Jaguars Sign Toby Gerhart
Jacksonville signed running back Toby Gerhart to a three-year, $10.5 million deal with $4.5 million in guaranteed money. This seems like a large contract to give to a player with 276 career carries, but a sound argument can be made that Gerhart possesses untapped potential having played behind the game’s best talent. Remember, he posted an excellent speed score at 231 pounds with a 4.53 40-yard-dash.
Gerhart is likely to have a great opportunity to display that size/speed combination with his new team. He steps into a backfield that is very likely to let their former franchise back, Maurice Jones-Drew, walk in free agency. After the team released Justin Forsett on Tuesday, the only running back left on the roster that he has to compete with for touches is Jordan Todman. Of course, head coach Gus Bradley has claimed that he would like to get Denard Robinson more carries this season as well. The latter seems like coach speak, considering that he had the chance to give Robinson carries at the end of last season and declined the option.
So who is the favorite to win the battle for touches between Gerhart and Todman? Well, in limited snaps last season, Gerhart ran the ball pretty well, averaging 7.9 yards per carry on 36 attempts. 136 of his 238 yards rushing came after contact, and his YCo/Att. (yards after contact per attempt) of 3.8 ranked fourth-best out of all running backs. For comparison’s sake, Todman only averaged 1.5 YCo/Att.
In just 49 combined rushing and receiving touches, Gerhart forced 16 missed tackles. In 90 combined attempts for Todman, he was only able to force seven. On 40 less carries, Gerhart managed three more runs of 15-plus yards than Todman. He was also the better pass protector, allowing two less pressures than Todman and finishing with a 95.6 pass blocking efficiency to Todman’s 91.0.
With Gerhart the favorite to earn the starting job, it’s not out of the question for him to see 300-plus touches. For fantasy purposes, the Jags suspect quarterback situation and questionable offensive line don’t instill much confidence. Last year’s first-round pick, Luke Joeckel, will be returning from an injury that ended his season and cost him valuable reps. Long time center Brad Meester couldn’t take it anymore, so he finally retired.
Offensive line and quarterback consistency issues are likely to hold Gerhart back from breaking out. However, often times fantasy football comes down to bulk touches. Gerhart has potential to become a focal point of the offense and a feature back. For those reasons alone, he belongs in the conversation as an RB2. Just don’t expect some kind of breakout campaign based on his advanced stats over a small sample size.
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