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Fantasy Impact: Atlanta's New Running Back - Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley in Atlanta
The bad news for Gurley is the Atlanta Falcons run-blocking actually ranked below the Rams last season (24th). The team had attempted to fix their OL issues in the draft, selecting Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom (No. 14 overall) and Washington tackle Kaleb McGary (No. 31 overall), but Lindstrom missed 11 games due to a broken foot and McGary struggled mightily. With a season under their belt, the right side of the line should produce improved performance.
The Atlanta passing game was dynamic with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper preventing any defense from stacking of the box. They ranked third in passing yards and ninth in touchdown receptions. While the loss of free agent Hooper at tight end (signed by Cleveland) will be felt, the addition of Baltimore’s Hayden Hurst (30-349-2 as the No.3 TE behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle last season) will somewhat mitigate the loss.
Gurley is a solid receiver out of the backfield (averaging 49.3 receptions over the past four seasons) and should be able to take advantage of quarterback Matt Ryan’s increased use of running backs in the passing game. While Jared Goff targeted his backs just 10.1-percent of the time in 2019, Ryan’s backfield usage rate was 17-percent, 14.1-percent and 18.6-percent the past three seasons.
With all due respect to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, Gurley is the best back the Falcons have started in the Dan Quinn era. He is a dynamic runner and he can catch the ball. Unfortunately, Quinn has avoided the run game the past two seasons ranking 30th and 29th in rushing attempts, 27th and 30th in yards gained on the ground and 23rd and 24th in rushing touchdowns. That should change for the better in 2020 with an improving line and Gurley, but don’t go overboard.
Only once in the past eight seasons has Atlanta OC Dirk Koetter’s offense finished in the top-20 in rushing yards or yards-per-attempt (2015 in Tampa Bay). Just twice in that span his teams finished in the top-10 in rushing attempts. So, while Gurley will improve the Atlanta rushing attack, he certainly won’t reach the heights produced in Los Angeles. With his catching ability, however, he should still be a low-end RB1 in PPR leagues and an RB2 in standard scoring leagues.
Think Freeman, circa 2016 (227-1,079-11 and 54-462-2 for 17.9
FPts/G) as Gurley’s 2020 ceiling. Those totals would have
been good enough for eighth-best last season and Joe Mixon last
season (278-1,138-5 and 35-287-3 for 14.1 FPts/G) as his floor