It’s rare that a player that has only seen over 100 touches and placed in the Top 50 just once in his career should be considered a fantasy football weapon. Why’s that? Because that player typically never has the opportunity to be anything more.
But Toby Gerhart has good reason. He played behind one of the most dominant football players, Adrian Peterson. Why would the Minnesota Vikings give him more playing time when they could run “All Day”?
However, when they did need the former Stanford standout, he produced very well. Turns out, the Jacksonville Jaguars were impressed enough with his limited play to sign him to a three-year contract to fill the shoes of Maurice Jones-Drew. With that contract, one should really believe he’ll be the premiere back for the struggling franchise.
Why would they invest that much into a running back if they were only planning to use Jordan Todman as their starter? Todman showed flashes of solid production, but only mustered a 3.4 yard per carry (YPC) average last season on 76 carries.
In Minnesota, Gerhart averaged 7.9 YPC on 36 carries, topping Todman’s yardage as well as matching his two touchdowns on half the carries. Well, that has to be because of the lesser carries Gerhart had, you say?
Since entering the league, Gerhart’s average is 4.7 yards on 276 carries. That’s comparable to a workhorse RB’s numbers. So, looking at his numbers over the last four years, Gerhart has accumulated 1,905 yards from scrimmage on 353 touches and plowed in the end zone on 8 of those touches.
Those are some pretty gaudy numbers. That’s good enough for 238 yards. But I’d be crazy to assume he could have that production in his first season as a feature back, because that total production only appears to be a season’s total. However, it should serve as a good indicator of what his upside is.
Gerhart will be filling in for Jones-Drew, who’s never really shared the workload that well since Fred Taylor left.
Since becoming the feature back, Jones-Drew averaged over 300 carries per healthy season. But he was already seeing about 170 carries when splitting carries with Taylor — he was already more experienced than Gerhart is coming into the job.
So let’s assume Gerhart can manage just 200 carries while splitting with Todman and rookie RB Storm Johnson. That would mean if he could maintain just a 4.5 YPC, Gerhart would have a 900 yard season. On top of that, he’ll see somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 receptions, tacking on about 250 yards more.
On yards alone, he’ll be in the neighborhood of 1,150. And on top of that figure is about 6 touchdowns. All in all, his fantasy total comes to about 150 points (over 9 points per game). That’s filling the shoes of Jones-Drew well, and good enough to be a Top 20 RB this season.
My only concern is that rookie QB Blake Bortles and Johnson will capture the attention of the coaching staff since they have played the past two seasons together at Central Florida. For that reason, I find Johnson to be more of a threat to take away touches from Gerhart than Todman.
But even with that, I’m confident Gerhart will be a solid draft pick this season—he’s only the 25th RB taken off the boards in the average mock draft, somewhere near the 5th-6th rounds.