How Will Toby Gerhart Fit Into Minnesota's Offense?

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Chester Taylor was an invaluable part of the Minnesota offense in the four years he spent in purple and gold, and it was sad to see him move on, particularly to a team like the Chicago Bears (where he's probably the most talented player on that offense).  The Vikings were expected to draft someone to try to fill Taylor's shoes, but nobody expected the Vikings to select Toby Gerhart.

The running back that should have won the 2009 Heisman Trophy was considered to be a second-round prospect, but few expected the Vikings to select a running back that early, citing their needs at defensive back and along the offensive line as greater priorities.  However, the Vikings made a trade up to get Gerhart, and add a guy who ran for 1,871 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior for the Stanford Cardinal.  Is Gerhart the replacement for Chester Taylor that the Vikings are looking for?

Well, in order to answer that question, we have to take into consideration the sort of running back each player is.  Gerhart is a very powerful runner, similar to our own Adrian Peterson.  At 6'1" and 235 pounds, Gerhart is a load to bring down, and is just shifty enough to occasionally make people miss.  Taylor, on the other hand, is much smaller at 5'11" and 215 pounds.  Taylor obviously doesn't possess Gerhart's power, but he is much quicker and relies more on making people miss.

The other part of Taylor's game that was invaluable to the Vikings was his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.  In each season he was in Minnesota, Taylor averaged 40 receptions a year, and had an uncanny knack for converting third downs on receptions out of the backfield.  Gerhart, on the other hand, had 39 receptions in his entire four-year Stanford career, and has never caught a touchdown pass (though he did average about 14 yards/reception as a senior).  However, I don't think that's really an indicator of Gerhart's ability to catch the football. . .after all, he averaged 5.5 yards a carry in 2009, and simply wasn't called on by coach Jim Harbaugh to catch the ball very often.  The scouting reports on Gerhart say he has good hands, and they'll certainly get put to use in Brad Childress' offense.

Gerhart isn't so much a change of pace from Adrian Peterson as he is a means for the Vikings offense to continue pounding opponents, whether it's to open up the play-action passing game or to preserve a lead at the end of football games.  If the Vikings want a change of pace type of back, they appear to have a great deal of confidence in third-year running back Albert Young, who got a little bit of burn at the end of last year and is much closer to Chester Taylor's skill set than Toby Gerhart is.  But if Adrian Peterson needs a bit of a rest or. . .heaven forbid. . .continues his propensity for putting the football on the ground, the Vikings should be able to plug Gerhart in and not have to change too much of the offense.  Obviously Gerhart doesn't have Peterson's top end speed or shiftiness, but he might be even more powerful. . .definitely not the kind of thing a defense that's spent a significant amount of time chasing Adrian Peterson is going to want to see.

Yes, Chester Taylor might be missed by the Minnesota offense as well as Vikings fans, but I have a feeling that that's going to be a temporary thing at best.  Once Toby Gerhart feels comfortable in the offense and gets an opportunity to really showcase his skills, he has the talent to make people forget ol' #29 in short order.

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