Friday Face Off: Todd Gurley vs David Johnson

This off-season, the guys wanna bring you the most useful content to help you during your draft. The goal is a fantasy championship but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun along the way. In our Friday Face Off series we will debate the merits of two players that are similar in ADP at the time or are likely to be two players you choose between in your drafts this fall. We will flip a coin for the rights to that player and then build our case below. At the end we will give our final takes which are not limited to the player we initially got assigned. For even more fun head on over to YouTube and watch us debate these players right on the show.

Big Travy’s Case for Todd Gurley

When building Todd Gurley’s case for fantasy football success this year or asking your friends if you think he will have a comeback season the popular topic of conversation is his arthritic knee and his risk of re-injury. Listen, every player has a risk of injury and Gurley’s knee does scare me but he played in 15 of 16 possible games last year and ended up the RB #14 in PPR scoring and the RB #11 in standard scoring. We are talking about a borderline RB1 on a Rams offense last year that lets face it, was not very good or even fun to watch.

Now Gurley heads back to the Peach State where he played his college ball to play for the Atlanta Falcons. Gurley was cut by the Rams who appear to have seen enough of his talents. The difference in these clubs for me is that where the Rams have watched their line deteriorate over the last two years, the Falcons have now used back to back 1st round picks on the offensive line and have a much better shot to improve on the front-lines this season. Additionally the Falcons seem to be in a much better spot offensively and talent wise. Know this: Atlanta has finished in the top 8 in yards per game on offense over the last 3 years consecutively. This offense should again have no problem moving the ball up and down the field and we know an aerial attack of that magnitude could propel Gurley to lofty heights. In his back to back RB1 seasons in 2017 and 2018 he was a top ten running back in terms of receptions at the position.

The homecoming for Gurley will be a nice feel-good narrative but it could very well prove to be just what he needed at this point in his career and if WhisperNation is wise they could reap the benefits this season.

Johnny “Game Time” Hicks’ Case for David Johnson

Let's be honest. David Johnson hasn’t looked good since 2016. It's been quite a few games where he has made the play that makes you really get off your feet as a fantasy player, and simply tip your cap, if you’re playing against him. Yes he was that good… Unfortunately, I don’t see the path of David Johnson being a top 5 fantasy running back in 2020. I do however think that he can return to a solid RB2 with weeks of being an RB1.

Let's examine what we know:

Bill O’Brian is risking a lot in order to get David Johnson. One way or another he will make this trade for DJ work. However, it might be easier than you think. Let’s look at David Johnson’s best two seasons, 2016 & 2018. He finished as an RB1, and let's see what they have in common.

  • Both seasons he had over 250 carries (293, 258)

  • Averaged 3.9 ypc

  • Both seasons he had over 50 receptions & 75 targets (50 rec., 80 rec.)

Now let's take a look at what Carlos Hyde did in the Bill O’Brians Zone blocking scheme last year, which by the way is the same zone blocking scheme that Bruce Arians ran in 2016 with David Johnson.

Carlos Hyde Stats: Finished as RB27 in .5ppr

  • 245 rushing attempts

  • Averaged 4.4 ypc after just avg. 3.6 ypc the 2 seasons prior

  • Houston's RBs were targeted a combined 76 times last season (Hyde only had 16 targets)

Looking at the similarities between when David Johnson had his best seasons as a fantasy starter, combined with what we have seen Bill O’Brian do with his running backs over the years. We can reasonably conclude that David Johnson will be given the volume in this offense that he needs to be fantasy relevant. He will be in a system that he flourished in early on in his career, and with the cost to acquire and retain DJ, he is going to be given all the opportunities to succeed in Houston.

Big Travy’s Final Word

Johnny’s case is a solid one and this may just be one of the hardest face-offs we do this year but I have to think I trust what the Falcons are doing just a hair more than Wild Bill O’Brien and the Texans. No one loves DJ more than Johnny but the production we saw from Hyde last year is real and we know B.O.B. loves to run. All that being said, the Falcons proven track record of offensive success, paired with Gurley’s more recent success compared to Johnson’s has me leaning towards Gurley for 2020.

Johnny “Game Time” Hicks’ Final Word

I absolutely love this face-off because I truly believe in both of these running backs returning more value than where they are currently going in drafts. Gurleys contract makes me believe that they are going to use him as much as possible with no cares/worries for the future. I also think that Atlanta brings in more RBs to pair with Gurley. With that said I do feel like David Johnson is the better bargain for your draft pick. His ADP should reflect that of a top 20 RB for 2020 and is currently near RB30. So for that reason, I’m going to lean towards David Johnson for this face-off and in 2020.