Daniel House suggests the Vikings should trade Toby Gerhart while the market is strong. He explains that and more in his latest post.
The Vikings traded up to draft Toby Gerhart in the second round (pick 51) of the 2010 NFL draft. Entering the NFL, Gerhart recorded a breakout 2009 season at Stanford, which resulted in a runner-up finish in the Heisman Trophy voting. At the time, the Vikings needed a viable backup to Adrian Peterson, who had been in the league for just 3 seasons. Vikings fans expected Gerhart to be the 3rd down running back for the future of this team, but Toby has been a slight disappointment.
Statistically, Gerhart hasn't dazzled by any means, but when you are behind one of the greatest running backs in the game, what can you expect? He has only reached the endzone three times in his career and hasn't seen an extensive role with this team. In 2011, he posted his best yardage (531 yards) and replaced Adrian Peterson for the final two games of season.
Last season, Toby transformed his body and from a visual standpoint and added muscle. In practice, he seemed a step quicker and wasn't as tentative in the backfield. Now based upon the eight days of practice I attended, I believe Gerhart is molding into his old style. He seems a step slow and isn't bursting through holes like he was a year ago. He was blown up in the backfield by Larry Dean, for one of the best hits we will see during all of training camp and just hasn't been the same this year. It seems like Toby is the target in training camp each season and is the one player that gets the extra "pop" when the pads are strapped on. I question whether the huge brace on Toby's left knee has something to do with his tentative play, but it definitely perplexes me. His body looks huge and he is ridiculously strong in goal-line situations. So why a drop in performance in play from one year to the next?
I attribute this to the system the Vikings are looking to run this year. Has Toby ever fit into the Vikings plans? Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the league and arguably is the fastest running back in the game. The original intent for Gerhart was in the "change of pace" running back category, but that hasn't fit well with the offensive scheme. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is a coach who likes to tailor his offense to players with superior skill-sets. Gerhart definitely doesn't fall into the speed and agility category, he is a power running back and doesn't fit into a system that stresses team speed.
Gerhart's contract expires at the end of the season and he already has expressed interest to test the market. As discussed, he has recorded low statistics in three seasons, doesn't fit into the team speed category, and is struggling early in training camp.
First of all, is there a market for a power running back like Gerhart?
Yes there is and after training camp injuries and battles begin, teams will start to test the market for players like Toby Gerhart. All of this is dependent on whether the Vikings have any intention of trying to convince him he'll get his shot here. Then again, they value him as the lead carrier if something happens to Peterson. On the other hand, if Gerhart were to walk away at the end of the season, at least the Vikings could receive some compensation in the form of a draft pick or tier two player.
What type of compensation is maximum return for Gerhart?
My firm belief is a 5th or 6th round pick with a 4th rounder being an absolute long-shot. The Vikings are notoriously great at drafting talent and should receive compensation while they can get it. I know many people are worried that there wouldn't be a suitable replacement for Gerhart at this time, but Matt Asiata and rookie Bradley Randle are ready.
Asiata is entering his second season with the Vikings and has caught my eye during the early portions of training camp. It appears he has cut some weight and is running downhill nicely. He has exposure to the system and understands the scheme and interests of the coaching staff. He won't blow you way with his speed, but he has a significant burst in comparison to Gerhart.
Bradley Randle has been one of the player's I have discussed since the moment he was signed as an undrafted rookie. The 5'7" running back has been my guest for several interviews and has the mentality that run blocking is the largest responsibility for a running back. In scrimmages and practice, he has shown his fierce running style, relentless motor, and sheer speed. All attributes that fit into the team speed category I discussed earlier.
Based upon my analysis and attendance of eight daily practice sessions, the Vikings should shop Toby Gerhart in exchange for draft pick compensation or a tier two player. His contract expires at the end of the season and we have the personnel for a roster move to make perfect sense. Take into consideration the best running back in the league is in the position group to mentor young players into elite talent.
Overall, it all makes sense.