You're on the clock and it is the fifth round. You've drafted a couple stud wide receivers and a pair of solid running backs. Now you need some RB depth, just to be safe. You look over your available players list and there at the top of the list sits the one and only Toby Gerhart of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Do you dare? Is he really a starter? Either way, what you're looking at says, "Gerhart is the guy." Can Jacksonville's offense move the ball and get him some touchdown chances? Can he withstand a full load of 275 to 300 carries while maintaining his career average of 4.7 yards per carry (YPC)?
First and foremost, when the draft is in full-swing, this decision needs to have already been made. Whether you use average draft position (ADP) for your rankings, FFToolbox's rankings and projections (or some lesser version), you should already have it in your mind where you would take Gerhart or if you'd even take him at all. Some people won't touch him due to the situation he is in.
Jacksonville finished 2013 ranked 31st in rushing yards and 31st in the league in YPC. The Jags didn't completely address this weakness in the offseason. They spent their first three draft picks on skill position players (a quarterback and two wide receivers), before taking Brandon Linder, a 330-pound guard out of Miami in the third round. They added one more offensive lineman -- center Luke Bowanko from the University of Virginia -- in the sixth round. Former Denver Broncos center Zane Beadles, who is average at best, was signed in free agency. Those were their upgrades and that's where their "addressing a weakness" starts and stops: Two mid- to late- round draft picks and a mediocre free agent. Two of them play the same position. That doesn't sound so good.
Maybe that's a bit of a cynical point of view. On the other hand then, here is the optimist's view: Gerhart has a 4.7 YPC career average. He doesn't have a ton of carries, but with the work he's been given, he has taken advantage of it. There have been times that he has been called upon to start and Gerhart delivered. When workhorse Adrian Peterson couldn't go in Minnesota, Gerhart was able to contribute on all three downs as a runner and as a receiver. In games where he received 10 or more carries, Gerhart averaged 4.6 YPC. On top of these positives, the Jags do have some other weapons at the skill positions. Regardless of who is at QB (Chad Henne or rookie Blake Bortles), defenses will have to respect the talent of returning WRs Cecil Shorts and Ace Sanders, as well as Jacksonville two second-round picks in this year's draft: WRs Marqise Lee of USC and Allen Robinson of Penn State. While none of these guys is as good as Justin Blackmon, who is likely to miss the season due to multiple violations of the league's substance abuse policy, the receivers the Jags do have can beat you. The final positive for Gerhart's fantasy value is that Bortles could very well be their starting quarterback. If you have a rookie starting quarterback, it's highly unlikely that the team's brass is going to completely throw him to the wolves by having him drop back to pass 40 times per game. With a rookie QB and two rookie WRs, Gerhart's four years of experience makes him someone the team can lean on.
Click to enlarge.
This is a recent draft board from a FFWC high-stakes Draft-N-Go.
Based on these facts, while Gerhart is unlikely to sustain his 4.7 YPC career average, he will be in a position to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing based solely on volume. He will have roughly 250 to 275 carries. If he can even average 4.0 YPC, he'll be between 1,000 and 1,100 yards. Gerhart is also an underrated pass-catcher, having caught over 20 balls out of the backfield as a backup who didn't see much action in Minnesota. It's a realistic expectation for Gerhart to rush for 1,000 yards, catch 30 balls for 200 yards at a minimum. Tack on six touchdowns and he will have between 185 and 190 fantasy points. The bonus in this is that these projections are on the conservative side. If he gets 300 to 325 carries, then 1,200 to 1,300 yards is possible. With a rookie QB, there could be an excessive amount of check-down passes. He could get closer to 50 catches for 400 yards. While he's not LeSean McCoy or Jamaal Charles, he's the clear-cut favorite to be the bell-cow in Jacksonville. Neither Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson, nor late round draft pick Storm Johnson seem like an immediate threat to unseat Gerhart. He is "the guy." While Gerhart's average draft position (ADP) is currently projecting him as an early sixth-round pick (62.05 ADP, RB22) in 12-team leagues, I recently talked to high-stakes regular Wayne Ellis (Coltsfan), and he said he's seeing Gerhart going primarily in the fifth round, but as early as the fourth. Like any player, find the right value for him. It also depends on whether Gerhart is your team's RB2 or RB3. As your No. 3, it puts a lot less pressure on your team since you obviously have other great options to insert in your starting lineup.
So, with that in mind, let's go back to our original on-the-clock scenario. It is the fifth round and you want running back depth. Your friends are talking trash left and right. There is $500 on the line (or you're simply trying to avoid being ridiculed.) As ‘80s three-hit wonder Asia said, "It was the heat of the moment." What do you do? It was easy taking A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Reggie Bush, and Rashad Jennings in the first four rounds. However, this is the pick that could make or break your season. You need another running back. Jennings has upside, but could be a question mark in a New York Giants uniform. Bush? He'll miss at least three games. Everyone knows that. It has to be a running back. Is Gerhart your guy?
This writer says, "Go for it!" (YOLO, right? I hate that phrase by the way, but here it kind of applies.) If you're the guy who takes a shot on Gerhart and hits on his upside, you could be getting a solid RB2 at an RB3 price. Worst case scenario, aside from injuries, he's going to put up RB3 or flex numbers, which is where you're taking him anyway. As for me, my philosophy is somebody has to do something in Jacksonville. I'll take Gerhart and you should too.