Brian Hill Fantasy Outlook: Must start following Todd Gurley injury?

Brian Hill Fantasy Outlook: Must start following Todd Gurley injury?

Sitting at 3-7, the Atlanta Falcons are playing for pride and evaluating players on their roster for next year. With Todd Gurley now ruled out due to injury, both fantasy football managers and the organization can take a hard look at RB Brian Hill, who will serve as the team’s RB1 on Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders. Hill has shown up in complementary duty, but we have not seen him be the 1A option in the committee. In his new role, what should fantasy managers do with Hill? Does he have must-start upside, or is Brian Hill too risky for Week 12 in fantasy?

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Falcons RB Todd Gurley has been ruled out of Sunday’s game

When the Atlanta Falcons take the field on Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders, starting running back Todd Gurley will not be with them.

Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported Gurley has been ruled out for the game due to a knee issue. Todd Gurley being associated with a knee issue causes an immediate visceral reaction to anyone in fantasy football who knows his injuries.

However, this does not sound like it has to do with arthritis in his knees. Head coach Raheem Morris was vague on the specifics of Gurley’s injury, but he did suggest Gurley was dinged up during last week’s 24-9 loss at New Orleans when Gurley did not play in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Ito Smith and, you guessed it, Brian Hill.

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“One time he came off with a little something, but he was able to go out there. He’s such a tough warrior-mentality type of guy to go at all times. We know he’s gonna try to go back out there when he can.”

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Gurley, 26, had played in each of the Falcons’ first 10 games this year with 167 carries for 610 yards and nine touchdowns, plus 16 catches for 82 yards. Gurley’s nine touchdowns are the fifth-most amongst running backs, and he is seventh in the NFL in total touches on the season at 183.

Brian Hill is set to lead the backfield with Todd Gurley out due to injury

Brian Hill (25) will be the primary back while Todd Gurley recovers from his knee injury. Playing in the RB2 role in Atlanta, Hill has seen consistent work in the offense, even if Gurley is averaging 18.3 touches per game out of the backfield.

How has Hill fared so far in 2020?

This year, Brian Hill has rushed for 261 yards on his 60 carries and a touchdown in his 10 games, along with 16 receptions on 24 targets for 111 yards. From an efficiency standpoint, Hill has been better than Gurley, though the sample sizes are different. Hill’s 4.4 yards per rush and 6.9 yards per reception are ahead of Gurley in both categories (3.7 and 5.1).

I am not going to try to make the case that Brian Hill is a better fantasy option than Todd Gurley. I am saying that he could be a decent fill-in based upon what we have seen from him in his somewhat consistent usage in the regular season.

Do we have to worry about reps being split with anyone else?

It would be safe to assume we will some Ito Smith worked into the gameplan as well. Smith has 20 touches all year but is likely the team’s best receiving option out of the backfield. If the Falcons’ defensive struggles continue, we could expect another game script that favors running back receptions while trying to keep pace or play from behind.

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The team also has Julio Jones and Hayden Hurst listed as questionable, meaning the entire offense could differ. Suppose Hurst is out or held back in his workload. In that case, we could see both Hill and Smith funneled more targets as there is a stronger correlation between tight ends and running backs in terms of target predictability than the correlation between running backs and wide receivers.

Is RB Brian Hill a must-start in Week 12 for fantasy due to the increased workload he will see?

The Raiders have been vulnerable in the passing game, where they have faced the second-most RB targets in the NFL (85). They are currently allowing 49.2 receiving yards per game to the position, which feeds into Hill’s skillset.

What is Hill’s ceiling?

I think calling Brian Hill a must-start is a bit extreme for me, and he sits in the high-RB3 range in Week 12. The Raiders have allowed the third-most fantasy points per opportunity to running backs, behind only the Packers and Lions. They are also 29th in fantasy points allowed per game to the position with 28.48 PPR points per week.

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The odd part is that this comes while facing only the sixth-lowest amount of rushes at 19.8 per game. However, they allow a sizeable 4.57 yards per carry and have given up the third-most rushing touchdowns with 12.

Can Hill seize his opportunity?

This would have been a smash play for Todd Gurley this week if it was not for his knee injury. Facing off against a team that gives up plenty of touchdowns and passing work to a touchdown-dependent player is a beautiful combination.

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Even if Hill gets 80% of the Gurley workload and the rest is split between Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison, that should see Hill around the 15 opportunity mark, which almost guarantees someone RB3 status based on volume alone. Hill is not as talented as Gurley, but in fantasy, that doesn’t always matter.

Derek Carr is coming in hot, and the Falcons cannot stop anyone in the passing game, leading to Matt Ryan playing from behind. For Brian Hill to have a solid fantasy day, he will need the passing game work due to carries coming at a premium if the offense is playing from behind.

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.