The running back draft streak is over. And maybe a little sooner than expected. Definitely to a team nobody expected.
The St. Louis Rams, with the 10th pick of the draft, selected Georgia running back Todd Gurley. Gurley is the first running back to go in the first round since 2012. It was a bit of a surprise because it wasn’t a need for the Rams.
The Rams drafted Tre Mason last season to replace 2013 Zac Stacy, who had a promising rookie season. Mason had a promising rookie season as well. But apparently the Rams thought Gurley was the best player on the board and was too good to pass up. It says something about Gurley’s talent that he didn’t fall out of the first round even though he tore his ACL in November.
“It has been a long journey,” Gurley said to ESPN, choking up as he spoke.
Gurley should be productive as soon as he’s healthy. Stacy was as a rookie. Mason was as a rookie. And Gurley is clearly more talented than either. He might be the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. NFL Films’ Greg Cosell said Gurley was arguably the best prospect in the entire draft. Obviously the Rams were very high on him, to select him even though it wasn’t a position of need.
Stacy seemed to understand, right after the Gurley pick was made, that he had just dropped another spot on the depth chart.
Gurley was the obvious bet to break the drought of running backs not being taken in the first round. Before 2013, the last time a running back wasn’t taken in the first round of the NFL draft was 1963. Then 2013 and 2014 came and went and no backs were taken in the first round. But neither of those draft classes had a player of Gurley’s talent level.
Gurley doesn’t come without any risk. Although many backs come back from ACL injuries with no problem, it’s no guarantee. While Gurley has been positive about how quickly he can come back, the Miami Herald wrote he will likely miss the first month of the season. That might even be smart, because rushing him back could affect him over the long term.
The Rams have the depth to let Gurley come back slowly. But having drafted him so early, obviously the Rams plan to feature him as the foundation of their offense as soon as he’s ready for it.
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