What to do with Todd Gurley?
Todd Gurley owners are in a tough spot today. He didn’t practice all week and is questionable (knee) against the Cardinals. Complicating matters, the Rams play late, so owners without a 4 p.m. ET option may have to decide what to do by 1 p.m. ET.
Who's the Backup?
On Friday, according to the Rams’ website, "All indications point to head coach Sean McVay looking to (C.J. Anderson) as the first back off the bench behind running back Todd Gurley." What those indications are, I don't know. The writer, Clarence Dennis, seems to have taken McVay's quote about Anderson—“You can see him playing a role as early as this week. Really impressed just being around him in the initial 24 hours, or whatever it's been.”—and making the leap to Anderson being the No. 2 RB. Then again, maybe Dennis knows something we don't, though in my experience, free agents who are signed off the street typically do not play a lead role when there is an incumbent available (John Kelly) who has been on the roster the entire season.
Since then, there have since been multiple beat writer reports corroborating the Anderson-is-the-next-guy-up line of thinking, so I'm currently ranking him ahead of Kelly. Kelly was a healthy scratch for most of the season, but was active for three of his last four games, so the team seemingly doesn't view him as a plug-and-play option for Gurley.
Will Gurley Play?
Gurley didn't carry the ball after his knee injury last week but made several receptions and finished the game. This usually indicates that the player will be available the following week.
Last night, Adam Schefter said that Gurley is a true game-time decision. He wants to play but the team "would like to get him rest if any concerns." Ian Rapoport added this morning that Gurley "will work out today to determine whether he plays" and that his status is "truly up in the air. Some of his sources are "hopeful that he goes" while others say the team won't "put him at further risk of injury" and will be "cautious."
McVay indicated early in the week that he expected Gurley to play. When asked on Thursday, Gurley said, "I think I’ll be fine, man," Gurley said. "Just taking it day by day recovering, resting, trying to feel better." Unfortunately for fantasy owners, it’s not Gurley’s decision.
Schefter just tweeted: "Unless Rams’ RB Todd Gurley has a setback in pregame warmups today, the team is planning for him to play vs. Cardinals, per source. Rams think he has felt better as week has progressed."
The Rams are sitting at 11-3 but have lost two straight and are still fighting for home-field advantage with the Saints (11-3) while the Bears (10-4) are just one game back in the battle for one of the NFC's two byes. The Rams need the game, and they are not playing well enough to just assume they can beat the still-trying Cardinals on the road without their best offensive player.
What Should Owners Do?
Ideally, owners can wait on Gurley’s status. If he’s active--and based on Schefter's last tweet I would expect him to play--I'd expect 65-70% of his usual workload and production, which is enough for me to start him over most other options. He has averaged 22.5 touches per game this season, so perhaps 14-16 touches in a great matchup with the Cardinals. Arizona is No. 23 in RB aFPA, has allowed 5.34 YPC to running backs in the last four weeks, has yielded 132 rushing yards (4.42 YPC) and 1.0 TD to running backs in seven home games this year. If Gurley is active, I would feel compelled to start him (over most options) barring any other information.
If he’s out, and I have Anderson and Kelly to choose from, I would go with Anderson and hope that the various reports about his primary backup status are true. Neither Anderson nor Kelly will be ranked very high if Gurley sits. Anderson will probably be ranked in the 20s (RB2/RB3 territory) in both formats due to the uncertainty of the backfield split. Kelly will probably be ranked as a low-end RB3 in the No. 30-No. 36 range. This, of course, assumes we have no further information by 4 p.m. kickoff.
If Gurley plays, the ideal situation for the Rams is that they jump out to a lead and they are then able to manage the game in the second half and limit his touches by utilizing Anderson and/or Kelly. Gurley could have a pregame or in-game setback and finish with a terrible fantasy line. He could also play the entire game and post his usual production. Simply stated, there is a huge range of possible outcomes today.