Who says you can't go home again?
The Ramsreleased star running back Todd Gurley on Thursday, rather than pay him an additional $10.5 million of his contract. By Friday morning, he had found a new home with the Atlanta Falcons, signing a one-year, $5 million deal and returning to the state where he starred in college for the Georgia Bulldogs.
It was a stunning end in L.A. for the former NFL Offensive Player of the Year and a player who as a perennial first round pick in fantasy football. But last year was not a great one for Gurley or the Rams. After scratching out just three points in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, Sean McVay's offense didn't look like the same juggernaut in 2019.
Gurley saw a lighter workload after an offseason that saw swirling rumors of arthritic knees all while speculation grew that Darrell Henderson and/or Malcolm Brown would see a larger workload. Yet the biggest shock was Gurley's absence from the Rams passing game. After seeing more than 80 targets in 2017 and 2018, the standout back had the ball tossed his way just 49 times, severely limiting his production. Were it not for the 14 total touchdowns, things would have been much worse.
In Atlanta, Gurley is presumably the lead runner in the Falcons offense but I'd be skeptical that he ever regains the workhorse status he enjoyed during his most productive years with the Rams. Even after the release of Devonta Freeman, the Falcons still have a stable of backs -- notably Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison -- that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter can work into the mix. There's also a chance Atlanta could add a running back in the draft. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Gurley's touches sit right around 250 in 2020 with the other backs getting occasional work.
The upside is that the Falcons have a potent passing offense. No team threw the ball more than Atlanta last season -- in part because the team's defense constantly had them playing from behind. Unless things change dramatically on that side of the ball, Matt Ryan could be forced to sling the rock a ton again in 2020. That could give Gurley some extra juice as a pass-catcher. If things go right, the dynamic back could creep back in to being a top 10 fantasy back.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the spotlight turns to Henderson and Brown. Even with talk that Gurley wouldn't be used as heavily, neither backup saw a ton of work. The pair combined for 455 scrimmage yards on 114 touches. Brown's five touchdowns almost made him intriguing -- though he was likely just more of a nuisance to Gurley managers. We enter the 2020 season with a likely competition on tap to see who will be the starter in the backfield. Regardless, it's hard to imagine McVay just going with one guy as his runner.