When the Rams selected Todd Gurley in the first round last spring, many thought it wasn't the right move at the time. Sure, it was worth it to get Gurley as your running back considering he was considered the best of the 2015 class, but the Rams still had a lot of holes along the offensive line plus questions at receiver. There was also the question of Gurley's knee and how long it would take for him to be up to speed. So far, the Rams look like geniuses and everything is going well.
Todd Gurley vs. Cleveland Browns (Week 7)
Stats: 19 carries, 128 yards (3rd straight 100+ yard game), 2 touchdowns, 4 receptions, 35 yards
Analysis: While Gurley has been racking up yardage since his first official start in Week 5, he finally started getting into the end zone. His two scores marked his first rushing touchdowns of his NFL career. Lets look deeper.
What he did
Throughout this game, Gurley displayed an array of moves and packaged them in a very efficient way. He hurdled defenders, shed arm tackles with his strength, and plowed through after contact for positive yardage. On a few downsides, he showed the tendency to bounce a few runs to the outside when the blocking wasn't there, but those were few and far between and didn't takeaway much from his otherwise brilliant performance.
Even when there wasn't sublime blocking from his offensive line, Gurley found ways to create yardage. For example, on Gurley's biggest run of the day, he got skinny in a very tight window off the left side on an off tackle run. He did this without losing any speed and immediately shed the backside defensive end after getting to the second level of the defense. He then did something few backs could do, and reversed his field to run almost laterally toward the opposite sideline where he got a great block from wide receiver Tavon Austin and then turned the corner and ran down the sideline for a huge gain. He wasn't able to turn this into a long score, which perhaps points to a lack of breakaway speed as he was eventually angled to the sideline by a few secondary defenders, but it was an incredible display of vision in the open field and also an eye-popping display of squeezing through a tight window and turning what could've easily been a 1-yard gain into a 60-yard gain.
How he did it
Gurley's recent success could be attributed to a variety of traits. On a team with issues along the offensive line, Gurley's strength to carry defenders two or three yards after contact is perhaps his biggest weapon. He does this by keeping his head up through the run and maintaining a low pad level. When he's low, it makes it difficult for the defender to get lower and square him up to deliver a solid hit. Even if they could, Gurley's strength at 6'1, 222lbs plus his alleged 4.40 speed makes it difficult to knock him backward anyway.
You'll notice when Gurley runs, he likes to take defenders on his shoulder rather than run straight through them. His feet are always moving, and you rarely see one defender take him to the ground. When he makes contact with a defender, he's usually the aggressor and lets his forward momentum win him more yards. He's also shown the ability to hurdle defenders, and does so without leaping too high and leaving himself vulnerable to big hits while he hangs in the air.
There are some moments where Gurley could take the yardage given to him more and not bounce a run to the outside when the blocking isn't there. Still, it's understood that a guy of his talent can create a huge gain from almost nothing, so you have to take the bad with the good at times since the potential payoff is huge on improvised runs.
I've only watched the first two-and-a-half quarters of Gurley's best game as a pro so far, but already the back looks like he has a ton to offer in terms of fantasy value and overall value to the Rams offense. We knew coming in that Gurley could catch passes (10 inch hands were among the biggest for running backs at the 2015 combine) and his four catches against Cleveland were a career high. Imagine how valuable he could become if he keeps getting involved in the receiving game. Gurley is fast becoming the most reliable player on the Rams offense and you'd be hard-pressed to find a reason not to start him in Daily Fantasy leagues every week.