Fantasy Football: Toby Gerhart, Rashad Jennings, And An Equity Score Party

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Toby Gerhart

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football — at least the traditional re-draft kind — isn’t about identifying the most skilled players — the ones you’d want on your team of choice. It’s about exploiting inefficiencies, gauging a guy’s fantasy floor and ceiling, and stockpiling as much equity as you possibly can on draft day.

And that’s precisely what we’ve done over the past couple months: examined the average draft positions of wide receivers, quarterbacks, tight ends, and running backs and quantified just how much they’re being overvalued or undervalued.

Using median and high seasonal projections, we’ve identified guys like Montee Ball, DeMarco Murray, Greg Olsen, Alex Smith, Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, and, yes, Brian Hartline, as players who could deliver massive equity to fantasy owners in 2014. Equity, of course, is the difference between the price of a player (average draft position) and his potential production.

Read more about fantasy equity scores…
Equity scores for elite quarterbacks
Equity scores for top running backs

I saved two rather aged and unheralded runners for an article of their own because they represent two massive equity grabs at the moment, and I don’t see their respective ADPs skyrocketing even when the Hype Machine takes hold in July and August.

We’re talking, of course, about running backs Rashad Jennings and Toby Gerhart — guys of similar size who have performed admirably in their limited turns as workhorse backs and now have a chance to benefit from some good, old-fashioned volume.

Drafting Gerhart and/or Jennings will likely become the foundational piece of any draft strategy that focuses on elite wide receivers in the early rounds. Coaches in New York and Jacksonville have spoke glowingly of both Jennings and Gerhart, respectively, hardly stopping short of tabbing the newly-signed backs as workhorse runners.

Giants beat reporter Dan Graziano has said that Big Blue signed Jennings — a reliable pass protector with good hands — to be the team’s starter, with no plans for a full-blown timeshare. Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley has said Gerhart “has the ability” to be a three-down back for the Jaguars.

The running backs’ fantasy efficiency in their role as backup (Gerhart) and journeyman sometimes-starter (Jennings) offers reason to hope for hefty production in 2014.

Jennings averaged .86 fantasy points per touch during his time in Jacksonville and Oakland — a higher mark than guys like Le’Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris posted in 2013 — while Gerhart has a career points-per-touch of .88. Limited touches, of course, are partly to thank for these sky-high points-per-touch marks.

4for4′s John Paulsen has already done the work of showing what Gerhart and Jennings have done in games that saw them receive 15 or more touches. I used data from those games to generate comps for Jennings and Gerhart using RotoViz’s RB Sim Score Lab — a great tool that allows us to find comps for players whose year-to-year role is set to dramatically change.

Below are the closest player comps for Gerhart.

Player/season Age Games played Total yards Total touchdowns
Ronnie Brown 2007 26 7 992 5
Ronnie Brown 2009 28 9 746 8
Stephen Davis 2003 29 14 1,603 8
Ahman Green 2005 28 5 402 0
Corey Dillon 2002 28 16 1,609 7
Corey Dillon 2003 29 13 612 2

 

Gerhart, 27, has quite a few favorable comparable players. Perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising that these runners in their late-20s missed so many games in the seasons listed above. It seems that Stephen Davis’ 2003 campaign is the Holy Grail for running backs in their late-20s who sign on with a new team in the latter stages of their career.

Brown, in each of those injury-shortened seasons, was on pace for 141.7 and 82.9 yards per contest, respectively. Probably Brown’s 2007 pace was unsustainable, but it’s good to know a runner of similar size, age, and per-carry production has posted such numbers.

See below for Jennings comps, as generate by the RB Sim Score Lab.

Player/season Age Games played Total yards Total touchdowns
Stephen Davis 2003 29 14 1,603 8
Thomas Jones 2005 27 15 1,478 9
Peyton Hillis 2011 25 9 639 3
Ahman Green 2007 30 6 383 2
Deuce McAllister 29 3 118 0

 

Jennings comps, quite naturally, are a little less hopeful, as evidenced by the McAllister and Green seasons being among his closest comps. I’m not sure why Hillis’ age-25 season shows up here, but that stunk too. I guess it’s not quite shocking that Jennings, 29, would have less than favorable comps.

And there’s Davis’ 2003 season — the dream for anyone who snags Gerhart and Jennings well after elite runners are off the draft board.

Below, I’ve included median and high equity scores for Gerhart and Jennings, along with equity scores for runners being drafted right before and after those two.

Player Current ADP Median equity score High equity score
Stevan Ridley RB27 -2 (RB29) 2 (RB25)
Rashad Jennings RB29 12 (RB17) 20 (RB9)
Bishop Sankey RB31 8 (RB23) 16 (RB15)
Toby Gerhart RB32 14 (RB18) 19 (RB13)
Maurice Jones-Drew RB33 -1 (RB34) 4 (RB29)

 

There’s still a lot to learn about what Sankey’s role in Tennessee may or may not be, and if Shonn Greene is indeed cut — as rumors of an unceremonious departure swirl — expect Sankey’s ADP to jump to the RB15-17 range. That would effectively destroy his equity.

Back to Jennings and Gerhart: It’s borderline unconscionable that people are drafting Ridley before these two. Gerhart and Jennings represent obvious arbitrage plays for those who wisely pass on runners like C.J. Spiller, Knowshon Moreno, Trent Richardson, and Ridley.

Invest heavily in top-end runners if you must, but if you’re keen on stacking your squad with a couple top-12 receivers early on, queue up Jennings and Gerhart as must-grabs.

C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.
1 comments
jeffcol777
jeffcol777

One name to keep an eye on messing this whole thing up is David Wilson