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March 19, 2015

Jones: A look at Gurley's potential fit with Panthers

Todd Gurley is in Charlotte visiting with the Panthers today, making the former Georgia tailback one of the first visits Carolina has had this draft season.

A Tarboro native, Gurley called the Panthers a “great organization” after UGA’s pro day Wednesday. Carolina gets 30 in-house visits, so Gurley isn’t the first, last or only player the team will talk to. Could he be the pick for Carolina at No. 25 in April’s draft?

Gurley the player: He was second-team All-SEC as a freshman running back, which is almost unheard of, after rushing for 1,385 yards. In 2013 he had 989 yards after missing three games with an ankle injury. And last season, despite missing seven games (more on that later), he still had 911 rushing yards.

Last year’s season opener against Clemson proved Gurley was the best running back in the nation. He had 198 yards on just 15 carries while scoring three times. His speed and power are unmatched in this draft class, and really any of the recent drafts as well.


He may still be the top running back taken in the draft, but he may not be due to…

Injury history: Along with the ankle in 2013, Gurley tore his ACL against Auburn in November. Gurley told reporters Wednesday he plans to be healthy and ready to perform at an NFL minicamp in June.

That timeline may be a bit optimistic. On the low end, ACLs usually take eight months to recover from. If a team spends a first-round pick on Gurley, they’d likely tell him to take June off, rehab, and be ready to go for training camp in late July and early August.

He did not allow doctors to examine his knee at the combine. When teams, like Carolina, bring in a player for an in-house visit, they can do medical exams on players.

No doubt if Carolina is serious about Gurley, his knee will be examined and re-examined.

Character concerns: The NCAA suspended Gurley for four games mid-season last year for accepting $3,000 in exchange for signing memorabilia. While that gets you suspended in college, the NFL cares not about that.

What’s it say that a young man was trying to profit, as he should, from his celebrity? It means he’s doing what every student-athlete should be able to do. As for the counterargument of “he put his team in jeopardy for being selfish”? This instance doesn’t translate to the professional level. Also, read up on how Gurley was found out because of a spurned Florida fan.

Gurley’s fit in Carolina: The Panthers just released their all-time leading rusher, leaving them with Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker as their top-two backs. Stewart and Whittaker have both dealt with injuries throughout their career, and the Panthers have shown their willing to take a running back in the draft after selecting Tyler Gaffney in the sixth round last year.

Stewart and Gurley both possess a speed-power blend, so putting them together in 2015 may not make sense. But what about the future? Stewart carries a cap hit of $9.5 million and $8.2 million in 2016 and 2017, much more than what Gurley would be on a rookie deal.

The big question is: will Gurley even be available at 25? Before the ACL tear he was the best running back in the draft, and in my estimation he still is. Yes, taking a 20-year-old with a repaired knee with a first-round pick is dangerous, but turn on this guy’s tape and you’ll see that if he can get back to that—or even close to it—he’s worth it.

The running back position has been devalued in recent drafts. Last year, no running back was taken until Bishop Sankey with the 54th overall pick. That won’t be the case this year with Gurley and Melvin Gordon.

Dave Gettleman’s best-player-available philosophy would be put to the test if the surgically-repaired Gurley is there with the Panthers on the clock at 25. In my opinion, there wouldn’t be anyone better.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on March 19, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Permalink


Couldn't agree more! AND vision! The guy finds seams in traffic that fans watching the game don't even see until he makes his cut and takes off and spots dimes on the other side of a room. AND push the pile on third and short! AND returns kicks and punts to the house!

Posted by: chacha | Mar 19, 2015 2:11:50 PM

can't see how taking a running back with an ACL tear (current) in the first round seems like a good idea.

how did that work out for the recent running backs who had similar knee injuries end their college careers? outside of mcgahee i can't think of one that had a productive long term career. and he was NOTHING like he was in college.

2nd? maybe. 3rd? sure. 1st? no.

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 19, 2015 5:34:54 PM

Are you glad we had Thomas Davis last season w his 3 acl tears?

Posted by: chacha | Mar 19, 2015 5:57:12 PM

we didn't draft davis AFTER the acls.

i've been a huge proponent of davis. mostly because we weren't in win-now mode when he was recovering, we paid him nothing to keep him until he proved he was healthy, and the glimpses in between injuries - he was a monster.

we're talking about a 1st round pick on a guy who likely won't be healthy enough to have an impact until 2016.

like i said........2nd maybe, 3rd sure. 1st? no. it's just unnecessary risk when there are healthy backs out there. and when tackle and defensive back are far greater needs than running back. they let williams go but you still have stewart and tolbert.

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 19, 2015 7:21:20 PM

His injury is the only way we might possibly have a chance of drafting him at 25. Plus, lets say we draft him and bring him along slowly. Where was one of our weakest areas last season? Kickoff and punt returns. He could be a difference maker just by returning kicks next year. We watched it at Georgia. It just makes so much sense like its predestined. Now, watch him get drafted in the top three.

Posted by: chacha | Mar 19, 2015 8:05:32 PM

I would say if he is available, take him. I know RB isn't high on the list of team needs right now, but I want the Panthers to build a tradition of winning. LB was not a NEED when we took Luke, but he has given this team a future. I trust Davie G to take us to the level of consistent dominance. A truely great player, who is available, needs to be brought into the family for lasting success and a strong core.

Posted by: Catfanmike | Mar 19, 2015 8:11:33 PM

Gettlemans another reason we should take Gurley if still on the board. Gettleman has been able to find mid and late round players. Theres a good chance we still could land a quality OT and WR.

Posted by: chacha | Mar 19, 2015 8:24:21 PM

If he's available i'd say sign him because adrian peterson fell because of similar concerns and this guy is a clone of a.p. we don't know if stewart will stay healthy and gurley in my opinion, is destined for stardom providing we bring him along slowly if signed. Fozzys ok but gurley to spell stewart and the nfc south has "Big Problems".

Posted by: lakerman4567 | Mar 19, 2015 8:25:04 PM

If memory serves, Star Lotulelei was a projected top 1-3 pick til concerns about a possible heart condition dropped him in our lap at 14. Gettleman will nab us a good pick and if Gurley is available, I bet he drafts him.

Posted by: chacha | Mar 19, 2015 8:47:00 PM

star's "condition" was cleared before we drafted him. completely different. it was supposedly a misdiagnosis. not at all comparable to a guy coming off acl surgery.

we have no idea what gurley's speed and agility are right now. you all are basing everything on what you saw PRE acl tear.

sure, if he recovers like davis.....awesome. he'd be a steal at 25. but most guys don't. we have so many holes to fill how would it feel to grab a dud in round 1 right now?

if we were absolutely set roster wise and just picking for depth I would say go for it. but we have significant holes. tackle, corner, safety, and running back.

if he's the guy at georgia, you're getting a still at 25. but that's an IF we won't know for probably another year after the draft.

i'd put money up that deangelo williams has more carries and yards than gurley does in 2015.

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 19, 2015 9:27:13 PM

At the time, there were still concerns about Stars heart. If he was cleared, some teams weren't convinced.

I agree we don't know what we will get after the injury but it's not so different than a so-called safe pick that could play out like Jeff Otahs career. You never know what the future holds.

I'll take that bet on both carries and yards but lets add kick/punt return yards to the bet or do you want to go ahead and concede those yards to Gurley?

Posted by: chacha | Mar 19, 2015 10:15:45 PM

he was ABSOLUTELY cleared. Problem is....teams at the top had already moved towards other players. He didn't even get a look from several top 10 teams after that report came out. specifically those looking for a DT.

Jeff Otah at least came in healthy and gave us 2 really elite years. guy was a monster before he ballooned and broke.

williams isn't a kick returner anymore so of course not. gurley gets 1 yard and he wins out. but I would take the bet against gurley getting the 1 yard. we just signed ginn. are we going to throw a (1st round?) draft pick to the lions coming off ACL surgery? no. we signed ginn to handle returns at least for the next year if not 3.

the guy was incredible at georgia. but how often do we see incredible college backs do nothing in the nfl? trent richardson? cj spiller had 2 good years. reggie bush was THE incredible college running back and he's been a solid pro but nowhere near #2 pick value. that's a great comp for gurley, too. except bush has been really healthy for a back. no acl tears, right?

you have to look at all that. it's just unnecessary risk. maybe he's a superstar, but so many superstar running backs are drafted in the 7th round or undrafted. a lot of them weren't stars in college.

priest holmes? willie parker?

just look at the history of 1st round running backs over the last 10-15 years. the guys that were great in college don't tend to be great in the pros. and that's the healthy guys.

i'm not saying i know gurley is one of those guys. i'm saying the fact that you don't know what you are getting is enough to say absolutely not on a first round risk. just not worth it. 2nd round maybe.

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 20, 2015 9:11:10 AM

I say the only way DG doesnt take Gurley is if Flowers or one of the Top WR are still on the board. Otherwise you take him. He will only have 10-15 carries a game anyway with Jstew and Fozzy...not to mention we have Cam lol Gurley has rare speed and Power. I bet he comes back stronger. Just at Charles, AP,and Thomas davis.

Posted by: jp | Mar 20, 2015 10:35:29 AM

don't get too excited over an acl repaired rb

Posted by: tony clifton | Mar 20, 2015 10:55:41 AM

jp - HAD rare speed and power. again, we have no idea what he's capable of going forward as he can't run right now. some guys recover perfectly, some guys even better than before because of how much they benefit from the rehab regiment. but plenty of guys are never the same.

we have no idea if he's the same guy or not until we see him running. if he was healthy he's a top 5 pick. he's not. it's ignorant to think it's a sure thing that he's still special.

look up how many guys retire before the age of 30 because they couldn't recover from an ACL tear.

for every thomas davis, there's like 100 marcus lattimore's.

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 20, 2015 2:51:44 PM

I'm not saying its a sure thing that he's still special after the injury but lets not assume he wont be either. I just hope we take him if we have the chance.

Posted by: chacha | Mar 20, 2015 3:02:34 PM

so you think it's worth the risk to spend a 1st rounder on a guy that MIGHT no longer have nfl talent? or a guy that could very possibly not play until 2016?

i'm not against taking the guy, i'm against taking the guy in the 1st round with safer/arguably comparable talents available. it just seems dumb.

keep in mind kelvin benjamin went 28th last year. would you trade kelvin benjamin for gurley RIGHT NOW? because that's what you are proposing essentially. all draft picks are a crap shoot. all players can get hurt. but the odds of a guy having a productive career go down with an injury like that. you have to play the odds.

and 1st rounders are way less of a crap shoot than later rounds. that's why i'm so adamant they don't risk it with the 1st rounder.

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 20, 2015 7:12:14 PM

Ive been proposing to trade Benjamin for Gurley? I had no idea. I thought I liked Benjamin.

Posted by: chacha | Mar 20, 2015 7:45:29 PM

i said "essentially".

you're saying gurley is worth the cost of benjamin so you are saying that you would trade that value for him.

we took benjamin 28th, you want to take gurley 25th. the guy coming off the acl tear.

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 21, 2015 5:23:25 PM

Ive just been thinking about why I wouldn't draft Gurley in the first round and I have changed my mind. The guy is a stud plus I'm wrong a whole lot so please forget all my other posts. Thanks!

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 21, 2015 9:49:42 PM

Cam is still AWFUL!

Posted by: Cam is awful | Mar 22, 2015 5:01:28 PM

wrong a whole lot?

give examples.

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 23, 2015 3:02:41 PM

on the subject of todd gurley, i like him coming here possibly, but lot of concern. to qoute emilio estevez as Billy THE Kid in YOUNG GUNS 2,he told Pat Garrett, " WHOA, HEAVY STEPS PATSY!"

Posted by: MOUNTAIN PANTHER | Mar 27, 2015 7:57:04 PM

in other words, be careful. high risk high reward pick. and we still need to work on secondary another young wr and a young dominating pass rusher

Posted by: MOUNTAIN PANTHER | Mar 27, 2015 8:00:22 PM

IF we Do not get Gurley we can get Tevin Coleman or John Crocket or Javorius Allen good (RB)

Posted by: ROB | Apr 21, 2015 1:19:38 AM

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