Fantasy Football: New Rams coach says he's not worried about Todd Gurley; Fantasy owners shouldn't be

PHOENIX -- You would expect new Rams coach Sean McVay to speak highly of running back Todd Gurley. After all, Gurley should be the centerpiece of his offense this season, even though he struggled last year.

McVay, the former offensive coordinator in Washington, said at the NFL’s annual meeting that Gurley has to get better. But he also said Gurley still has the chance to be a standout running back, which is what Fantasy owners are hoping for as well.

Gurley had plenty of highlights as a rookie in 2015, and last year’s struggles weren’t fun. With a new coach, who has plenty of faith in him, Fantasy owners should be excited about what McVay called a ‘bounce-back year.”

“Clearly what he did in his rookie year, I think sets the expectations where this guy is going to be a great back year-in and year-out,” McVay said. “And that’s what we feel, too.”

Todd Gurley RB / L.A. Rams (2016 stats)
ATT: 278 YDS: 885 TD: 6 YPC: 3.2 REC: 43 REC YDS: 327

Let’s revisit Gurley’s glorious rookie campaign, which was unfortunately followed by his sophomore slump. 

Despite not starting until Week 5 and only playing 13 games in 2015, Gurley had 229 carries for 1,106 yards (4.83 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns and 21 catches for 188 yards. He scored double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in 10 games, including five with at least 100 rushing yards, and he was the No. 5 running back in standard leagues.

He was touted as the No. 1 Fantasy running back coming into 2016, but he was arguably the biggest bust of the year. Gurley was able to finish as the No. 21 Fantasy running back in standard leagues, but he managed just 885 yards (3.18 yards per carry) on 278 carries and six touchdowns and 43 catches for 327 yards. He only had five games with double digits in Fantasy points and none with 100 rushing yards, and he now has just one game with at least 100 rushing yards in his past 24 outings.

McVay said Gurley’s struggles last season were partly on him, but he also said he ran better than the numbers suggest.

“A lot of time you have a tendency to look at the stats instead of the actual tape,” McVay said. “I think you still see a natural runner. He’s got a great body lean, he’s got a natural feel for how to work edges on people. And I think that showed up in spurts last year.”

Two areas that should help Gurley this season will be an improved offensive line and better play from second-year quarterback Jared Goff. The Rams added free agent left tackle Andrew Whitworth from Cincinnati, and general manager Les Snead said he should pay “dividends” for the entire offense. Pro Football Focus rated the Rams offensive line at No. 27 last year, so there’s plenty of room to get better.

And McVay said Goff, who didn’t start until Week 11 and completed just 54.6 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions, will “start from scratch” with the hope he’ll improve in his sophomore campaign.

“It’s starting from ground one,” McVay said of Goff. “And that’s really for everybody when you’re teaching them a system.”

That includes Gurley, and McVay has a good history with running backs from his time as the Redskins offensive coordinator from 2014-16. Washington was No. 3 in total offense last year and No. 21 in rushing offense.

But Rob Kelley had double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in 4-of-9 starts in Washington, and Alfred Morris did that in seven starts in 2014 while rushing for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns. Both averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry.

With more help around him, and the benefit of a new system, McVay said Gurley has plenty of support heading into this year. And now he has to do his job in getting better as well.

“I think Todd’s motivated, challenged in the right way to respond and have a bounce-back year, but it’s going to take everybody,” McVay said. “We feel like he’s going to be a really good, consistent back that is kind of one of the better ones in this league for a long time. That’s the goal.”

There are going to be Fantasy owners who stay away from Gurley no matter what, which is understandable if he burned you last year. But his price tag this season should make him much more attractive on Draft Day, and he will likely be selected in Round 2 or even Round 3, depending on the format.

And with a new coach in McVay, who is offensive-minded compared to Jeff Fisher, there should be optimism. You’ve seen the best of Gurley (so far) in 2015, and the worst was hopefully last year.

Let’s hope McVay is right and this is a bounce-back year for Gurley in 2017. He’s someone I plan to target toward the middle to the end of Round 2 in all leagues.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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