In today’s edition of my fantasy football “Face-Off” series, two running backs in new places take the stage. After spending the first four seasons of his career in the sizable shadow of Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart will become the Jacksonville Jaguars’ No. 1 running back this year. On the other side, Rashad Jennings had a solid 2013 season (733 rushing yards and six touchdowns; 36 receptions for 292 yards) with the Oakland Raiders and signed a four-year deal with the New York Giants in March.
Which running back with a new home, and theoretically a clear path to significant playing time, is the better fantasy option for this year?
The Case For Toby Gerhart
Gerhart reached double-digit carries in just nine of his 61 games with the Minnesota Vikings, but he averaged 4.7 yards per carry in those contests while also averaging 89 total yards per game and close to 19 touches per game. So he has been productive with a significant workload when given the chance.
Gerhart has just 86 carries over the last two seasons, and just 276 carries and 353 total touches for his career. The big positive that can be taken from that lack of use is that Gerhart has not taken the physical beating a lot or running backs do by age 27.
If you take Gerhart’s production in those nine career double-digit carry games and project it over 16 games you get 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.
The Case For Rashad Jennings
After totaling just 36 carries over his first seven games of the season, Jennings had 584 rushing yards, 187 receiving yards and six touchdowns (all rushing) over the following seven games. He also had 22 receptions over that span, which led to him setting a career-high in that category (36).
The depth chart behind Jennings has been thinned by the unfortunate career-ending neck issues of David Wilson as well as a foot and ankle issue that has sidelined Peyton Hillis for an indefinite time period. The Giants should be more efficient offensively this year, with Ben McAdoo replacing Kevin Gilbride as offensive coordinator, and Jennings looks like the No. 1 beneficiary if the team looks to run the ball more.
Gerhart and Jennings are ridiculously close in average draft position right now, via Fantasy Pros.com, with both going off the board in the fourth round (#47 and #50 respectively). Jennings may lose some goal line carries to rookie Andre Williams, which limits his upside some, while Gerhart should get all the work he can handle in every area of the field. But with more catches a virtual certainty, and better talent around him likely to bring more opportunities, Jennings gets the edge over Gerhart here.