The Jacksonville Jaguars will have a new top running back in 2014, with the news coming Tuesday night that they’ve signed Toby Gerhart to a three-year, $10.5 million deal ($4.5 million guaranteed). The move confirms that Maurice Jones-Drew will be elsewhere next season, while Gerhart will take over ahead of Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson on the depth chart.
Gerhart spent the first four seasons of his career with the Minnesota Vikings as Adrian Peterson’s primary backup, so will moving to a starting role lead to him emerging as a good option for fantasy football owners?
Gerhart had double-digit carries in just nine of his 61 games for the Vikings, but he averaged 4.7 yards per carry (148 carries for 697 yards) and 89 yards from scrimmage per game in those games as he proved he could handle a significant workload when given the chance (18.7 touches per game). He saw a dramatically reduced role over the last two seasons, totaling just 86 carries for 452 yards and three touchdowns along with 33 receptions for 243 yards in 30 games played, so it was a foregone conclusion Gerhart would not be back with the Vikings as he headed into free agency this offseason.
The Jaguars ranked just 28th in the league in rushing attempts in 2013 (378-23.6 per game), while attempting the 11th-most passes (592-37 per game), but that is largely the bi-product of trailing often during a 4-12 season that included five losses by 20 points or more. Better offensive balance may be tough to come by in 2014, but establishing the running game will surely be a priority.
Taking Gerhart’s production in those nine double-digit carry games and projecting it over a 16-game season yields the following numbers: 263 carries for 1,239 yards and five touchdowns along with 36 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdowns would obviously not make Gerhart a top-tier fantasy running back, but that carry total would have been 10th-most in the league last season and the yardage would have been good for eighth.
Gerhart will turn 27 on March 28, but he obviously hasn’t taken the physical pounding a lot of running backs have by the time they reach that age and that should work to his advantage. I’m not willing to anoint him as a potential fantasy stud, based mostly on the ineptitude of Jacksonville’s offense that looks likely to continue, but Gerhart is in line to be worth consideration as a mid-tier RB2 in 12 and 14-team leagues in 2014.