Fantasy Football 2014: Toby Gerhart And Opportunity
2 plus 2 equals four. Red plus blue equals purple. And, in fantasy football, opportunity plus talent equals success.
It’s simple math.
However, sometimes, you don’t even need a whole lot of talent if the opportunity is good enough. Luckily for Toby Gerhart, he has a strong amount of both, which is why his fantasy stock continues to rise this offseason. After serving as the understudy of Adrian Peterson for a few seasons in Minnesota, Gerhart will see his first taste of featured back role with his new team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team recently stated they would like to give Gerhart close to 300 touches during his inaugural season.
Gerhart isn’t the biggest name in the league, but to those who follow closely, they know he can play. He’s averaged 4.7 yards per clip through his first four seasons, although it was only on 276 carries. But still, sitting behind Peterson has allowed him to not only learn from the best runner in the game, but to stay fresh. There isn’t a ton of wear and tear on his body, which makes me think, along with his frame, that he can handle a potential heavy workload. His lateral quickness isn’t quite there, but has good burst for a bigger back, and routinely breaks arm tackles.
Ask anyone in the fantasy community. If someone sees significant volume, they are going to walk into fantasy points, barring injury, of course. Let’s look back at 2012 for an example, reviewing the campaign from one of the league’s most “blah” runners, Shonn Greene.
In 2012 with the Jets, Greene ranked 9th in the NFL in rushing attempts (276), and while he averaged a meager 3.9 yards per carry, it didn’t really matter at season’s end, because Greene, with his plodding and dull rushing ability, trotted to a top-15 fantasy finish among running backs. He was really bad when you go back and look at it. According to Pro Football Focus, during that season, Greene posted an elusive rating of 11.7%, the worst among all qualified running backs in the league. And last season, he forced just five missed tackles all year long. You cannot sit here and tell me Greene is a very good running back, but yet, even he was very fantasy relevant when given an appealing opportunity.
Back to Gerhart, even though the situation isn’t ideal, that doesn’t mean the opportunity isn’t. Sure, the Jaguars have an ugly, one-dimensional offense with one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Their projected starting offensive line has a combined 97 total starts in the NFL and last year, they were the 31st-ranked run-blocking unit in football, being stuffed at the line of scrimmage about 25 percent of the time. But Gerhart is a back that could still see success in this system because he has been so good at avoiding contact. According to Jim McCormick of ESPN, Gerhart has forced a missed tackle on 18.7 percent of his career touches. He remains a very underrated elusive runner, for sure. Gerhart can make people miss, and if Jacksonville can get into the red zone a decent amount, we could be looking at a sneaky 10-touchdown season.
If Jacksonville is serious in their attempts to force-feed him the ball, Gerhart could quietly rank inside the top-five in rushing attempts next season, which is very pleasing for his fantasy prospects. Last year, six of the top-10 fantasy scorers also ranked inside the top-10 in rushing attempts.
Volume is also part of the equation.