Toby Gerhart-Michael Turner comparison not ludicrous

Toby Gerhart went from Vikings backup to Jaguars starter. (USATSI)
Toby Gerhart went from Vikings backup to Jaguars starter. (USATSI)

New Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart compared his situation to that of Michael Turner, when Turner signed with the Falcons in 2008.

"[Turner] was behind [LaDainian Tomlinson] for so many years and got his chance to come out and show the world what he can do," Gerhart said. "That's kind of how I see it. I've shown what I can do in a limited capacity, but now it's a chance for me to shine."

Gerhart's comment seems presumptuous. Turner averaged 12 touchdowns and over 1,200 rushing yards from 2008-2012, making two Pro Bowls and helping countless owners win Fantasy titles. But the similarities are striking.

1. Turner spent four years backing up future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson. Gerhart spent four years backing up future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson. Turner got 228 carries (57 per season) as a Chargers backup. Gerhart got 276 carries (69 per season) as a Vikings backup. Turner gained 1,257 yards as a backup, averaging 5.5 per carry. Gerhart gained 1,305 yards, averaging 4.7 per tote.

While Turner's rushing numbers were more impressive, Gerhart has the receiving edge. Gerhart caught 77 passes for 600 yards and three scores in four seasons. Turner hauled in 11 passes for 71 yards and no touchdowns. 

2. Turner signed with a 4-12 team rebuilding with a rookie head coach (Mike Smith) and a rookie quarterback (Matt Ryan) drafted No. 3 overall. Gerhart signed with a 4-12 team rebuilding with a second-year head coach (Gus Bradley) and a rookie quarterback (Blake Bortles) drafted No. 3 overall.

3. Jacksonville GM Dave Caldwell worked in the Falcons' front office when they signed Turner to be their offensive centerpiece in 2008.

4. The Falcons ran the ball 54.2 percent of the time in 2008, second-highest rate in the NFL. Bradley came from the Seahawks and wants to implement their run-first, defense-oriented system. The Seahawks ran the ball an NFL-high 52.7 percent of the time last year.

5. Gerhart isn't going to get 377 carries like Turner did in 2008. But their running styles are similar. Gerhart is "an absolute bulldozer," according to Dave Richard in his Free Agency Fallout piece. "He was among the strongest, most physical runners in the NFL, able to plow through tackles and finish runs while also flashing good hands."

Bradley says 18 carries per game are feasible for Gerhart. That's 288 for the season, plus he could catch 40 balls. Jacksonville revamped its offensive line, signing free agent guard Zane Beadles and drafting a guard and center.

"When you watch plays he was involved in, he averaged 4.7 yards per carry," Caldwell said of Gerhart. "I scouted him a lot coming out of college and had a really good understanding of him. I think he can be a really good fit for us on first and second down, in pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield."

Caldwell called Gerhart "a gifted athlete" who's smart, tough and intelligent. "You talk to anybody wherever he’s been," Caldwell said. "He handles his business and raises the level of expectations of everybody around him."

6. In 2008, Turner's average draft position was 43, or mid-4th round. Gerhart is going mid-5th in early Fantasy drafts and his ADP is rising. Richard and Jamey Eisenberg both rank Gerhart 24th among RBs, with Richard projecting over 1,200 total yards and seven touchdowns.

Gerhart isn't going to duplicate Turner's monster 2008 season, when he ran for 17 touchdowns and finished second among RBs with 261 Fantasy points. But he could come closer than most think.

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