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Rams running backs: Todd Gurley is a young star, Tre Mason’s status is muddled

Rams running backs: Todd Gurley is a young star, Tre Mason’s status is muddled
Although the Rams secured the No. 1 draft pick to acquire Cal quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley could still be the main weapon on offense this season.
(Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)

Last in a series of occasional stories on the Rams’ depth by position as the team prepares for the April 28-30 NFL draft. Today, running backs:

He is one of the best young players in the NFL, a dynamic threat capable of carrying an offense.

Rams running back Todd Gurley rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games last season, a performance that earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl and the offensive rookie-of-the-year award.

And he did it after coming back from a major knee injury suffered late in his final season at Georgia.

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Gurley, the No. 10 pick in the 2015 draft, said there is more to prove.

“Guys probably didn’t have too much film on me,” he said. “This year, they’ll know, ‘OK, he’s going to get the ball.’

“Even though they know I’m going to get the ball, I still have to go out and make things happen.”

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Gurley, 21, is one of five listed running backs on a roster that includes receiver Tavon Austin, who had 434 yards rushing and four touchdowns last season, second only to Gurley.

Benny Cunningham, 25, is back for a third season after establishing himself as a valuable situational back and special teams player. Last season, he rushed for 140 yards, caught 26 passes for 250 yards and averaged 28.6 yards per kickoff return. He has five career touchdowns.

Cunningham played at Middle Tennessee and signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2013. He became a restricted free agent after last season but re-signed for the $1.7 million offered in an original-round tender. The Rams had the right of first refusal if Cunningham received another offer.

Tre Mason’s status remains muddled. Mason’s situation took a turn when he was arrested last month in Florida and charged with misdemeanor traffic and drug charges. Mason, 22, has pleaded not guilty. He has not attended voluntary off-season workouts that began last week in Oxnard.

A third-round pick from Auburn in 2014, Mason rushed for 765 yards and four touchdowns in nine games during his rookie season. Gurley’s emergence as a star last season reduced opportunities for Mason, who rushed for 207 yards and a touchdown in 75 carries, and caught 18 passes for 88 yards.

Malcolm Brown, an undrafted free agent from Texas, played in one game as a rookie last season. He had four carries for 17 yards and caught one pass.

The Rams re-signed Chase Reynolds last week. Reynolds, 28, plays on special teams.

Draft prospects

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Before trading for the No. 1 pick, the Rams had four of the first 100 picks in the draft. Now they have one.

They have two picks each in the fourth and sixth rounds, Nos. 110, 113, 177 and 190.

With Gurley in place, the Rams do not have an obvious need at running back. But his previous knee injury, and Mason’s uncertain status, will probably keep the Rams on the lookout for possible help via undrafted free agents.

In his second mock draft, The Times’ Sam Farmer projected that Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott would be the only running back selected in the first round.

Alabama’s Derrick Henry — the Heisman Trophy winner — Utah’s Devontae Booker, Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon, Alabama’s Kenyan Drake, Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise, UCLA’s Paul Perkins and USC’s Tre Madden are among other running back prospects.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein


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