(Photo Credits: LA Times 2016)
Coming into this season’s draft, Gurley was a consensus first round pick in almost every draft, which on the surface would make sense considering he was coming off a season where he rushed for 1106 yards and 10 TDs along with a 4.8 yards for carry average. This season gave him offensive rookie of the year honors along with a pro bowl nod. However, these numbers are very deceiving. In his first four full games he rushed for 146 yards against Arizona, 159 yards against Green Bay, 128 yards against San Francisco, and 133 yards against Cleveland respectively. After that stretch, he only recorded 1 game where he rushed for more than 100 yards and that game came against Detroit who were ranked 19th in total rushing yards allowed. In fact, three of those excellent games he had came against rushing defenses that were ranked in the bottom half of the league with San Francisco and Cleveland ranking 29th and 30th respectively. Once defenses keyed in on Gurley, he was much less effective than he was at the beginning of the year. Although this could also be a result of the porous Rams offense in which the only other offensive weapon is Tavon Austin and teams could get away with stacking the box without worrying about getting beat.
The next target is Devonta Freeman, in 2015, Freeman scored a TD 14 times, good for the best in the league tied with 3 other players and he finished 7th among RBs for total rushing yards with 1056 yards. These stats can also be very deceiving as through the first 6 games, Freeman already netted 10 of those TDs, with him only scoring 4 TDs in his last 9 games (he was injured for one game.) Considering the fluctuation of TDs, it makes it hard to predict whether or not Freeman will be a big scorer because as a runner he only averaged 4.0 yards per carry which ranked him 33rd in the league among players like Latavius Murray and Charcandrick West. However if you only use his rushes after his hot start, he rushed for 551 yards on 159 attempts, which comes out to a 3.5 yards per attempt, which was the same as Melvin Gordon. Now Freeman does also command more value as a RB due to his ability as a pass catcher, but these abilities also tend to fluctuate, thus making it difficult to nail down how much Freeman will contribute to his offense on any given day. Not to mention that in his awesome 5 game stretch, 4 of the teams he faced ranked below average in points allowed per game, with two of the teams, (New Orleans and New York,) ranking 32nd and 30th respectively.
So what do you do with these RBs going forward? Well for Gurley, he can still have good value in a trade based off his name and reputation so far, and others may not see his massive downward trend which you can take advantage of and possibly get a good deal. For Freeman? So far this year he’s been solid in a revamped Falcons offense which more features a two headed rushing attack between Freeman and Coleman with Freeman being the change of pace back in passing situations to give Atlanta a big play. However Atlanta also got off to a very hot start last year before falling off a cliff and missing the playoffs entirely, so be cautious going forward.
By Matthew Braun, Editor