Here at Black and Teal, we’ve already highlighted free-agent signing Toby Gerhart as a guy who could potentially make the leap to a Pro Bowl level and also a player who could be a big-time fantasy football option. It makes sense given the vote of confidence he’s received publicly from the coaching staff and front office, and the lack of established talent in the backfield. Unsurprisingly, Gerhart is catching the eyes of many analysts, including the folks who are doing the “Making the Leap” series over at NFL.com. Toby Gerhart made his appearance at number 8, and Marc Sessler has several reasons to believe Gerhart can make a significant impact in 2014.
That quality is evident in his game film. The 231-pound Gerhart gives Jacksonville’s young offense a ruggedly built runner who repeatedly impressed me with his sneaky wheels and ability to shed the first tackler. Pro Football Focus ranked him fourth in the NFL last season in yards after contact per rushing attempt (3.8). He’s especially potent when teams line up to defend the pass, chalking up 5.6 yards per carry against nickel, dime and quarter coverage compared to an impressive 4.4 figure against base defenses over his four-year career.
Gerhart clearly has the ability to be an every-down back and reliably provide 4+ yards on first down to set-up better passing situations on 2nd and 3rd down. Gerhart should also be ready for a big workload thanks to his time sitting behind Adrian Peterson.
He’s a physical runner, but Jacksonville also inherited a player with fresh legs. Couched behind the All-World Adrian Peterson, the 27-year-old Gerhart has just 86 carries over the past two seasons. He hasn’t seen more than 109 totes in a campaign during his pro career, but Gerhart averaged 19 touches and 99.4 yards from scrimmage in eight contests as Peterson’s replacement.
Sessler does point out that Gerhart’s success hinges partly on the development of the offensive line.
Jacksonville’s unproven offensive line might be his biggest obstacle to a monster year.
The Jaguars will have 3 new starters on the interior offensive line, and 2 of those players – veteran Mike Brewster and rookie Brandon Linder – have little to no experience at their respective positions in the NFL. Still, the line should be vastly improved simply by subtraction of players like Will Rackley and a well-past-his-prime Uche Nwaneri.
There are a lot of reasons why Gerhart should have a big year, and it seems Jaguar fans aren’t the only ones taking notice.
– Daniel Lago