Georgia running back Todd Gurley’s talent proved too great to keep him out of the first round.

Despite his ongoing recovery from a torn ACL and consecutive years (’13 and ’14) without a first-round pick at the position for the first time ever, St. Louis selected the SEC standout at No. 10 overall.

Former Auburn running back Tre Mason and former Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy led the Rams in rushing in ’14. Coincidentally, last year’s offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, replaced Mike Bobo at Georgia this offseason.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that St. Louis ranked Gurley as the No. 2 player on their draft board behind quarterback Marcus Mariota. St. Louis fans hope Gurley can be a 2015 version of Eddie George, who starred under head coach Jeff Fisher for what’s now the Tennessee Titans.

The 6-foot-1, 222-pound running back also endured a four-game suspension last season after an investigation revealed he accepted payment in exchange for his autograph. As soon as he came back, Gurley tore his ACL on Nov. 15 against Auburn.

Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards as a true freshman in 2012, but injuries and the suspension held him under 1,000 yards in each of the next two seasons. Possessing a rare combination of size, power, balance and speed, Gurley averaged 7.4 yards per carry in ’14. But his unusual polish as a receiver and in pass protection set him apart from other backs in recent years in terms of talent.

When he declined to allow NFL doctors to examine his knee at the NFL Combine in February, though, mainstream draft analysts questioned whether he could become a first-round selection. Dr. James Andrews, renowned athletic surgeon, came to his defense. But Gurley returned to Indianapolis weeks before the draft and allowed teams to examine his knee, putting to rest doubts about his recovery and boosting him into the first round in every major mock draft.

He’ll always be known as a “what if” player at UGA. What if he never sprained his ankle in ’13? What if he never got suspended? What if he never tore his ACL? What if he stayed all four years? What if Georgia had scored on that final SEC championship game drive against Alabama in ’12? Could he have won a Heisman? Could he have become the best Georgia player since Herschel Walker?

Now Gurley can leave behind the questions in Athens, Ga., as he heads to St. Louis.

The NFL, as well as every college running back hoping to get drafted high next year, will be watching his rookie season closely. Gurley beat out Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, he of the 2,587-yard season, as the first running back in the draft in addition to breaking the position’s three-year first-round drought.

The last running back to get drafted in the first round, Alabama’s Trent Richardson (No. 3 overall to the Cleveland Browns in ’12), already is playing for his third team and could already be called an NFL bust.

Gurley recently told reporters he may or may not be ready to fully participate in OTAs during May, but said he felt confident he’d be able to take part in mini camp in June. As long as he’s able to go through training camp with the Rams, he should be in position to make a major impact as a rookie.

Now the big question he’ll face is whether he can survive a four-game preseason, a 16-game regular season and potentially the playoffs.


1985: Herschel Walker (fifth round)
1988: Lars Tate (second round)
1989: Tim Worley (first round)
1989: Keith Henderson (third round)
1990: Rodney Hampton (first round)
1993: Garrison Hearst (first round)
1994: Frank Harvey (seventh round)
1995: Terrell Davis (sixth round)
1998: Robert Edwards (first round)
1999: Olandis Gary (fourth round)
2000: Patrick Pass (seventh round)
2002: Verron Haynes (fifth round)
2003: Musa Smith (third round)
2003: J.T. Wall (seventh round)
2008: Thomas Brown (sixth round)
2009: Knowshon Moreno (first round)
2011: Shaun Chapas (seventh round)