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2014 Draft Prep: Toby Gerhart will grind his way to success

Senior Fantasy Writer
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If you're a Toby Gerhart fan, the start of training camp and preseason action has been positive. So what if Gerhart missed practice time with a strained hip flexor. It's OK that he was sluggish in his first preseason action against the Bears.

Those negatives will only help lower his Fantasy value. And that's a good thing.

Gerhart is getting the first starting opportunity of his career with the Jaguars after spending the past four seasons playing behind Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. And we expect Gerhart to shine. The prediction here is Gerhart will grind his way to Fantasy success.

After the second week of preseason action, Gerhart's Average Draft Position was No. 41 overall, which is Round 4 in a 12-team league. He was the No. 18 running back off the board. We only hope he slips a little further because he's someone to covet on Draft Day.

Look, we have no idea how Gerhart is going to do in this role. We only have a small sample size of his work when he's had double digits in carries, which is nine times going back to his rookie year in 2010. He's done well with that workload, producing double digits in Fantasy points in six of those outings, so there's a start.

Coach Gus Bradley has said Gerhart is looking at 15-18 touches a game, but we're expecting a heavier workload. It's difficult to imagine Jordan Todman, Storm Johnson or Denard Robinson taking Gerhart off the field for significant stretches.

He showed he could be a capable receiver in limited action behind Peterson, averaging 19 catches a year with the Vikings, including three seasons of at least 20 grabs prior to 2013. And he should prove to be a tough rusher between the tackles.

My colleague, Larry Hartstein, wrote a blog in May comparing Gerhart's situation to Michael Turner when he left San Diego and LaDainian Tomlinson's shadow to be the starter in Atlanta in 2008. There are a lot of similarities.

Turner spent four seasons behind Tomlinson, who was the premier rusher of his era, just like Gerhart and Peterson. Both averaged fewer than 70 carries a season as backups. Both averaged more than 4.7 yards per carry in that role.

Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell worked in Atlanta's front office when the team signed Turner to be their workhorse. We expect he envisions Gerhart having a similar impact, especially leaning on him to cover up for what should be an inconsistent passing game led by either Chad Henne or rookie Blake Bortles.

You should keep in mind that Bradley is a Pete Carroll disciple and the Seahawks were second in rushing attempts in 2013 and first in 2012 with more than 31 carries a game on average each year. Marshawn Lynch has had more than 300 carries each of the past two seasons.

Last year, the Jaguars leaned on Maurice Jones-Drew for 234 carries, which was No. 14 in attempts, and he finished as the No. 20 Fantasy running back in standard leagues. He also had 43 catches. Gerhart should get more work and he'll finish with more production.

You're going to like Gerhart if you're looking for a No. 2 running back with upside in Round 4, and he should post consistent production. He's not going to post dominant stats like Jamaal Charles or LeSean McCoy, but his body of work will look good by the end of the season.

If the Jaguars do what's expected and lean on Gerhart, he'll finish as a top-20 Fantasy running back, with the chance to creep into the top 15. And the later he goes on Draft Day, the better off you'll be.

So prior to your draft, tell your league mates Gerhart is struggling. That he was hurt in training camp. That he won't get the job done as the starter.

Then, when he lands on your team, boast that you got a difference-maker. Gerhart is set up for a big year as the new lead running back for the Jaguars.

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Player News
Joe Flacco: Ravens don't need to draft wide receiver
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:35 am ET) When your Super Bowl quarterback doesn't believe his team needs to draft a wide receiver, then perhaps it doesn't.

Joe Flacco feels the Ravens are well-stocked in that area despite having lost Torrey Smith to free agency. They still boast Steve Smith, Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanero and Jeremy Butler, but are expected to seriously considering adding a wideout as early as the first round.

"Obviously, without Torrey now, the one thing we probably don't have as much of is that speed, is that one guy who can stretch the field," Flacco told ESPN. "But I'm not going to say we need it. I think we got really good guys and I think we're good with who we have."


Report: Cowboys out of running for Adrian Peterson; Cardinals still alive
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:28 am ET) The Cowboys, once considered the frontrunners to trade for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, are now out of the running, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, who added that only the Cardinals are serious contenders.

The claim is that a deal for Peterson must be made by Friday or Peterson will stay with Minnesota. That will be contingent on Arizona's ability or inability to identify its future featured back. Peterson could bring the Vikings a second-round pick.


Colts sign ILB Jerrell Freeman to qualifying offer
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:16 am ET) Linebacker Jerrell Freeman has signed his one-year qualifying offer for a reported $2.35 million and will remain with the Colts for a fourth season, the team website has reported. He had been a restricted free agent.

The three-year starter led Indianapolis in tackles in 2012 and 2013 before losing four games to a hamstring injury last year. He still finished with 95 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks.


Cardinals' Larry Foote '50-50' on playing in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Though Larry Foote is on the Cardinals' coaching staff at the moment, he hasn't ruled out a potential return to the team

Speaking to the team's website, Foote said he's "50-50" about playing in 2015. He talked about the factors that could play into whether or not he returns to playing. 

“Draft, what happens with (suspended linebacker) Darryl Washington, stuff like that, how my knee feels (after offseason surgery),” Foote said. “I’ll sit down with (Bruce Arians) and the next couple of months are really going to be the deciding factor.”

If Foote doesn't play, he'll be the linebackers coach for Arizona's upcoming season. He's been adjusting to the role of being a coach this offseason. 

“I am starting to like coaching,” Foote said. “It’s a little tough in the office, eating M&Ms, snacking all day, drinking coffee. I started my diet a couple days ago.”


Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
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(4/25/2015) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
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(4/25/2015) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


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(4/25/2015) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
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(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
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(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


 
 
 
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