Toby Gerhart (cont.)
It's not real tricky to figure out the teams most intrigued by Gerhart's skill set. He has visited running back-needy San Diego, as well as Philadelphia and Baltimore in recent days, and conducted private workouts for Denver and the New York Jets. I think New England has him on its radar screen too, maybe if only to allow Belichick to finally get past that Vardell pick of 18 years ago. Former Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi said recently that Gerhart is Belichick's type of player.
"He's a guy that runs hard,'' Bruschi said. "The way Bill likes to see running backs run is 'Get yardage. Just get what you can get and then get out. So run straight up the field.' This is what this kid is. You see him running through guys, straight up the field, north-south. Get the yards. Stop dancing and then here we go: Second-and-2, second-and-1. That's what everybody wants.''
My hunch is the Broncos and Chargers are higher on Gerhart than anyone, and are hoping he's there for them in the second round -- especially Denver, which now owns an extra second-rounder (43rd overall) thanks to Wednesday's Brandon Marshall trade. How cool would it be if the Broncos were to take a player who wore No. 7 at Stanford, just like an ex-Denver quarterback named John Elway?
Gerhart has stated a preference for where he plays, and it's anywhere that gives him the ball in lead-back formations. He's not ruling out that he might pull some fullback duty, but he's intent on proving that the label of plowhorse-type back doesn't remotely fit.
"I see myself as a running back at the next level,'' Gerhart said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. "If (fullback) is asked of me I'll do it. The team's above all else. But I firmly believe I have the skill set to play running back at the next level.''
Ever since the breakthrough success of black quarterbacks in the NFL, we like to think the league has come a long way on the whole matter of racial stereotypes. Then along comes a player like Gerhart, and makes us reconsider the issue from a different perspective.
"I was talking to (ex-NFL safety and fellow Stanford man) John Lynch and kind of joking around, because he was kind of in the same situation as a safety,'' Gerhart said in Indianapolis. "I've been compared with the other white guys that have played my position. I get compared to (John) Riggins, (Mike) Alstott, and stuff like that. But I'm color blind. I'm a running back. I compare my running style to the likes of Eddie George or Corey Dillon, those types of guys.''
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh actually doesn't buy Mayock's comparison of Gerhart to Ravens running back Le'Ron McClain, a swing player who has excelled at both fullback and lead back at times in Baltimore. Harbaugh said you can't peg Gerhart's multi-faceted game to that limited of a scope.
"There's not a better pure running back than Gerhart in this draft,'' said Harbaugh, whose younger brother, Jim Harbaugh, was Gerhart's coach at Stanford the past three years. "He's way faster than Le'Ron. Le'Ron's 270 pounds and is truly a fourth-quarter type back, a downhill runner. This guy is much more of a runner. He's a big powerful back, but he can move well. And he can slip tackles and is more elusive than people think. He's hard as hell to tackle, and that's the bottom line.''
Gerhart's running style is more upright than most NFL scouts prefer, but he gets high marks for running with good, low pad level, and as he acknowledges himself, he's going to have to learn to avoid some contact in the NFL without abandoning his physical style of running.
"This is a kid in college who proved he can dominate and take over a game by himself,'' John Harbaugh said. "That's pretty impressive. Any scout worth his salt can see through the stereotypes and all the negative stuff you hear. Woody Hayes always said you evaluate a back by how many tackles he makes people miss, and how many guys he runs over. That what Gerhart does. Watch him. This guy leaves a lot of guys in his wake.
"And they didn't throw it to him much at Stanford, but Jim swears he's got great hands, and is just a beast in pass protection. This is a guy who can be on the field all three downs for you. He won't have to ever come off the field.''
On whose field will Gerhart be playing this fall, and in what role? A starring one, or merely a complementary capacity? Next week's NFL draft should at least start to answer the intriguing questions that surround Gerhart.
NFL Truth & Rumors