Toby Gerhart's 2014 Fantasy Football Outlook
Fantasy production is 1 part opportunity and 1 part talent. Gerhart will certainly have the opportunity in 2014. Whether he has the talent to take advantage is the question.
The Jaguars inked Gerhart to a 3-year, $10.5 million deal with $4.5 million guaranteed on the 1st day of free agency. It was 1 of the most lucrative contracts given out to a RB this offseason. That kind of coin essentially locks Gerhart in as Jacksonville’s lead back.
HC Gus Bradley confirmed as much shortly after his team added Gerhart.
“He seems like a guy that the more he handles the ball the stronger he gets,” Bradley said. “He’ll pop one. He can make people miss. He has a toughness you can count on, can catch the ball and he’s great on third downs. If he’s a guy that is carrying it 15-16 times and with 3rd-down reps, 18 times. That’s feasible. A strong possibility.”
Thanks for the projections, coach. 15-16 carries per game would put Gerhart at 240-256 over 16 games. Only 10 RBs topped 256 carries last year. Throw in 2-3 catches per game and Gerhart is looking at 288 total touches. That would have ranked 12th in 2013.
That type of workload would give Gerhart a strong shot of producing at least low-end RB2 numbers. And we’re buying that projected workload. The only RBs behind Gerhart are Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson.
Todman flashed in a Week 15 start last year but is a 5’10, 198-pound former 6th-round pick that has already bounced around to 3 different teams in 3 years. His ceiling is likely as a speedy, change-of-pace back.
Robinson is still in the midst of his transition from college QB to NFL RB. He mustered just 3.3 yards per carry on 20 rookie-year carries. Robinson remains a long shot to ever emerge as more than a gadget player. It certainly won’t happen in 2014.
So that leaves the backfield to Gerhart. But can he capitalize?
It won’t be easy. The Jaguars are still in rebuild mode. The QB position is unsettled. WR Justin Blackmon’s status remains murky. And the offensive line ranked dead last in Pro Football Focus’ run-blocking rankings.
The O-line should be at least a bit improved in 2014. (It can’t get any worse.) The Jags landed guard Zane Beadles in free agency. The former Bronco had a down 2013, receiving negative grades from PFF in pass- and run-blocking. But Beadles was PFF’s 17th-best guard in 2012. That included a 19th-place finish in run blocking. Jacksonville is banking on a bounce back from the 27-year-old.
The Jags will also get 2013 #2 overall pick LT Luke Joeckel back from last October’s broken ankle. He struggled in his rookie campaign but should be better in 2014.
Long-time C Brad Meester retired this offseason, but the Jags won’t miss him much. He ranked 30th among 35 centers in PFF’s overall grades and 34th in run-blocking. Mike Brewster is the favorite to replace Meester and would likely be an upgrade.
Make no mistake, though, this offensive line is still a major question mark. Gerhart’s debut as a feature back will be challenging.
He’s spent his first 4 NFL seasons as Adrian Peterson’s caddy. Gerhart has been impressive in limited action, averaging 4.7 yards across 276 carries. He’s also hauled in 77 receptions and averaged 7.8 yards per.
Of course, much of that has come in a change-of-pace role after Peterson had softened the defense. We can get a better indication of Gerhart’s ability by looking at his 5 starts in place of an injured AP. The first came in Week 15 of 2010. The other 4 came in the 2nd half of the 2011 season. In those 5 games, Gerhart carried 88 times for 369 yards and 1 TD. That’s 73.8 yards per game and a yards-per-carry average of 4.2. Gerhart tacked on another 101 yards and 1 TD on 17 catches (5.9 yards per catch).
Those numbers are more indicative of this guy’s ability. He’s not lightning quick and doesn’t have top-end long speed. But he’s a big, sustaining power back with sneaky athleticism.
Gerhart checks in at 6’0 and 231 pounds. He ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash leading up to the 2010 draft -- an impressive number for a man of his size. Nine of Gerhart’s 276 carries have gone for 20+ yards -- 3.3%. Compare that to Michael Bush, a similarly sized back whom Gerhart is often compared to. Bush has taken only 2.2% of his NFL carries for 20+ yards.
Gerhart’s best asset is his power. He was a tackle-breaking machine last year, forcing a whopping 14 missed tackles on just 36 carries. That rate led all RBs. Gerhart forced just 3 missed tackles in 2012 but posted 23 and 10, respectively, in his first 2 seasons. This guy rarely goes down on 1st contact and usually falls forward for extra yards. He’s the type of RB who can create his own yards if a play isn’t blocked well. That should come in handy in Jacksonville.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Gerhart doesn’t boast a ton of fantasy upside. He’s a mediocre talent running for a rebuilding offense. But Gerhart can be a volume-based point producer for your fantasy squad. He’s looking at a 3-down role and 15+ touches per game. He’ll work fine as a RB2 on a WR-rich team or as a RB3/flex on a more balanced roster.