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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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