It took Todd Gurley until Week 3 to finally get well enough to start playing for the St. Louis Rams. Even when he did hit field, he was not particularly impressive, managing just nine yards on six carries against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 6-12 loss for the Rams.
Since then, however, it’s only been positive for the rookie running back. In fact, it has been so positive that it’s tough to not talk about Gurley when discussing the top running backs in football. He’s moved beyond the best rookie conversation and is now fully worth discussing when talking about the best overall.
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For the next three games, Gurley put up some ridiculous numbers. With 435 yards in Weeks 4, 5, and 7, Gurley was the most productive back in those weeks combined. Counting Week 6 (the Rams’ bye week), Gurley’s 435 yards was still third in the NFL and just two yards behind second place Devonta Freeman.
More importantly, Gurley is producing impressive rushing yards with less attempts. Of the top four running backs since Week 4, Gurley is the only one with less than 70 attempts. He is also averaging 6.4 yards per carry and is only one of two running backs in the top 10 with over six yards per carry (Lamar Miller of the Miami Dolphins is the other).
Over the past four weeks, it’s clear that Gurley is worthy of being in the conversation with the best backs in the NFL. But how does his season stack up against everyone else’s season so far?
Oct 25, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) celebrates after scoring a one yard touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. St. Louis defeated Cleveland 24-6. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Currently, Gurley’s 444 yards is 12th in the NFL. Having missed the first two weeks and struggling in his first week back does not help his overall season numbers. However, he’s performing at such a high level that he could still be a rushing title competitor. Especially with his six yards per carry (highest among the top 12 on the season), Gurley is threatening to join the top players by the end of the season.
Before the start of the season the rookie running backs were worth considering against each other and now only two have emerged as the best in their class: Todd Gurley and T.J. Yeldon. And among the two, Gurley is proving to be the back to beat. Yeldon’s 406 yards (17th in the NFL) and four yards per carry are being outstripped by Gurley on a weekly basis.
Gurley is worthy of being measured against a higher standard. What he is doing on the football field is something that is not regularly done in the NFL. If he can keep his 110 yards per game going (and that includes his limited first outing) then Gurley will finish the season with over 1600 yards. If he can keep his pace up from the last three games (145 yards per game), Gurley will amass a 2000 yard season (in just 14 games)!
His pace is so impressive that if he finished the season continuing his 145 yard per game clip, it would be the highest the NFL has ever seen, finally breaking O.J. Simpson’s 143.1 in 1973 (list via Pro Football Reference). He would be among greats like Simpson, Jim Brown, Walter Payton, and Eric Dickerson.
I’m not the only person to be heaping accolades on Todd Gurley, though. He rightfully won monthly honors from the St. Louis Rams, Chris Wesseling at NFL.com is noting he is among those rookies to watch for rookie of the year, and Nick Wagoner of ESPN also notes that Gurley is already among the best backs.
Just how good Gurley has been still seems overlooked. He isn’t just good on a rookie level. He isn’t just good among the best backs in the NFL right now. He’s on pace to be among the best backs of all time simply with his first rookie season.