What’s next for Toby Gerhart?

It’s been three years since the Minnesota Vikings traded up to make running back Toby Gerhart a second-round pick.

Since then, he’s done nothing to prove that he’s capable of being a reliable option behind Adrian Peterson. On top of averaging a pathetic 3.4 yards per carry last season, he failed to display the power and vision that made him a top prospect coming out of college. And we all remember that disastrous fumble-fest against the San Francisco 49ers…

Unless Gerhart magically flips a switch in 2013, the Vikings will part ways with the former Heisman Trophy runner-up. What avenue they decide to take, though, is TBD.

The first, and most appealing, of the Vikings’ options is trading Gerhart, who could be an intriguing addition for a team looking to implement some power into their ground game. While the former second-round pick won’t fetch much after three underwhelming seasons, getting something for Gerhart instead of letting him walk via free agency seems logical.

The other option is severing ties with Gerhart now and avoiding disaster. Let’s talk hypotheticals…

Let’s say – knock on wood – Peterson goes down in 2013 and is forced to miss significant time due to the injury. In that instance, the Vikings would have to rely on Gerhart to carry the load with no other proven running backs on the roster. While he has been serviceable in the short-term, he’s too inconsistent and inefficient to start more than two or three games. Avoiding that situation might be a good option for Minnesota.

If the Vikings did go with Door No. 2, a free agency acquisition would become a must. The only other ball carriers currently on the roster are Matt Asiata and a handful of undrafted rookies. Not exactly comforting in terms of depth. There are several capable options – Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Turner, Javon Ringer – wading in the free agency pool who could fill the void.

It’s something to consider moving forward, especially with Gerhart likely headed elsewhere in 2013.

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  1. Good article, Gil, glad to see you back in the mix!

    I think teams are not willing to invest much in the way of draft picks in the RB position these days, but are willing to invest the money. So by letting Gerhart play out his contract, and then leave next offseason, the Vikes could end up getting more out of Gerhart in the form of comp pick than they would in a trade. Seeing what Blount was traded for, and being after the draft, Gerhart is more valuable on this roster than off it. That’s my opinion anyways. Good stuff!

  2. I wouldn’t say that he has been out of the mix for 3 years. He played very well when AP went out and has shown to have surprising speed. Every team needs a quality backup RB and without Toby we have pretty much nothing behind AP.

    1. I have to agree. While Gerhart doesn’t offer much as a spot player, he does seem to do well as a #1 when AD is down… There are are worse options.

  3. I’m with the others, Toby is a solid player and one of the (maybe the) best non starting rb in the NFL. Anybody behind AD will look bad, even a young Barry Sanders. Toby is,a terrible fit for us but I could see him thriving as a starter in Pitt or Zona.

    His style is hit them in the mouth 30 times a game, wear them down and get better as the game goes on, with only 3-4 Carries a game he can’t do that he’s still wearing them down. Gerhart reminds me of a poor mans Bettis or Mike Alscott.

    As for your hypothetical I believe Toby would shine as a feature back and probably increase his value if he actually got to play.

  4. Toby seemed fine when he has stepped in, and I think if he had to play for a long stretch, He would continue to get better.
    Do I want that to happen No . Adrian is the man.
    But keep him just the same.

  5. …not to mention certain intangibles he brings to the table. If you were to calculate dollars spent per square inch of face, the bang we’re getting for our buck with Toby is off the charts.

  6. 5 RBs were taken in the second round and 1 RB in round 3 of this years draft. If the Vikings were shopping him, they would have landed a 2nd or a 3rd round pick for Toby by now. I would grade Toby higher than most of the big backs in this draft class… so it leads me to believe that the Vikings do NOT want to trade him.

    Sorry, but I disagree that Toby is too inefficient to start more than 2 or 3 games. He is at his best when he is used as a work horse.

  7. The Vikings are not going to be using Toby or AP much in preseason… Now is not the time to sign a free agent RB.

    The best time to sign a quality RB would be after teams cut to 53.

    Javon Ringer has questions about his knee…. Bradshaw, Ringer and Turner will not want to come to Minnesota to compete with Gerhart for a limited backup roll. And the # 3 back needs to be able to play special teams.

  8. Just some food for thought…

    While I agree that his 2011 production when AP was out was impressive, his showing in 2012 was ugly. Gerhart is supposed to be a power back, but picked up four yards on four carries inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. For a big bruising back known for always falling forward, 3.4 yards per carry isn’t enough. In 2012, Gerhart had three (yes, three) runs of 10+ yards despite 50 carries behind a solid run blocking line. He has minimal elusiveness and subpar speed, depending solely on his vision to pick up yards.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge Gerhart fan. I’m a diehard Stanford follower and was ecstatic when the Vikings drafted him, but I don’t think he’s become the No. 2 RB the Vikings were looking for when they drafted him in the second round. He looked good in 2011, but is too inconsistent and doesn’t offer the dynamic running that this offense needs to detract defenses from Ponder’s work-in-progress passing if AP goes down. The Vikings need a Chester Taylor who can run, catch and block; at this point, Gerhart is only above average in one of those categories.

    I wish Gerhart was an awesome backup who could step in for AP in a flash and be a feature back, but he’s not. Just telling it how I see it.

    1. We’ll just have to agree to disagree. Gerhart is a phenomenal blocker, a bruising runner and well he’s got Jeff Dugan hands. He is a bad fit for our team but if Peterson got injured he would be a great rb. We need a 3rd down back, Gerhart is a primary back.

      1. “He looked good in 2011, but is too inconsistent and doesn’t offer the dynamic running that this offense needs to detract defenses from Ponder’s work-in-progress passing if AP goes down.”

        Go home Gil, you’re drunk.

        I’m telling you right now that Toby Gerhart is a top-5 running back in the NFL RIGHT NOW if he gets the carries on any team that gives him that shot. He’s Stanford’s all-time RB and, sorry to bring it up, but it’s a fact, if he weren’t a white player, with his Combine performance (4.5 ’40’) and being a big-school record-breaker, he’d would have been drafted in the 1st round and been starting in the NFL immediately. But he’s not black, so he was taken by a team who could justify burying him on the bench and not playing him. This has been the MO of every NFL team who have had high caliber white running backs for years now. I don’t like to admit that, but the statistics, talent and outcomes don’t lie about how Toby has been treated, not only by the NFL, but by the media people like yourself downplaying how good this guy really is. In 2011, he was putting up numbers very close to AP’s behind the same offensive line and he was HIGHLY CONSISTENT in his performances. So, while what I’m saying is uncomfortable, I’m shocked I’m the only one who said it.

    2. I find it curious and a bit humorous that you would try to defend yourself by claiming: “Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge Gerhart fan”. No you’re not.

      If you had displayed a modicum of fairness during your description of Gerhart and his qualities you might be able to sneak that by some ill-informed fans. Based on the facts before us your characterization of Gerhart’s talents are misguided at best, but appear to be better aligned with disingenuousness.

      And my description says nothing about the contradictions and incongruity of your own words. On the one hand you want us to believe that Gerhart’s not even worthy of a roster spot; but on the other hand, when questioned about the Gerhart’s exemplary play when he has had an opportunity, namely when Peterson was injured in 2011, you respond by writing that he was “impressive.” Really?

      Here is your quote in the article: “While he has been serviceable in the short-term, he’s too inconsistent and inefficient to start more than two or three games.” The statement is not supported by the facts and was addressed in your follow-up as follows: “his 2011 production when AP was out was impressive.”

      Indeed it was.

      The manifest incongruity of your statements is quite staggering given that you are attempting to make an analysis of some sort. I’m tempted to ask: which is it Dr. Jekyll, or would you rather be referred to as Mr. Hyde?

      I too was a bit disappointed in Gerhart’s production in 2012, but was far more disappointed in the lack of opportunities than his actual production. Simply put, AP had an unbelievable season in 2012 particularly given his so there injury in 2011. By design that didn’t leave much opportunity for Gerhart, and frankly it wouldn’t matter how good Toby Gerhart was, or was not in 2012 he simply was not going to get much of an opportunity to display the types of talents that he can bring to a football game.

      In my opinion is that it is simply not possible to gauge a runner like Gerhart based on 50 carries over 16 games. If you were truly a fan you would know that one of the primary factors that your heart brings the table is his ability to wear defenses down over the course of a game. He tends to get better as the game goes on.

      Like I said you would know that if you are a fan, but regardless of whether you are actually a fan or not you should know this if you are an actual analyst of NFL talent. Alas, based on your article and your follow-up, you are neither.

      1. Oh the Vagaries of voice recognition software. Please note that in the second to last paragraph of my initial comments a portion of a sentence sentence should read Gerhart, and not, “your heart”

        1. Despite your eloquent speech, I still stand by what I said. Yes, I admit that I sounded a bit contradictory in stating after the fact that he did well in 2011, but, like a good analysis, I took a closer look after seeing comments.

          You can question my fanhood all you want; I know who I am. My dog’s name is Toby if that’s any indication. That, however, doesn’t mean that I’m a homer; if I don’t think that a player is cutting it, I’m going to say so even if he’s one of my personal favorites.

          If Gerhart is as good as many of you are saying, the Vikings would give him more opportunities. Playing behind Adrian Peterson doesn’t mean that you’re a nobody, it just means you have to work that much harder to get your number called. And as I mentioned initially, his number was called against the 49ers this past season to finish out a close game. He responded with two fumbles that almost cost the Vikings a win. Not exactly making the most of opportunities if you ask me. As a Vikings coach, I’d be afraid to put him in after that effort.

          Finally, you say that he gets better as the game goes on. Well look at the stats and you’ll find that he’s least productive in the fourth quarter. I’ve been following Gerhart since his high school days and I know the type of player he is, but that doesn’t mean that his college game translated to the NFL seamlessly.

          Thanks for commenting.

          1. Allow me to follow-up to my “speech”. You offered little or no analysis and I think that is a disservice to Toby Gearhart whom you claim to be a fan of. As a result I responded with some actual analysis which indicated that Toby Gerhart when given an opportunity has comported himself quite well in the NFL.

            I made some comparisons to AP, whom I think we all can agree is one of, if not the best running back currently in the NFL. I think his numbers actually compare well. You may disagree. You made the point that in a couple of instances Gerhart has not looked good; and in particular the game in which he had an inexcusable and heretofore unheard-of rash of fumbles. I agree, but it is certainly not worthy of basing his entire potential and NFL career on what appears to be an anomaly.

            The fact of the matter is all running backs, including the very best, of the best, have had times, often much lengthier than the fourth quarter of one game, in which they looked bad. But since you brought up the San Francisco game I’d like to bring up the Washington Redskins game from 2011. This was a disaster of a game for AP and a shining moment for Toby Gerhart. And when I say it was a disaster of a game for AP I’m not talking about just the fact that he was decimated by a severe knee injury.

            For the record, prior to AP’s injury he was struggling mightily. Indeed AP produced just 38 yards on 12 carries with a longest run of 12 yards. This equates to 3.17 yards per carry and if you eliminate his longest run of 12 yards his per carry average plummets, 26 yards on 11 carries, to 2.36 yards per carry. The fact the matter is AP had struggled the entire game. Gerhart didn’t.

            In fact, it took just one carry for Gerhart to nearly double AP’s production for the entire game. Gerhart produced 109 yards on 11 carries with a longest run of 67 yards. This equates to 9.91 yards per carry; even when you take out his longest run Gerhart still out produced AP with 42 yards on a mere 10 carries, or 4.2 yards per carry.

            If you’re going to look at just one game why not look at this game. Clearly Gerhart based on any reasonable analysis significantly out produced AP with the same offense playing against the same defense, on the same day. But I’m not prepared to say that this makes Gerhart better than AP, but I am saying that it’s a better example of his potential than your one game.

    3. I stand by my statement above that not only are you not a Toby Gerhart fan, but that you have not made a reasonable argument as to why he should be replaced on the Vikings roster. As I, and others, have stated, Gerhart is the type of player who gets better the more opportunities he has to wear down a defense. So a reasonable analysis of his talents would take that into consideration.

      Since you didn’t actually offer any real analysis, in your article, or follow-up, I’ve taken upon myself. Inasmuch as I have followed Gerhart’s career since high school and it actually looked at the numbers I know that he has strong potential to be a top quality running back in NFL if he ever gets an opportunity. Importantly, is a very consistent running back when given a reasonable number of carries and he definitely gets better the more carries he gets in again.

      To test my theory, that it is not reasonable to gauge Gerhart’s abilities based on 50 carries scattered over 16 NFL football games I decided to look at those games where he was given an opportunity to at least work up a sweat, if not a lather.

      Accordingly, I focused on the NFL games in which Gerhart got at least 10 opportunities to carry the football. This occurred eight times over his three NFL seasons with all coming in games where AP either missed the game or was injured during the game. As might be guessed the majority occurred in 2011, with five being concentrated in the latter half of that season.

      The facts are quite clear if you bother to look. For NFL games in which Gearhart has been given at least 10 opportunities to carry the ball he has produced quite well, and in fact well above average by any reasonable comparison. In fact there is evidence to suggest that at times exhibited characteristics of an elite running back in NFL.
      In the eight football games in question, Gerhart totaled 133 carries for 608 yards or 4.6 yards per carry. In the course of a full season this can be extrapolated to equate the 266 carries for 1,216 yards. This would rank him 10th in total yardage in the NFL for 2012. Not bad when you consider this total number of carries in this extrapolation would be outside of the top 10.

      In 75% of those games he averaged 4.0 yards, or more, per carry. Indeed, in six of the eight games is per carry average range from 4.3 to 9.9, yards per carry.

      To put these numbers in perspective, over the course of his NFL career Adrian Peterson has played in 89 games total he has averaged 4.0 yards per carry, or more, 59 times equaling 66%. Accordingly, Gerhart’s consistency of quality games as measured by averaging 4.0 yards per carry is actually higher than AP’s. I’m not insinuating that Gerhart is better than AP, I’m simply pointing out that Gerhart is better than you think, and exhibits some qualities that are commensurate with an elite runner.

      Gerhart’s numbers were still limited for various reasons in that he averaged just 16.6 carries per game over those eight games. I think he would be even more effective if his per game carry total were from closer to the 20 yards per game that AP typically gets.

      Nevertheless, while averaging less than 17 carries per game Gerhart produced three games in which he ran for 90 90 yards, or more. He produced five games of 75 yards or more which equates to approximately 62.5%. How does this compare? Well prior to last season’s blowout year Adrian Peterson had played in 73 NFL games; 48 of which he rushed for 75 yards or more. This equates to approximately 66%, but to better put this in perspective AP averaged nearly 20 yards per carry per game whereas Gerhart was averaging less than 17 carries per the games in question.

      I would argue that the only thing wrong with Toby Gerhart is that he had the misfortune to be drafted by a team that was built around a phenomenal running back, perhaps the best in the game today, by the name of Adrian Peterson. Simply put, no matter the quality, of Toby Gerhart as an NFL running back, or the lack thereof, it doesn’t matter unless AP gets hurt. Gerhart’s playing time has little or nothing to do with Toby Gerhart; it has everything to do with Adrian Peterson’s health.

      In the limited amount of opportunities when Adrian Peterson’s health has allowed Gerhart to step on the field he has produced well above average by any reasonable basis of comparison. It may be sacrilegious to say this but in certain instances is out produced the best there is.

          1. my guess is that sports agents let their intern paralegals use the office’s multisyllabic voice recognition software, but i see an opening for a stealthy writer’s version

  9. Gil, I am not a hugh Gerhart fan… but in 2011 Toby averaged 4.9 yards a carry to AP’s 4.7 yards. Toby’s long run that year was 67 yards to AP’s long of 54.

    Give Toby a break! He has had 2 above average years and one down year. The guy is a primary back for sure! He is not a 3rd down guy. He not a blocker. Neither is Adrian. Toby gets limited action and doesn’t ask to be traded or complain. If the Vikings were unhappy with Toby they would have traded him already.

    If something happened to AP… Toby would step in and do a good job for us. The bad news is Gerhart will see limited action and is really just an insurance policy this year.

  10. Sorry, that should be Huge.

    I didn’t understand drafting Toby when we did… and I still don’t understand it, but Toby has “his style” and I can’t knock him for that.

  11. Useless Trivia: The dog in the opening scene of the film “Twister” is also named Toby. That scene did not end well for anyone involved.

    How’s that for analysis?

  12. How do you find Toby’s recent performances when given the chance?

    Yeah I thought so, dikwad.