It's been the consensus choice by most draft experts for some time now—Todd Gurley to the San Diego Chargers with the 17th pick overall—but is it the right choice?
The Georgia running back is coming off ACL surgery, which he underwent in November, and the timetable for his recovery is six to nine months. At the latest, Gurley could be looking at mid-August as a possible return date, when NFL teams will be wrapped up in exhibition games and trimming down their rosters in preparation for the regular season.
In a draft loaded with running back talent, the logical thing to do would be to pass on Gurley and settle for a player with no medical restrictions. But for the team willing to take that risk, possibly the Chargers, Gurley could be well worth it and then some.
When he first stepped onto the scene at Georgia in 2012, Gurley compiled 1,385 rushing yards, becoming the second true freshman in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards since Herschel Walker in 1980.
He would miss three games his sophomore year with an ankle injury but was a top-10 rusher in the SEC regardless with 989 yards. Gurley's final season with the Bulldogs incurred setbacks along the way, as he was suspended four games by the NCAA for accepting money in exchange for autographed memorabilia.
In his first game back, he suffered an infamous knee injury in the fourth quarter of a blowout win over Auburn on Nov. 15.
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Gurley's sample size for 2014, though small, was undeniably impressive. He rushed for 911 yards and nine touchdowns in just six games and was a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy at one point.
At 6'1" and 222 pounds, Gurley stacks up well as a north-south runner, combining power with ample speed. He shows tremendous balance upon contact and can accelerate quickly in a crowd. Gurley completes the package with a decent set of hands out of the backfield, which he showcased in 2013 (37 receptions, 441 yards, six touchdowns).
All that combined has many scouts touting Gurley's potential as a three-down back at the next level. It also doesn't hurt that he is a world-class hurdler, which could come in handy from time to time.
Film Study: Clemson
The Bulldogs won their season opener in 2014 behind a record-breaking performance from Gurley, who shredded the Tigers' No. 1-ranked defense for 293 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns.
Gurley's first score of the evening, a 23-yard sprint down the left sideline, highlights his burst, which he used to blow past linebacker Stephone Anthony. As Gurley rounded the corner, Anthony had the angle to make a stop, but it vanished as soon as Gurley hit the gas.
Gurley would summon that extra gear during his next score—a 100-yard kick return. He fielded the kick deep in his own end zone and reached top speed in a hurry, following his blocks all the way to the house. It's yet another dimension Gurley offers a team willing to draft him.
Touchdown No. 3 isn't nearly as electric, but vision is a definite plus for a young running back and that's what Gurley shows here. After realizing there was nothing to be had on the right side, Gurley found a cutback lane to the left and broke a tackle en route to an 18-yard score.
Gurley's piece de resistance, though, comes in the final portion of the clip. By staying patient, Gurley found a hole to exploit and somehow managed to stay on his feet when a defender tripped him up. The result was a 51-yard score and the dagger in a 45-21 rout.
The Bottom Line
Both GM and head coach have downplayed the Chargers need for a running back, insisting they can win with Danny Woodhead, Donald Brown and Branden Oliver. But as good as they may be in a group, the trio lacks a true starter.
Oliver, an undrafted rookie in 2014, led San Diego in rushing with 582 yards, while Brown chipped in a measly 223 yards. Woodhead played in just three games after suffering a broken fibula.
Not to say the Chargers won't win with that lineup, Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy know better than anyone what they have at running back, but the addition of Gurley would make that task less of an uphill battle for Philip Rivers, who was relied upon maybe too much. The 33-year-old quarterback is coming off a back injury, which nearly required surgery at the end of last season.
But what about Gurley's knee? Will he be ready by training camp?
As Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported, Gurley is six weeks ahead of schedule with his recovery. And in an interview with Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Gurley revealed that he has already started running, which is a promising bit of news.
Besides, the Chargers can afford to be patient with Gurley. As they previously stated before, they can win with who they have. That should buy Gurley enough time to get as close to 100 percent as possible before stepping back on the field.