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- Position: Running back (RB)
- Class: Junior
- College: Georgia
- Ht/Wt: 6'1", 230 pounds
Sam Shields said that trying to tackle Marshawn Lynch is like trying to tackle a train coming right at you. Todd Gurley is another locomotive playing football. He's a fusion of power, speed, and vision that should be unfair in this sport, and assuming he stays healthy in his career, should be remembered as one of the great ones.
Gurley is a big back with an upright running style, which usually is a bad combination, but he has the raw power to hit a defender, bounce off him, and keep running forward. He shakes off any tackle that doesn't fully wrap him up, and is capable of dragging a pile forward for extra yards. He has a combination of burst and fluidity that allows him to hit the hole in a hurry, and he combines that with great vision and outstanding processing speed to maximize his runs. He was a successful kick returner in college, with multiple return touchdowns, but his top speed is probably close to the 4.50 range, which should limit him there in the NFL.
Gurley isn't just a back who can hit - he's a back that craves hitting and hates to lose. You'll see him shove off defenders after the play is over. If the quickest path forward involves running over a defender, he'll take it, confident that he will win the one on one matchup. On many players, that attitude borders on reckless, but Gurley has the talent to back it up.
The biggest negative with Gurley? Injuries. He suffered a torn ACL (his first) in November, and will be rehabbing it at the start of his rookie season. For comparison, Scott Chandler had a torn ACL in December of 2012, and didn't fully return to practice until training camp in late July 2013 - and he was roughly a month ahead of schedule on his recovery. Gurley will be lucky if he can begin practicing at the end of training camp, and as a rookie, he'll suffer without the early reps. Gurley also dealt with a nagging ankle injury in his sophomore season that slowed him down slightly.
Gurley is a rare running back who could be worth a Top 10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He has the qualities I look for in my ideal running back: powerful legs, strong burst, and outstanding vision and processing speed. He can still develop further with his pass protection and route running, but is the best pure runner to emerge in the last few years of the draft. Because of his torn ACL, however, and the devaluation of running backs in the NFL, it's possible (though I still think it's unlikely) that Gurley will be available when the Bills pick in the second round this year. If that happens, I fully support drafting Gurley; I grade him as a first-round talent even with the injury, and he is my top rated running back in this year's draft.