Georgia running back Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely by the University of Georgia Athletic Association as the star junior is being investigated for an alleged violation of NCAA rules.
The 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate ranks as one of the top players in college football and was expected to be a top pick in the NFL draft. Here's a look at three key questions in regards to how the suspension could affect Gurley's draft stock:
How did NFL scouts view Gurley prior to his suspension?
Most scouts have privately pegged Gurley as the top running back in the 2015 class, should he declare early eligibility, based on his impressive career resume and remarkable physical tools. The 6-foot-1, 228-pound junior leads the SEC and ranks third in the FBS in rushing yards per game this season (154.6). He has popped 27 runs of 10-plus yards and averages 8.22 yards per carry, which ranks behind only Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (8.30) among FBS players with at least 75 carries. With only Bo Jackson (6.6) surpassing Gurley's career yards-per-carry average (6.5) among SEC runners with at least 400 rushing attempts, Gurley has all of the credentials to ranks as a blue-chip prospect at the position and earn a top-15 grade by the end of the process.
Looking at the tape, I would rank the Bulldogs' star as the top running back in college football. He displays a rare combination of speed, power and explosion that reminds me of a young Marshawn Lynch. Additionally, he catches the ball well out of the backfield and displays the kind of burst and playmaking skill to be a lethal three-down back in any scheme. While I would shy away from using Gurley as a kick returner as a pro, the fact that he's a standout return specialist at his size speaks volumes about his athleticism and big-play potential as a pro. Factor in his impressive physical attributes along with his expected workout numbers, and it's very likely that Gurley will check off all of the boxes as an elite prospect in any class. Thus, I believe he would conservatively earn a mid-first round grade in most war rooms across the league.
How will NFL teams react to the news?
One of the primary responsibilities of an area scout is to know everything about each prospect within his area. Gurley's suspension will prompt every scout in the Southeast to investigate the matter and come up with the details behind the suspension. Scouts will ask school administrators, coaches and teammates about Gurley's character to determine if this incident is part of a trend of questionable decisions by the junior standout. Additionally, scouts will question various citizens around the Georgia community about Gurley's behavior around town and see if the reports match up with how he has been portrayed by his coaches and teammates.
From a team perspective, general managers will instruct their security personnel to find out the details about the incident. They will want a comprehensive report about Gurley's involvement in the situation and if there are any legal consequences to the matter. In addition, general managers will run an extensive background check on Gurley to see if any other incidents come up in his past. From his attendance and interactions with teachers/coaches in junior high and high school to his relationships with family in his hometown, every team in the league will take a long, hard look at Gurley (and every other prospect in the draft) to see if there are any issues that will prevent him from being a model citizen with the team.
What does this suspension mean for Gurley's draft stock?
The suspension will not have a major impact on Gurley's draft stock. While scouts and executives will dig deep to uncover all of the details behind the suspension, it's not a criminal matter and most observers won't view it as a serious character concern. Now, Gurley must come clean in team meetings to clear up any confusion about his involvement in the situation, but the NCAA-imposed suspension will be viewed as a minor incident within the war room and won't have a significant impact on his final grade.