After a very impressive return from ACL surgery in his rookie campaign, big things were expected from Gurley in 2016, but he failed to deliver in the worst way, seeing a massive drop in his YPC and failing to rush for more than 85 yards in any game. The general ineptitude of the Rams offense around him was a problem, as the passing game couldn't stretch the field, the offensive line couldn't keep defenders out of the backfield and the coaching staff seemed checked out, but Gurley himself also showed little of the burst or speed that made him the 10th overall pick in 2015 despite his knee injury. On the bright side, he was more involved in the passing game last year, and at least the roster doesn't have anyone that seems likely to threaten his touch volume. The Rams brought in a new brain trust in the offseason, replacing Jeff Fisher as head coach with former Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay and luring quarterback guru Matt LaFleur over from Atlanta as offensive coordinator, but those hires seem aimed more at getting the most out of Jared Goff than improving the running game. If the coaching changes and Goff's development result in defenses no longer stacking eight men in the box, Gurley could easily return to his rookie form, but heading into 2017 he no longer seems like a sure-fire star.
Gurley was a wait-and-see pick for fantasy last year, but the patient were rewarded — if you grade all the running backs in PPR value for the segment of games Gurley played, he finishes as the No. 3 player. A splashy comeback from someone who tore his ACL as recently as November 2014. In-game, patience was often the key to Gurley, as he went for a modest 3.5 YPC in the first half of games, then spiked it up to 6.2 YPC in the second half. Given the style of coach Jeff Fisher, it's not surprising the Rams remained committed to the running game consistently. Gurley went for 100 total yards or a TD in 10 of his 13 games, the type of consistency we pray for at this position. We'd like to see more work as a receiver, though — Gurley had 16 receptions in his first six games, but just five catches in his last six. While Gurley doesn't have the same outside-the-numbers wiggle as some of the other pass-catching backs, there's something to be said for unleashing him on a defense in different ways. And just getting him away from the mass of humanity between the tackles is a good thing; it's a sneaky way to protect wear and tear on your bell cow. And ring the bell the Rams will, over and over. They're in a new city, but the blueprint is the same — plus defense, rookie quarterback, so-so offensive line.
Despite tearing the ACL in his left knee last November, Gurley was still selected 10th overall by the Rams. Built like the prototypical feature back at 6-1, 222, Gurley runs with impressive power and burst and proved to be extremely difficult for college tacklers to handle, gaining an incredible 62 percent of his yards after contact in 2014. That strength is complemented by good speed in the open field and plus receiving skills, making him a true three-down threat. While his rehab has progressed well, he's not expected to be ready for Week 1, and the ACL tear wasn't his first lower-body injury, as he also dealt with ankle and hip problems at Georgia. The Rams rebuilt a below-average offensive line in the offseason to pave the way for their new star but will likely ease Gurley into action once he's fully recovered. Tre Mason, a 2014 third-round pick, is still around to handle starting duties while Gurley is out, and Mason could even potentially share touches as the Rams slowly ramp up Gurley's workload. Once healthy, though, Gurley could be special.