2014 Speed Bump 18 – RB Trading Spaces: Sponsored by Fantasy Football Guidebook (Sam Hendricks)
Free agency is always such a fun time of year as players switch teams, dynasty values suddenly change, and fantasy football plans need to be re-written. Four running backs had such changes this year as Toby Gerhart went from being a perennial backup in Minnesota to suddenly being the planned starter in Jacksonville, Chris Johnson takes his speedy self to the New York Jets after six years in Tennessee, Ben Tate leaves Houston after three years and the end of his original rookie contract, and Rashad Jennings turned a one-year stint in Oakland to a new longer-term contract for the New York Giants.
To help us answer the question, we are delighted to welcome long-time fantasy expert Sam Hendricks. Sam was nice enough to allow us to randomly pick one Speed Bump participant a complimentary copy of his book Fantasy Football Guidebook (2nd Edition) (paperback $19.95 value).
Saddle up Toby Gerhart. After four seasons in Minnesota and just 353 total touches, a mere 88 per season, Gerhart is set to likely be very busy as Jacksonville’s new starting running back. The workload should be there but do you believe Toby can do it? And can he get it done on a Jacksonville team that was 31st in the NFL in offense last year and 32nd in scoring at 15.4 PPG? Gerhart landed a 3-year, $10.5M deal and his ADP has him as the RB21 this year, up from RB74 last year.
Chris Johnson gets the CJ?K moniker thanks to a very slow start to the 2011 season after he was beloved as “light blue Jesus” or CJ2K following his monster 2,006 yards rushing season – and that doesn’t really tell the whole of it as Johnson actually set the NFL record for the most yards from scrimmage in a single season at 2,506 yards, breaking the record that Marshall Faulk set in 1999 at 2,429. However, Johnson has been a solid fantasy performer every year (he’s been a Top 16 RB every season) and he has cracked 1,000 rushing yards every season in the NFL as well – Johnson has averaged 1,661 total yards, 45 receptions, and 9.7 TDs per season. Johnson landed a 2-year, $8M deal and sees his ADP having dropped from RB12 last year to RB24 this year.
After three seasons as a Houston Texan as a prize 2nd round pick, but then trumped by undrafted Arian Foster, Ben Tate (perhaps) gets his chance to finally be a featured running back, now with Cleveland, and with a team that plans to do a lot running. To date, Tate’s career-best marks are 942 rushing yards in 2011 and 34 receptions in 2013. The question might be will he get trumped again, this time by rookie Terrance West? Tate landed a 2-year, $6.2M deal and his ADP has him up from the RB36 last year to RB23 this year.
Representing LibertyCollege, Rashad Jennings has become a late 7th round draft pick done good. Jennings was a seldom used reserve with Jacksonville in 2009-2012, but he got more of a chance in 2013 with Oakland with a career-best 163 rushing attempts, and a career-best 36 receptions. Tate landed a 4-year, $10M deal and his ADP has him up from the RB76 last year to RB26 this year.
GUEST EXPERT ENTRY
RB Trading Spaces, Sam Hendricks selects (07/31/14): Toby Gerhart.
Toby Gerhart is my sleeper at RB this year and I have him two spots ahead of Chris Johnson, four ahead of Rashard Jennings and a whopping seven ahead of poor Ben Tate.
Gerhart earns the RB17 position thanks to an opportunity to be the starting RB in Jacksonville. Toby averaged 4.7 yards per carry as the backup to Adrian Peterson so his abilities are not in doubt.
What many do not realize is that he caught 77 passes on 103 targets in his four years with the Vikings. So catching passes from Henne or Bortles WILL be an option for PPR leagues.
This will be a breakout year for Gerhart as he becomes the workhorse for the Jags in a run first offense. I expect 250 carries and over 1500 combined yards. The best part is there is no reason to look over his shoulder since the competition is sparse in Jacksonville.
Chris Johnson has some tread on his tires, Rashard Jennings is now facing some competition from David Wilson and Andre Williams and Ben Tate will be lucky to be a starter Week 1 with his injury problems and Terrence West’s progression.
Draft Toby Gerhart comfortably and let someone else take the risk on CJ, Jennings and Tate.
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About Fantasy Football Guidebook: Sam Hendricks is the author of Fantasy Football Guidebook, Fantasy Football Tips and Fantasy Football Basics, all available at his website, http://www.ffguidebook.com/, at all major bookstores, and at http://www.amazon.com/. He is a 20+ year fantasy football veteran who regularly participates in the National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC), Fantasy Football World Championship (FFWC) and finished 7th and 16th overall (out of 228 top players) in the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC). He is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). His new military thriller, Just One More…, recently hit bookstores.