One of the reasons Todd Gurley struggled so much in 2016 was that teams were loading the box against him. With no real threat outside and poor quarterback play, defenses had almost nothing to fear from the Rams’ offense besides Gurley.
That allowed them to load the box with eight-plus defenders fairly often, suffering no major consequences for doing so. It wasn’t the only reason Gurley had a down year, but it was certainly a major factor.
In 2016, he faced a loaded box 25.9 percent of the time, which was 20th among all running backs. It may not seem like a large number, but it was higher than the league average. In 2017, only two running backs faced more loaded boxes than Gurley, which is baffling.
Gurley saw eight or more defenders in the box just 16.85 percent of the time, according to Next Gen Stats. Giovani Bernard faced the fewest at 12.38 percent, while Alvin Kamara was second at 16.67 percent.
The fact that Gurley, the NFL’s second-leading rusher, only faced a loaded box 16 percent of the time is shocking. That not only shows how diverse and unpredictable the Rams’ offense was, but it’s a testament to how big of a threat Jared Goff was.
His development opened up things for Gurley, preventing teams from stacking the box to stop the run on first and second down. It all worked congruently for the Rams with each aspect of the offense complementing the other.
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley amassed 456 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns over his past two games. He became the first player since at least 1950 to reach 45 PPR fantasy points in ESPN fantasy football leagues in consecutive games, and he did it during the fantasy football playoffs.
In other words, Gurley was largely responsible for a lot of the fantasy football championships that were clinched on Christmas.
And a lot of the beneficiaries are paying it forward by donating a portion of their winnings to Shriners Hospitals for Children, an organization Gurley has built close ties with over the years. Several of those donating to Shriners notified Gurley through his Twitter account.
“Man, that was dope,” Gurley said. “That’s real cool, just seeing that on social media. It doesn’t matter what the money amount is — $10, $5, $25. Just to see that and people caring, that means a lot.”
Gurley disappointed a lot of fantasy football players last season, when he followed up being named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 by gaining only 885 yards on 278 attempts in 2016. Even though he will sit out the regular-season finale as the playoff-bound Rams rest key players, Gurley will finish 2017 with 2,093 scrimmage yards and 19 touchdowns, two figures that currently lead the NFL.
Rams players are firm in their belief that Gurley should be the MVP, even though the award has gone to a quarterback in nine of the previous 10 seasons.
Those who drafted him for their fantasy leagues probably believe the same.
“When you’re doing good, fantasy is good,” Gurley said. “But when you’re doing bad, it’s not good at all. You’re like, ‘Man, leave me alone.’ You get a bunch of tweets and messages. People seem superexcited. I guess because we played the day before Christmas, everybody was like, ‘Man, thank you so much for making my Christmas.’ I’m like, ‘Hey, man, whatever I can do to bring the holiday spirit up, I’m with it.’ “