What happened to Todd Gurley? How ex-Rams star went from 2017 OPOY to out of NFL in 2022

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The NFL cycle moves so ridiculously fast fans could be forgiven for never stopping and pondering “Huh, I wonder where Todd Gurley is these days.”

Indeed, it’s only been three years since Gurley was a reigning two-time All-Pro, five years since he was the Offensive Player of the Year and MVP runner-up, and seven years since he won Offensive Rookie of the Year. The former Rams running back’s career is the encapsulation of the candle that burns twice as bright burning half as long.

Indeed, Gurley’s season with the Falcons in 2020 – a Georgia homecoming – was an unceremonious affair. He was reliably present, but after averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, Gurley hit free agency and never came out of it.

Although he hasn’t officially retired, it appears Gurley doesn’t intend to return. Here are some of the highlights of the rise – and precipitous fall – of his NFL career.

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Todd Gurley career timeline

2015

Todd Gurley is drafted 10th overall

College football moves even faster than the NFL, particularly at a running back factory like Georgia. So here are some of the numbers from Gurley’s time as a Bulldog:

  • 510 carries for 3,285 yards (6.4 yards per carry)
  • 36 rushing touchdowns
  • First-team All-SEC as a true freshman
  • Ran track in 2013 and recorded the seventh-fastest time in UGA history in the 60-meter hurdles

Although he tore his ACL in his junior year, the Rams (still in St. Louis) took Gurley 10th overall in the 2015 draft (No. 1 running back). Gurley missed the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season before making his pro debut.

Gurley’s Pro Bowl season

Gurley rushed for a cool 1,106 yards as a rookie and had 10 touchdowns. Much likes his college career, Gurley wasn’t much of a factor in the passing game, but his performance was enough to earn him a Pro Bowl nod and Offensive Rookie of the Year.

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Gurley went on to make the Top 25 among the NFL’s Top 100.

2017

Gurley gets first All-Pro nod

In 2017, Gurley solidified himself among the elite of the elite as far as running backs go.

He rushed for a career-high 1,305 yards and a league-high 13 touchdowns. He was second in the league in rushing yards behind Kareem Hunt (1,327), and not only got his first All-Pro spot, but was also runner-up to Tom Brady in MVP voting.

This was actually Gurley’s breakout year as a receiver, as he had 788 yards on 64 catches, finishing with a league-high 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 overall touchdowns.

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2018

Gurley makes second straight All-Pro team, is RB1 in fantasy for second straight year in Rams Super Bowl appearance

In his encore performance, Gurley was nearly as impressive. He had over 1,000 yards for the second straight year, rushing for 1,251 and a whopping 17 touchdowns. The latter was league-best. He also caught 59 passes for 580 yards. Gurley finished with a league-high 21 individual touchdowns.

In reward for his efforts, he had a second-straight All-Pro appearance and was an instrumental part in the Rams’ Super Bowl run up through the NFC Championship Game against the Saints. He is the most recent player to be RB1 in fantasy football in back-to-back seasons.

Gurley’s knee injury becomes a topic of conversation

After Gurley’s struggles against New Orleans – in which he had four carries for 10 yards and a catch for three (albeit with a touchdown) – his knee injury became a serious point of conversation around the NFL before the Rams played the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Gurley ended up playing, but he had just 35 yards on 10 carries in an all-around anemic offensive performance from the Rams. In March, doctors determined Gurley had arthritis in his left knee.

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2019

Todd Gurley’s decline begins

Despite being just 25 years old, Gurley saw a steep drop-off in 2019. Playing in 15 games, Gurley was held under 1,000 yards for just the second time in his career, and he was noticeably less explosive. Although pure speed was never a true hallmark of Gurley’s game, he was struggling to hit holes and averaged just 3.5 yards per carry.

The Rams released Gurley after the season. Even looking at his best years, Gurley had just 18 yards over expected in 2018 and played with eight or more defenders in the box 7.81 percent of the time due to Sean McVay’s 11-heavy offense, so the Rams clearly felt they could plug-and-play. To a degree, they were right.

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2020

Gurley has a quiet season with the Falcons

In classic Rams running back workhorse fashion, Gurley went to the Falcons for the 2020 season, where he had an unceremonious 678 yards on 195 carries (3.5 yards per carry).

The Falcons had a running back committee that also included Brian Hill and Ito Smith, and they finished 4-12 on the year in a season that saw Dan Quinn fired after an 0-5 start. Gurley hit free agency after the year was over.

Todd Gurley’s NFL future

Although the Rams won the Super Bowl last year, Gurley seems at peace with not being in the game.

“There was never not one time where I watched a game and was like, ‘I wish I was out there,’” Gurley said, per LX.com. “I appreciated my time in the league and I’ve done things I could have never even dreamed about.”

Gurley hasn’t completely ruled out a return, but he seems content with where he’s at.

“I like doing stuff on my time,” he said. “I like doing whatever I want to do. I’ve never been the one that liked to be controlled. I like to be in control of my own path. That’s the best thing about being in the position I’m in. If I want to try to play again, I can try to pursue that. Or if I don’t, I can just relax and chill at the house and spend a lot more time with my family because that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”

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What is the running back age cliff?

For those wondering if the Gurley story should scare off fantasy owners looking to lock down the likes of Austin Ekeler (27), Dalvin Cook (27), or even Derrick Henry (28), the running back age cliff is more often thought of to be around 29.

Gurley’s arthritis seemed to contribute to his struggles as much as anything else, and he was the most productive running back in the league for two seasons.

Furthermore, the NFL – now more than ever – is extremely friendly toward plug-and-play systems at running backs. Catching the ball is almost as important as running it for the modern back. That’s why top producers include the likes of Alvin Kamara and Joe Mixon.

While there is a cautionary tale buried in there, it’s really “don’t draft running backs with questionable injury histories.” Gurley came into 2019 with ongoing questions about his health, and sadly, those questions were answered quickly.

The rise and fall of Gurley was truly a “you had to be there” moment. He was the face of the Rams for a short while, and he was a consistent force on the field. He seems to be content to be off it now, so even if he’s not fully retired yet, for all intents and purposes that seems to be the case.