Coming out of Stanford in 2010, Toby Gerhart didn't lack talent whatsoever. Being regarded as a one of the best running backs in his class, Toby Gerhart had all the tools to become an every-down back in the NFL.
Gerhart is six feet tall, 230 pounds and ran a 4.53 40 yard dash, solid for a man with his size and strength.
Everything pointed to Toby Gerhart carrying the load for an NFL team until he was selected with the 51st overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings when they already had Adrian Peterson doing so.
Throughout his whole career, Toby Gerhart has backed up that same man, only getting limited carries and opportunities per game while getting a start now and then, only if Adrian Peterson went down with an injury.
This was the case until this offseason when Toby Gerhart was signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars to a three-year deal worth $10.5 million, with $4.5 million guaranteed. While the large contract and the $4.5 million guaranteed ensure that Toby Gerhart will get every opportunity to show he can become a premier back in this league, the real question still remains, can he be?
In order to be a premier back in the NFL, a running back must have talent, production, and the opportunity to show both, which Toby Gerhart has never been given. As stated earlier, based on his combine numbers and size, Toby Gerhart has the makings to be a premier running back.
However, when it comes to his opportunities, being stuck behind Adrian Peterson has never given Toby Gerhart many chances to show what he can do as a running back, but when given a chance, Gerhart has produced. In his career, Toby Gerhart has carried the ball 276 times for 1,305 yards and 5 touchdowns, having a 4.7 yards per carry average.
While these numbers look great, one may make the case that these numbers only have came because of his limited opportunites keeping him fresh when the defense was worn out by Adrian Peterson's physical running.
However, over his career, Toby Gerhart has started for the Minnesota Vikings seven different times. In those games, Gerhart carried the ball 114 times for 567 yards and 2 touchdowns, giving him an average of 4.97 yards per carry when facing mainly eight man fronts due to bad quarterback play and an anemic offense, just like what he'll see in Jacksonville.
Furthermore, the numbers Toby Gerhart posted in his seven career starts would have been 260 carries for 1,295 yards and 5 touchdowns when extrapolated over a 16-game season of being the starting running back. For all you fantasy football fans out there, those are some solid stats, and that's not to include his extrapolated 48 catches for 336 yards and 6 receiving touchdowns.
Given those numbers, Toby Gerhart would have finished as the No. 14 running back this past season in standard scoring, without counting his receiving stats. With counting his receiving stats, Toby Gerhart would have been the No. 4 ranked rusher in standard scoring last year.
While Toby Gerhart has always been a strong, physical running back with solid speed for a man his size, he has the makings to be a three-down back, making him more valuable to a team because of his excellent hands and pass blocking abilities. Also, on top of these rare skill sets for a man with Gerhart's size, Mike Mayock had this to say about Toby Gerhart when coming out of college in 2010, "He seems to get stronger as the game wears on and defenses visibly grow weary of trying to take him on in the latter parts of the game."
While many have not yet seen this from Toby Gerhart in his limited snaps as a pro, when looking at his stats one can see that Mayock had it right. Over Toby Gerhart's career he has had nine games with over double digit carries. In those games, Toby Gerhart has carried the ball 148 times for 697 yards and 3 touchdowns, giving him a 4.7 yards per carry average.
In games where Toby Gerhart has under double digit carries, he has 128 carries for 608 yards and 2 touchdowns, with a 4.75 yards per carry average. As you can see, Toby Gerhart is just as solid when given the ball constantly throughout the game then he is when taking advantage of a worn out defense from Adrian Peterson.
Moreover, Toby Gerhart even continues to improve year after year as a pro, averaging an outrageous 7.9 yards per carry last season. Even more impressive than this is that, out of Toby Gerhart's 238 rushing yards last year, 136 of them came after contact, giving Gerhart a 3.8 yards per attempt after contact which ranked fourth in the NFL out of all backs last year according to PFF.
As shown previously, Toby Gerhart doesn't lack for talent what so ever as an every down runner and only seems to improve with every touch he gets. Also, Toby Gerhart barely has over 1,000 career touches from college and the NFL combined, which shows that Toby Gerhart at age 26, has little wear and tear on his body.
In comparison, Montee Ball coming out of college had over 1,000 career touches. Also, while Toby Gerhart finished second in the Heisman voting in 2009, this is something Montee Ball never accomplished despite all those opportunities and yet people talk more about Montee Ball's talent if Knowshon Moreno leaves Denver then they did if Toby Gerhart ever left Minnesota.
Furthermore, according to the Florida Times Union, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said that newly-signed running back Toby Gerhart will regularly see 15-20 touches per game, which would give Toby Gerhart plenty of opportunities to produce.
In addition, Toby Gerhart has always had the production and talent to show for despite getting little opportunity to do so, but he will finally see ample opportunities as Jacksonville's new lead workhorse, finally showing the world that Toby Gerhart is a premier back in the NFL.