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6 Things to Watch For as the Todd Gurley Owner in Fantasy Football

7 Things to Watch For as the Todd Gurley Owner in Fantasy Football!

Before diving in, here’s a quick anatomy lesson: The knee joint is made of the kneecap (patella), tibia (shin bone), and femur (upper leg). On the inside of the knee joint, between the upper leg and shin, there exists a thick layer of connective tissue called the meniscus. The meniscus has two parts, a lateral (outside) portion and a medial (inside) portion. The meniscus is there to provide stability, reduce friction within the knee, and uphold the integrity of the joint. Think of the meniscus as the brake pads on a car. Lastly, the end of each bone surface contains articular cartilage which reduces friction during movement. See the picture below for an illustration.

Picture courtesy of and their Complete Anatomy.

A “degenerative” knee is a broad term that refers to osteoarthritis (OA) or just arthritis. OA is a chronic inflammatory process that degrades the cartilage and causes pain and swelling with movement. In OA, the body tells the brain to release a cascade of healing chemicals to the area. The brain (usually correctly) interprets this entire process as painful. Due to the constant signaling of damage, this process repeats itself over and over and the cycle continues. OA is extremely common in people like Gurley with a history of intra-articular injuries (think ACL tear).

With this information in mind, I give you 7 orthopedic considerations when drafting Gurley.

1. Don’t let scary terms scare you away completely

Many times, x-rays and MRI’s are not relevant in OA. A study in 2006 took 205 individuals with OA and asked them to rate their pain. MRI’s of their knee were then evaluated against that pain report. To save you the nerdy descriptions this is the bottom line:

 “Abnormal” finding like cysts, swelling, and bone deformities correlated very poorly with subjective pain reports. In other words, a person who reported almost no pain in their daily life could have the gnarliest looking knee and never know it. The opposite of this is also true. Several different studies in subsequent years have backed this theory.

This Is relevant because the idea of a “degenerative knee” is overblown, and what matters is the pain report from the patient, in this case, Gurley.

This leads perfectly into what does matter.

2. Watch his day to day reports

OA can be extremely unpredictable, especially when adding in several mini car crashes every Sunday. Even people who are not elite athletes report having “good days” and “bad days” when dealing with OA. Expect nothing different for Gurley. Fortunately for him, he has access to the rehab team all year around. Keep an eye on the injury report every day and every week in perpetuity to monitor his progress.

Note: The rest of this advice just takes you through the several ranges of outcome for Gurley.

3. Expect headaches

Ultimately, Gurley is a player to avoid early in drafts not because of his volume or talent, but because of the wide range of outcomes the chronicity of his condition inherently brings. This is because OA can be triggered by anything from slamming the joint into the ground to sleeping in an awkward position. Expect a weekly dance with the injury report a la Julio Jones (minus the availability that Jones usually provides).

The worst-case scenario is that in week 2 Gurley slams his knee into a 300lb linemen’s helmet triggering a 16 week long inflammatory nightmare and leaving the game after getting you 3 points.

Another worst-case is that his reports are bad all week, you sit him, and he goes off for 98 rush yards, 6 catches, 40 receiving yards, and a touchdown and you end up on the IR yourself after punching the wall.

This is the exact reason why I will not draft Gurley as your RB1 or RB2. Ideally, he’s an RB3 or flex.

4. Availability does not preclude performance

There are also several indirect factors that exist. For example, his in-game usage was so high last year, that he had no choice but to stay in peak aerobic condition. This year the active rest days could take away from that. Another indirect consequence of OA is reduced confidence. Being afraid to plow over a defender or plant hard on a jump-cut could reduce his effectiveness. These are tape grinding takes that I usually don’t ascribe to, but make no mistake, it matters for Gurley.

Which leads to consideration 6:

5. Pain is not Gurley’s only limiting factor

Fancy term alert: Arthrogenic inhibition. This simply means that when the knee takes on even minimal swelling, the brain shuts down use of the muscles surrounding the joint, usually the quads. No amount of “toughing it out” can turn this evolutionary mechanism off. In fact, the more that he tries to fight it, the worse it could become. Think of this as mother nature’s way of forcing him to rest. Gurley could have minimal pain and still not perform to his potential.

6 Gurley could be a home run

The best-case scenario is that the Rams manage Gurley’s work volume perfectly, his body responds well to the daily prehab/rehab, and his clinical signs and symptoms are kept at a minimum allowing for a top 10 RB finish.

In this scenario, you slide him into your flex, and he goes off for 98 rush yards, 6 catches, 40 receiving yards, and a touchdown while you celebrate by punching the wall and still end up on the IR  yourself.

From an injury perspective, I am drafting Gurley strictly as a flex/RB3 (which means that in most leagues, I won’t have much Todd Gurley). If you happen to take him, keep this summary in mind.

Thank you for reading. Please make sure to follow me on Twitter @FFStudentdoc for more injury analysis.

7 Things to Watch For as the Todd Gurley Owner in Fantasy Football!

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