Jacksonville Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart has the talent to become the three-down back that GM Dave Caldwell envisions, and fantasy football players need to lock down Gerhart as he will be the biggest sleeper of the 2014 NFL season.
There was little question that Maurice Jones-Drew would sign with another team, but fantasy owners were interested to see who was going to get the rock for the Jaguars in 2014. It didn’t seem likely that Jacksonville would give Jordan Todman the starting role, and the coaching staff still does not seem to know how to incorporate Denard Robinson into the attack. A rookie could be selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the three-year deal for Gerhart seems to suggest that the Jaguars have found their starter.
When Adrian Peterson is the starting running back for your team, it is doubtful that you will ever see much playing time if you also rush the ball. While Gerhart has only had one season with at least 100 rushing attempts, at 6-feet, 230 pounds, he does have the build to handle a heavy workload. In four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, the 27-year-old back accumulated 1,305 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.
His rushing totals may not drop your jaw, but what I love about Gerhart is his involvement in the passing game. In his first three seasons in Minnesota, the new Jaguars’ running back averaged 21.3 receptions and 170.6 receiving yards. Jones-Drew had 43 receptions for 314 receiving yards in 2013, and those are almost the exact numbers Gerhart would have if you doubled his targets.
Reports have indicated that Gerhart could see anywhere from 240-300 carries, and that puts him in good company among his fellow running backs around the NFL. Just as an example, Knowshon Moreno carried the ball 241 times in 2013 and Marshawn Lynch totaled 301 rushing attempts. Gerhart will most likely find himself in the middle of those numbers if he has the 15-20 rushes each week that head coach Gus Bradley has projected.
If you are now thinking Gerhart can outscore his former teammate Peterson in the 2014 fantasy football season, please lower your expectations. Gerhart is on a weak offense that has trouble moving the ball, and he will have weeks where he is completely shut down. If he is the feature running back on your team, you are going to lose.
Now that I have given you my disclaimer, Gerhart has tremendous upside as a RB2. The amount of times he will be given the ball, his pass-catching ability and lack of competition should allow him to finish as a top-10 running back. The fact that he won’t be on your competitor’s radar for your draft means you can draft him in the later rounds and own him for very little risk. There is probably going to be some guy out there who is desperate to prove he is a fantasy football genius and will select him in the third round, but you should be safe in drafting Gerhart in the seventh or eighth rounds. Any earlier would not be wise.
If you add up all the factors, 2014 will be the year to own Gerhart.