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2015 NFL Draft: Scouting Potential Buffalo Bills Pick Georgia RB Todd Gurley

Since the hiring of Greg Roman as Offensive Coordinator, the direction of the Bills offense seems to be clear. They will run the ball early and often and what the Bills really lack is a feature back. Fred Jackson, the man as old as Methuselah himself, has a well rounded skill set but durability is a concern because he’s not getting any younger. Bryce Brown has the speed to be a change of pace back with decent ability as a receiver like the 49ers had a couple of years ago in Kendall Hunter. Anthony Dixon, if the past predicts the future, will be used sparingly under Roman as a short yardage battering ram and part-time fullback.

They all have their uses in a rotation but Roman does like to have a feature back. During his 4 years with the 49ers, he had Frank Gore who has taken 66% of all carries (excluding QB carries, knees etc). This brings me to Georgia running back Todd Gurley.

Every year during the draft process, certain players are seen as a contender to potentially drop on draft day. Sometimes, these reasons are as stupid as a poor Pro Day or a perception of ‘skinny knees’ (not that I’m making a point about me being right about Mr Bridgewater, of course). Sometimes the reason can be something applicable like an injury. Those who aren’t aware, Todd Gurley tore his ACL against Auburn in November and, while an ACL tear isn’t the career death nail it once was, there are rightfully doubts about if he’s going to be the same player post-injury.

Standing at 6′ 1″, 226 pounds, Gurley is a well proportioned back with a tenacious running style and has the kind of speed/agility that is rare for a guy his size. One of the doubts with his injury is that he runs the risk of losing what truly sets him apart from the rest of the class. Having recently watched a Superbowl champion with 3 top tier players having recovered from the same injury, there is anecdotal evidence and theories on both sides of the argument.

First thing first with Gurley; his power. He’s not always the most graceful runner but he’s mighty effective. He’s what I’d call a pinball runner, someone that can absorb and bounce off contact and keep heading north. When you combine his mentality as a runner with incredible balance, you start to see why people rave about him so much.

This play vs Clemson – Gurley breaks the arm tackle by Vic Beasley, keeps attacking forward. Rides the tackler at the next level and manages to maintain his feet and gain additional yardage.

This time vs South Carolina – Defender should have Gurley dead to rights for a 4 yard loss. He breaks the tackle, shows good burst to go again from a standing start. Manages to duck 2 oncoming defenders, somehow stays up and fights through more contact.

Another admirable part of Gurley’s game is his vision. Probably the most important attribute for a running back to have. I’ve seen criticism of Gurley because he sometimes has huge holes to run through. I’d agree that it would be a bad thing if he can’t identify gaping holes but he can and he does, usually with unwelcome consequences for the opposition. Gurley consistently hits the right crease and shows the ability to play within the confines of his blocking well.

The thing that excites me about Gurley is his ability to have that plodding consistency. He has very few negative plays. The cherry on top of the cake is his ability to freelance (which he rarely does) and create something from nothing. He follows his blocking to the sideline on 3rd & 16 and realises that the play is dead but spots a possibility to cut back across the field. His conviction and determination is what gets the first down but it’s his ability to see something that others might not that gave him the chance.

Gurley has the ability to catch the ball from the backfield and his ability as a runner in the open field makes him a threat in the screen game. In short, Todd Gurley is the kind of well rounded and emphatic runner that the Buffalo Bills offense needs. The comparisons to Marshawn Lynch seem easy to make but they are well deserved. I see no reason why Gurley isn’t a top 5 NFL running back within the next 2-3 years.

When it comes to the running back position, I reserve a 1st round grade for truly exceptional prospects and Todd Gurley is the only back in this class (or the one before it) that I feel deserves it. He might not last until the 50th pick but stranger things have happened. For the sake of smashmouth football in Buffalo let’s hope that he does.


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