of catching him and then bringing him down. One guy doesn't get him down very often. He will not be caught from behind. Gurley is the type of guy that doesn't come around very often and when he does you have a hard time picking him apart. He falls forward, he is violent, and he doesn't seem to wear out as the game goes along. He will make you talk to the screen a few times every game with feats of unique quality.
What I did not like: Well, clearly blowing out his ACL against Auburn better be top of mind when you are talking about a player who has speed traits that are uncommon. We feel better about the ACL process these days, but clearly that is where you would have to start if we were to report a concern. Beyond that, he doesn't win all of his blitz pickups, but he is also often giving up 25 pounds to a linebacker. The only other nit-pick is that when he was hurt, his backup, Nick Chubb, was also very productive and put up huge numbers. I assume that means because Chubb is a guy we will talk about in an upcoming draft, rather than that meaning Gurley isn't the real deal.
Summary: Sometimes a guy comes along and just looks like he is playing with kids who are younger trying to stop him - yet, he is playing in the SEC where NFL prospects are on nearly every team he plays against. He is just a dazzling player with uncommon traits and a combination that can beat you in a number of ways. His ACL injury actually benefits a team like Dallas because maybe that is how a guy like that falls all the way to #27. I doubt he falls that far, but I have been asked a number of times if I would take him if he does drop to Dallas, despite the needs this team has elsewhere. My answer is not even required a 2nd thought. Absolutely. He is a guy who appears to be a stud and as close to a can't miss prospect at RB that we have seen in a half-dozen drafts. I don't know how he would get to #27, but it would require no hesitation. He is going to be something in the NFL.