The 2014 Fantasy Football season is coming. July is quickly approaching and soon minicamps and preseason games will flood your every thought.
That gives you only about two months (if that) to decide whether Toby Gerhart is worth drafting as a starting running back in fantasy football this year.
The logic suggests he is. He was minimally used with the Minnesota Vikings behind the legendary Adrian Peterson, which likely means he has plenty of tread left on his tires. He covers all the bases for a feature back, too. He runs inside effectively, has a better burst than he’s given credit for, has displayed sound vision and an ability to hit holes, can pass protect and has soft hands as a receiver out of the backfield.
Sure, he doesn’t pop off at a 4.4 clip and he’s not normally going to make a lot of guys miss. But the guy is a boss when he’s one on one, can handle the rigors of the inside game and has proven to be effective in short-yardage situations.
And now he actually gets his chance.
There’s nothing Gerhart has wanted more, and now he’s with the Jacksonville Jaguars, ready to show the fantasy world that while he might not be the talent Peterson is, he’s well deserving of a shot at a starting gig.
But it’s not high might or the small sample size we’ve seen out of him that gets me excited. It’s really not his bruising, stat-stuffing days at Stanford, either.
More than anything, Gerhart’s fantasy value hinges on the fact that the Jaguars want to pound the ball as if they had Marshawn Lynch in their backfield. Nay, it’s because they’re looking at Gerhart as if he is Lynch and they’re willing to feed him as much as he’s hungry for to get the job done.
Sure, not having much of a passing game could be an issue. But in that same breath, it also means a huge workload. As we’ve seen, a ton of volume alone can lead to quality fantasy numbers. Just ask Zac Stacy.
The difference here is that Gerhart is a little more spry and is a better receiver than Stacy. He’s also a better blocker. He’s simply a more well-rounded back with a little more upside.
It also doesn’t hurt that the Jaguars did get Chad Henne some new toys in the 2014 NFL Draft. The team even landed their franchise passer in Blake Bortles so if Henne bombs (as he surely will), they can always start from scratch whenever they’re ready to do so.
The best part, though, is the scene being built around Gerhart. The Jags are building their entire team in the mold of the Seattle Seahawks. That’s where head coach Gus Bradley hails from, and how he’s creating his defense – in Seattle’s image.
With a stronger defense comes a more efficient and consistent offense. Within that offense is a surging rushing attack with a improving offensive line. Jacksonville intends to run to set up the run, and then they’ll run to set up the pass.
There are no locks in the NFL or fantasy football. All we know for sure is that the Jags want Gerhart to be a poor man’s Lynch. They want to give him the ball 20+ times a game and cross their fingers he’s the guy for the job.
That’s a good start. My guess is he is the guy to get it done. He looked good coming out of Stanford, and he’s dropped a solid yards per carry average (over 7.0 last year alone) throughout his career, played it cool behind a stud and simply waited for his chance.
Here it is.
So, the question remains, can Toby Gerhart be a RB1 in fantasy football in 2014? Absolutely. He has similar traits to Lynch, is set up in a similar system and Lynch himself has been a regular RB1 the past three years.
The best part? You don’t have to draft him as one. Gerhart has the role, talent and system to potentially vault him to legit RB1 value, yet he can be drafted in fantasy leagues in about the fourth round (19th overall running back) on average.
No one can predict for sure if Gerhart is going to be that RB1 guy. However, he has a real shot at meeting that hype and will come at excellent value. And if he fails to, he still might round out as a quality RB2, while also still meeting his draft value. That’s enough to sell me.
*Photo Credit – Homer McFanboy via Flickr