2014 Fantasy Football Profile: Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart
When Gus Bradley left Seattle to become the Jaguars head coach, he could not have envisioned the Jaguars ranking in the bottom five in rush attempts as they did last year. That ranking was a by-product of two primary factors: (1) the team trailed — and lost — often and (2) their rushing attack was inefficient.
Beginning the year with an eight-game losing streak by a combined margin of 86-264, the Jaguars made strides in the second half by closing the year out with a 4-4 record. As you would imagine, they ran the ball much more often in games they won (28.75 attempts per game) than in games they lost (21.92 per game), but the score and game situations often dictated pass (over run) attempts. Meanwhile, only the Ravens averaged fewer yards per carry (3.1) than the Jaguars (3.3) in 2013.
Fielding a more competitive team overall in 2014, it's highly unlikely that the Jaguars will rank in the bottom five in carries once again.
The guy that will lead their rushing attack is Toby Gerhart, a former second-round pick by the Vikings that signed a three-year free-agent deal with the Jaguars this offseason.
Turning 27 years old in March, Gerhart has been used infrequently as the primary backup to stud running back Adrian Peterson. When given the opportunity, however, Gerhart has been productive.
Gerhart was a workhorse in college and led the nation in rushing with 343 carries for 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior in 2009. That season, he finished second in the Heisman voting to Alabama's Mark Ingram.
Over his four seasons in Minnesota backing up Peterson, Gerhart carried the ball a total of 276 times for 1,305 yards (4.73 YPC) and five touchdowns while adding 77 receptions for 600 yards and three more scores. As he assumes the role of a workhorse back, it's beneficial that he has relatively low mileage on the tires.
According to PFF grades, no running back averaged more yards after contact (3.8) than Gerhart among those that played at least 100 snaps in 2013. In addition, he led all running backs with at least 32 touches last season in elusive rating (123.4).
One of the reasons the Jags rush offense was so inefficient last year was their struggles with run blocking. Based on grades from PFF, no team had a worse run-blocking grade than Jacksonville (-80.8). To illustrate how poor of a grade that was, the Jets were second-worst at -45.7.
Their blocking should be better (I know, it can't be worse) in 2014 as Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, is healthy and the team signed Zane Beadles in free agency to play left guard. They also drafted guard Brandon Linder in the third round this year.
"Toby has the ability to do it all," [offensive coordinator Jedd] Fisch said. "He can catch it well. He can pass protect well, and he’s going to be in the game a lot — third down, base downs, short-yardage, passing downs."
"He's been the workhorse before, just not at this level," [general manager David] Caldwell said. "He's built for it. He's 235-plus (pounds), has a great frame, great muscle, great condition. The best thing about Toby is he's got excellent hands, too, catching the ball out of the backfield, and his pass protection.
"I don't think there's much room for concern with him being the workhorse because he's got the stature and he's built for it."
It's quite possible that Gerhart leads the NFL in touches this season, but a while back Bradley said that he expected up to 15-20 touches per game for Gerhart.
Looking over Gerhart's game log, he has had 15-plus touches in seven games in his NFL career. In those seven games, Gerhart has averaged 12.6 fantasy points per game (FPPG) with double-digit fantasy points in five of those outings.
As a comparison, only 10 running backs averaged at least 12.6 FPPG last season.
All offseason, I've targeted Gerhart in mock drafts, but his cost continues to rise steadily:
Over the past two months, Gerhart's average draft position (ADP) has really ascended from 5.07 (on May 26th) to 3.11 (on July 26th) at FFC. That said, he's still a decent value there as 18th running back off the board compared to my RB13 ranking.
2014 Fantasy Strength of Schedule
Based on cumulative fantasy points allowed last year of their opponents this year, Gerhart and the Jaguars running backs have the sixth-most favorable fantasy schedule.
2014 Stat Projection: 253 Att., 1,126 Yards, 6 TDs; 42 Rec., 323 Yards, 1 TD
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