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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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(12:11 pm ET) Redskins have re-signed tight end Niles Paul to a three-year deal worth approximately $10 million, per CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reports.

Paul, 25, caught 39 passes for 507 yards and one touchdown last season. He has 735 career receiving yards and two scores since joining the league in 2011.


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(12:06 pm ET) The Bears have re-signed quarterback Jimmy Clausen on Friday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

New Bears coach John Fox drafted Clausen in 2010 when he was in charge of the Panthers. The new Chicago front office are reportedly uncertain of Jay Cutler's future with the club, so Clausen's role with the team remains to be seen.

Clausen, 27, got the start over Cutler in Week 16 before suffering a concussion. He completed 23 of 39 passes for 181 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and was unable to play the season finale.


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(11:59 am ET) The Lions have signed kicker Matt Prater to a three-year deal on Friday, per the team's official website. Terms of the deal were not made public.

Prater was signed to a one-year deal after being cut by the Broncos on Oct. 3. He converted 21 of 26 field goals in 11 games for the Lions in 2014. Prater noted in January that he would like to return to Detroit in 2015, and now his wish has come to fruition.


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Harvin, who reportedly refused a reduction in his 2015 salary, was slated to make $10.5 million next season. The 26-year-old Harvin hauled in 29 passes for 350 yards after joining New York in the middle of the 2014 season. The Jets traded a fifth-round pick for Marshall, and will owe Seattle a sixth-round selection if they cut ties with Harvin.


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(11:13 am ET) The Brandon Marshall era in Chicago has come to an end.

After it was reported earlier in the week that the Bears were shopping the veteran wide receiver, Chicago finally decided to move the embattled wideout. They agreed to trade Marshall to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick on Friday, according to CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. The move is pending a physical.

Marshall, 30, grabbed 61 receptions for 721 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games during the 2014 season. he has 773 career receptions, which is the most by any active platyer without a playoff apeparance. He is due to make $7.7 million in 2015 and is under contract through 2017.

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(10:56 am ET) The Dolphins will be calling Jimmy Sexton to discuss their interest in signing Ndamukong Suh once free agency begins. According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins remain confident about their chances of landing Suh.

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(10:40 am ET) It appears as if Marques Colston will be staying put with the Saints. According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, Colston has reportedly restructured his contract for the 2015 season.

Details of his restructured contract were not made public. Colston was set to make $6.9 million and count $9.7 million against the cap in 2015. Last season he caught 59 passes for 902 yards.


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(10:34 am ET) The Colts announced Friday that they will not re-sign veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne, making him a free agent come Tuesday, per the team's official website. Wayne, who will turn 37 in November, had triceps surgery last week and may still be mulling retirement.

"It will allow (Reggie) to seek a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere if he so chooses," team owner Jim Irsay said in a statement.

Wayne played in 15 regular season games for the Colts in 2014, totaling 779 yards on 64 catches with two touchdowns. He has caught 1,070 passes in 14 seasons in Indianapolis.


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(9:54 am ET) Drew Rosenhaus, Brian Hartline's agent, made an appearance on WQAM radio in Miami and revealed that the Dolphins, Chiefs, Browns and Texans are all among the options for Hartline, per ESPN.

In a move to save cap space, Hartline was cut by the Dolphins last week. He visited the Browns on Tuesday, the Bears on Wednesday and the Texans on Thursday. The Patriots are also reportedly interested in his services, though Rosenhaus did not mention them. The 28-year-old has never caught more than four touchdowns in a season.


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(9:47 am ET) Brian Orakpo made an appearance on NFL Network on Friday, and revealed that he'd be open to playing for the Cowboys or Texans -- the teams in his home state of Texas, according to the Washington Post.

Orakpo, 28, was not franchise tagged by the Redskins, and is set to hit the open market on Tuesday if Washington fails to sign him. He said that talks between his camp and the Redskins are "minimal," though he believes a deal can be struck in time if the numbers are right, per ESPN.

"I hope those guys can turn it around and win for those fans and that whole market because it's great for football," Orakpo said.


 
 
 
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