Toby Gerhart, RB - Stanford
Weight: 231 pounds
40 time: 4.50
The 2009 Doak Walker Award winner as the best running back in college football and the 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up in the closest race in history, Toby Gerhart burst onto the national scene as a senior, leading the country in rushing with 1,871 yard and 28 touchdowns on 343 carries.
A two-year starter for the Cardinal, Gerhart carried the ball 671 times for 3,522 yards and 44 touchdowns over the course of his career at Stanford. He finished his career with a touchdown run in 18 of his last 20 games.
A large running back with tremendous size, bulk, and strength, Gerhart is a down-hill, north/south runner whose momentum carries him through each of his runs. He possesses very good vision with ability to see the field well and adjust as a ball carrier when needed. Toby is a patient runner who does a great job of waiting for his blocks to develop before following them through the hole. He’s at his best when he is given the ball on a stretch to the outside, when he can get his momentum going, can allow for his blocks to develop, and when he has a full view of the defenders down the field.
Gerhart excels at playing in an I-formation where he can follow a lead blocker through the hole as well as where he can use his power and strength to his advantage between the tackles. I love the way that he keeps his legs driving and will just plow through defenders without losing any momentum. He’s also shown that he’s capable of being a reliable receiver out of the backfield, having caught 39 passes for 395 yards during his career at Stanford. I also believe that he’s good enough of a blocker in the passing game to have potential as a third-down back as well.
Toby has good, but not great lateral agility, and while he’s shown that he has some quickness and elusiveness in the open field, this is not what he’s going to be known for at the next level. Gerhart’s lack of elite speed and agility is going to be his biggest weakness at the next level. He was able to be a homerun threat at times for the Cardinal in college, however with the defenders in the NFL getting faster every year, you have to wonder if he’ll have the breakaway ability that he had in college. There’s also a question that several scouts have regarding his commitment to the game of football; Gerhart was also a very successful baseball player in both high school as well as at Stanford where he was a two-sport athlete. However, after going undrafted in this past year’s MLB Draft, I think that it’s safe to assume that he’s full steam ahead on playing in the NFL.
Toby tore his left PCL during the 2007 season, so this is something that teams will want to look into. With how many carries he took in college, especially during his senior year, Gerhart’s long-term future as a running back may not be as bright as other running backs in this year’s draft; however almost no other back this year has been as productive as he has been too. I project that Gerhart will be drafted in the third-to-fourth round, however because of his hype and great national exposure, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team take him in the second round.
Toby is a player that I like but I don’t love. He offers versatility at the next level in that, he has some starting potential, he can be a great short-yard/goal-line back, and he can also be a third-down back for the team that drafts him. As a starter, I think that he could develop into a solid, serviceable starting running back but also one with a questionable long-term future because of the number of carries he’s already accumulated. At the least, he could be a reliable goal-line back and short-yard specialist, as that’s where he’s best at; his 44 career touchdowns in college would attribute to that. Also, with the ability to block and catch the ball out of the backfield, being a third-down back isn’t out of the question either.
Notes: In 2009, Gerhart was a consensus first-team All-American and was the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year; as a junior he was named second-team All-Pac 10. In high school, Gerhart set the California state record (third-best in the country) for most rushing yards in a career with 9,662 yards; he rushed for 3,233 yards and 39 touchdowns as a senior. Coming out of high school, he was rated as the No. 44 player in the state of California and the No. 7 fullback in the country. He was also considered one of the Top 50 best high school baseball prospects in the country by Rivals.com. In addition to playing both football and baseball, he also lettered three times in basketball as a prep.
There are questions about how Gerhart’s college success will translate to the next level, and not just because no white NFL back has rushed for 1,000 yards since current ESPN analyst Craig James went for 1,227 back in 1985. The common view is that Gerhart will move to fullback, and he certainly has the size to be productive in that role a la Baltimore’s Le’Ron McClain; further, Gerhart’s abilities as a receiver make him an ideal West Coast offense fullback. And that’s where the comparisons to Mike Alstott begin. However, Gerhart’s strong 40 time at the Combine might be enough to give him at least an opportunity as a legitimate feature back in the NFL.
One thing seems certain: Gerhart is no Tommy Vardell, another Stanford alum who was the last white running back taken in the first round (ninth overall by Cleveland in 1992). Vardell was more of a fullback, one whose 21 career scores in eight NFL seasons hardly warranted the nickname “Touchdown Tommy”. While given Vardell’s numbers it may be faint praise, there’s much more upside to Gerhart’s pro future. Worst-case he gets pigeon-holed as a short-yardage guy, ending up as a faster Alstott who may be just a bit more of a threat as a receiver and in the open field. Best-case, at least for those spending a dynasty league pick on him, Gerhart busts stereotypes and reprises at least a portion of his gaudy Stanford numbers as a legitimate NFL tailback.