Georgia Bulldogs star running back Todd Gurley has endured a turbulent junior season in Athens. Instead of gearing up for one more year of college ball, Georgia coach Mark Richt announced Monday that Gurley will declare for the 2015 NFL draft.
UGASports.com's Anthony Dasher reported the news (h/t SaturdayDownSouth.com's Drew Laing):
Mark Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald added more of what Richt had to say about his gifted tailback:
Gurley was suspended four games by the NCAA this year for accepting autographed memorabilia totaling more than $3,000 over the span of two years. Prior to then, he was gaining steam as a potential first-round draft pick, and would have been the first at his position to be chosen so early since the 2012 draft.
Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman emphasized how special Gurley was in abbreviated action:
In his first game back from suspension in a 34-7 win over Auburn on November 15, Gurley tore the ACL in his left knee the fourth quarter. That ended his junior campaign, jeopardizing his NFL prospects.
Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who played with Gurley and tore his ACL before being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, has kept in touch with Gurley and offered his advice, per OnlineAthens.com's Fletcher Page:
I just feel awful for Todd. It's tough, especially with everything he's gone through this year, the suspension and all that craziness and to come back and be having such a special game for that to happen it's definitely tough on him.
[...] There's plenty of times, maybe five, six, seven weeks into it where you're going to feel great. You want to go run, go cut, but you have to trust the doctors. You have to wait 12 weeks to run, wait 15 weeks before you can cut. There is a time where you can’t trust how good you think you might feel. You have to trust the doctors.
Coming off such a major injury will hurt Gurley's draft stock, and there is a chance that he will never be quite the same, dominant player he was in college. It just goes to show how even someone as talented as Gurley may be an afterthought in a few years' time, which has been the nature of running backs in recent years.
So there is considerable risk for Gurley to go this route. Had he opted to return to school and show his knee was fully healed with a strong senior year, he may have enhanced his odds to be drafted higher. What is encouraging is that Richt feels rather confident Gurley will still be chosen early.
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Gurley had 911 yards and seven rushing touchdowns on 7.4 yards per carry in 2014, but a full recovery isn't guaranteed.
Nevertheless, some NFL team will take a shot on Gurley because of his immense skills. It's even feasible that he could still warrant a look in the first round or early on Day 2 of the draft. Such a risk may pay off—perhaps just not right away.
The hope is that Gurley is someday able to show what he can do at the NFL level to his full ability, because he has the upside to be one of the league's premier backs if he can stay healthy.