In a 12-part series, we take a look at each DFL team, where they’ve been and where they’re going. We analyze the strength of their current roster build, what areas need improvement, and speculate what they might do in the coming months.
A look back
Peru had the unfavorable task of playing in the most competitive division in the DFL last year. It was the only division to have all three teams make the playoffs. It was also a close divisional race right up until the final couple weeks. Unfortunately for the Gurus, they finished right in the middle of the pack in record and scoring, failing to really put forth many high offensive outputs. By the end of the year, whether through trade or from players they signed via the auction, the Gurus had put together a pretty talented lineup. Players like Christian McCaffrey, Justin Fields, CeeDee Lamb, and George Kittle were capable of exploding any given week. But by then, it just might have been too late. The Gurus drew a bad playoff seed at No. 7, and ironically would have knocked off any other team — including the top seeded and eventual champion Capybaras — but faced the only team to outscore them in Round 1, Ireland. The Shamrocks won that game by less than 3 points, sending Peru home early.
A look ahead
The Gurus have one of the deepest rosters to start the 2023 season, with 15 players under contract and up to three more that can be protected by franchise tag. They have good depth across the board, and unless they make any kind of trade this offseason, the roster as it stands now will largely be what it is on opening day. They have the 6th pick of the draft but might not find an opening day starter with that slot. But if the team plays with as much potential as they had down the stretch last year, there’s certainly cause for optimism this season.
The Stock Report
Stock Up: Justin Fields, QB/CHI; George Kittle, TE/SF
Stock Down: A.J. Dillon, RB/GB; Michael Pittman, WR/IND; Treylon Burks, WR/TEN
The Gurus spent decent money last year on Deshaun Watson, a player whom they knew would miss a large chunk of the season. They spent less on veteran Aaron Rodgers and an even smaller amount on second-year pro Justin Fields. Rodgers had a mediocre season, finishing as a high-end QB2 while Watson’s 6-game average placed him at QB25. It was Fields who made the most noise, scrambling his way to the QB6 overall finish. Fields likely will enter the 2023 season as the Gurus’ starting quarterback, if for no other reason than his rushing ability gives him Top 5 upside every week. Rodgers’ fortunes could change this offseason and vault him back into mid-to-low QB1 territory, giving Peru some good depth at the position.
Running Back Analysis
In all likelihood, the Gurus will place the NFT on Christian McCaffrey and bring last year’s RB2 overall back for another year. As it stands, the team has three running backs under contract in Travis Etienne, A.J. Dillon, and Rachaad White. Etienne and Dillon, whether it be injury or underperformance, have not panned out so far in their young careers. Etienne has more upside because of his explosiveness and pass-catching ability. But he has to do better than RB17 — his 2022 finish — to justify his salary. Dillon was all the rage last offseason but just never made that big leap so many were hoping for. White showed promise as a rookie in 2022 and has a decent chance at making a big sophomore splash. But with McCaffrey back anchoring the ground game, the Gurus would be in good position to make a deep playoff run.
Wide Receiver Analysis
The Gurus have a deep crop of wide receivers under contract, headlined by Michael Pittman and Jerry Jeudy, who finished as WR20 and 22, respectively, a year ago. Second-year pros Treylon Burks, Skyy Moore and George Pickens will be back as well. The former two were utter disappointments in their rookie seasons while Pickens flashed his big-play potential, but just needs a better quarterback slinging him the ball. Veteran Michael Thomas returns on the final year of his deal but he just hasn’t been on the radar for years now. K.J. Osborn’s stock is currently on the rise given his expected playing time increase, but that could change in a hurry if his team addresses the receiver position. The Gurus also acquired CeeDee Lamb midseason last year and he’s an unrestricted free agent. Tagging him would boost this positional group but would also be costly and the team would be pushing the cap limit.
Tight End Analysis
Peru gave up Cole Kmet just before he had his breakout last season, but they did acquire George Kittle and have him under contract for another season. A change in scenery for Irv Smith might do him good. Whether he can be a serviceable backup for the Gurus remains to be seen. Trey McBride was one of the top rookie tight ends last offseason but didn’t really do much as a rookie backup, which is obviously not unheard of. Unfortunately for him, he’s really stuck in what looks like a weak offense that could undergo some major growing pains.
To tag or not to tag, that is the question. And whom to tag on top of that. McCaffrey, Lamb and Aaron Jones are all intriguing tag options but the cost for tagging all three is not doable. Choosing which ones to tag will be the million dollar question. But with the Gurus already possessing a deep roster, they just need to add the last few finishing touches to make it a title contender in 2023. McCaffrey and Lamb seem like the best options, or a tag-and-trade might make sense for another interested team.
“What could be…”
Obviously Justin Fields failing to take the next step as a passer and running less than he did last year is in the range of possibilities and Deshaun Watson failing to regain the form he once had earlier in his career is a possibility as well. Continued underwhelming careers for Travis Etienne and A.J. Dillon is an issue worth monitoring. Will Jerry Jeudy ever realize his full potential? Is Treylon Burks a bust? All good questions that need answers. But for every big question that surrounds this team, there are plenty of paths to success. The team could legitimately start with a Top 6 player at each position, with several strong supporters from top to bottom. At the very least, presuming health, this team will compete for the South title again and make another playoff run.
Next Up: Bolivia Llamas