It's Time to Cut Toby Gerhart in Fantasy Football
I was watching the Chiefs game on Sunday, and CBS cut to a summary of the top five picks in the 2005 NFL draft (where now Chiefs' quarterback Alex Smith went number-one overall to San Francisco). The interesting part about that draft is that three of the top five picks were at the running back position. Even the announcers commented that we'll never see anything like that again.
It seems, in a lot of ways, that real life football has "caught up" to fantasy football - coaches and general managers realize that it's not so much about talent at the running back position, it's really more about opportunity. Sure, there are game-breakers here and there, but the reality is opportunity is what makes big numbers at running back, not necessarily raw talent.
Such was the case entering the season with Toby Gerhart. A long time backup in Minnesota, it appeared that Gerhart was ready to take a leap into consistent fantasy relevance as the main back in Jacksonville. With seemingly nobody else to take snaps away, Gerhart seemed poised for, if not a big real life year, at least a nice season for fantasy purposes.
What has followed has been an absolute disaster for all people relying on Gerhart in any way in their fantasy leagues - the opportunity hasn't been there, and the production so wildly ineffective that it's now worth considering whether or not Gerhart is even worth a roster spot in all but the deepest of leagues.
As I previously mentioned, much of Gerhart's predicted value came from his opportunity as the heir apparent to the Maurice Jones-Drew-vacated throne. The prevailing wisdom was that Gerhart would get a heavy workload, and the quantity of the workload, even if Gerhart was ineffective on a per-touch basis (more on that later), would make him at least relevant. The problem is, the opportunity hasn't been there. See the table below, charting each week for Toby Gerhart:
|Week||% of Snaps on Field||Number of Rushing Attempts|
The above table shows a troubling trend for Gerhart owners - though the first two weeks he looked like a lead back, Weeks 3 and 4 he was in the very definition of a "time split", not even getting the majority of the carries. He was hurt a bit in Week 5 which is why his numbers are far lower, but his looks are trending downward regardless of the way you look at it.
With 10 or fewer carries per week, Gerhart would need to be effective touch-to-touch in order to have any fantasy relevance. Unfortunately, he's been the exact opposite of effective this year. Of the 48 players this year with at least 30 carries, Gerhart ranks dead last in our Net Expected Points (NEP) per rush statistic, which basically measures how many points Gerhart adds to his team every time he touches the ball. In terms of cumulative Rushing NEP, among that same group, Gerhart ranks 46th of 48 - ranking only ahead of Donald Brown and LeSean McCoy. Only 27.08% of Gerhart's rushes have been considered a "success" (adding to his team's total expected points), good for 47th of 48th in that same group, ahead of only Donald Brown.
Simply put, Gerhart has been, at best, the third-worst rusher in the league this year. It's no wonder, then, that Jacksonville has bailed out early on the Gerhart train - they simply aren't getting enough production to really justify giving him more attempts.
Some fantasy owners might be willing to stick with Gerhart - Jacksonville's schedule actually looks somewhat decent from a rushing perspective moving forward. Below is Jacksonville's remaining schedule, along with each team's defensive rank, adjusted for opponent strength, against the run this season (per rush basis):
|Team||Rank Against the Run|
For the most part, Jacksonville is playing teams in the bottom half of the league against the run. The fact of the matter is that, however, you can't feel comfortable ever starting Gerhart when it appears his snaps and opportunities will be limited, and he's done just about nothing with the opportunities he has been afforded. If you can sell Gerhart's schedule moving forward to a leaguemate, do so as quickly as possible. Dropping Gerhart for some of the waiver wire warriors this week, including but not limited to Andre Williams and even Branden Oliver, isn't a bad idea, either.