Frank Gore

Adam Levitan of Rotoworld calls Frank Gore the top “running back to avoid,” but is he?

Week one of the NFL’s regular season begins in just over two months. That’s exciting news for me, because as much as I love baseball, it’s football that really gets my juices flowing. Every Saturday night is like Christmas Eve – I put on my 49ers pajamas and leave some milk and cookies out for Harbaugh, waking up the next morning only to find that my roommates have eaten them. But who cares, it’s NFL Sunday!

I digress. Along with the excitement of watching your favorite NFL team play comes all the pleasantries. The office pools, the casual-to-absurdly-frivolous gambling and of course, fantasy football.

We all love fantasy football, right?

It’s penny-ante gambling, but it’s one of the most popular aspects of the sport today. I like to have a couple 49ers on my team, and since I’m not going to take Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers, that 49er has always come in the form of either Vernon Davis or Frank Gore.

You know what you’re going to get with Vernon. He’ll get you a good chunk of yardage points weekly, along with a couple of ownage games; 120 yards, 2 TDs, you get the idea. He’s one of the top tight ends in the league, so when it comes to that position, you could certainly do worse.

But what about Frank?

Gore has stayed a reliable choice at running back for the entirety of his career, especially if you’re in a two back fantasy league. Roll the clock back to 2006 and you’d knock it out of the park. But it’s 2012 and Frank isn’t getting any younger. I was wondering about Frank’s projected fantasy value this year, and the general consensus is to stay far, far away from him.

Take this article from Adam Levitan of Rotoworld. He placed Frank Gore on top of the list of running backs to avoid in the 2012 fantasy draft. Let’s take a look at what he said:

“Over the final eight games of last season, Gore averaged 15.3 carries for just 53.6 yards with three touchdowns. That might not scare you, but it certainly scared the 49ers.”

Okay, so he got a bit worn down at the end of the season. He had an unbelievable October, so he might be a guy to take for his early season success with a back-up option waiting in the wings.

“They were focused on getting Gore help in the offseason, using a second-round pick on Oregon speedster LaMichael James and taking a flier on Brandon Jacobs in free agency. They already had some talent behind Gore in the form of Kendall Hunter. That’s a crowded backfield.”

I have trouble subscribing to the idea that the 49ers will stop running Frank into the ground, try as I might. Every year the 49ers have found help for Gore, whether it’s Brian Westbrook, Anthony Dixon, Kendall Hunter or Brandon Jacobs. Regardless of who is behind Frank on the depth chart, he’ll get his 20 carries a game (barring injury). I know that Gore is getting old, but when it comes to another running back taking his starting role, I’ll believe it when I see it.

“But competition for snaps isn’t Gore’s only issue. Due in large part to a philosophy change in the 49ers’ offense, he’s no longer a factor in the passing game. After averaging 3.64 catches per game between 2006 and 2010, Gore caught just 1.06 passes per game last year. The Niners are extremely conservative now, meaning he’s exclusively a blocker in the passing game.

Here’s another one of those “I’ll believe it when I see it” theories. Sure, the 49ers loaded up on weapons. With Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and AJ Jenkins to complement Michael Crabtree, Alex Smith certainly has some more trustworthy receivers to throw to. But even with Andrew Luck putting up incredible numbers at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh stayed with a run-first approach. I get the feeling that Greg Roman and Harbaugh will squeeze whatever juice Gore has left in the run and pass game.

“And finally, we have age/workload concerns. Gore turned 29 in May and has averaged 299.6 touches per season over the last six years. He’s reached the peak of his career arc. “

Here’s the point that I really can’t argue with. It’s become clear – especially on runs that Gore would normally take to the house – that he’s lost a little more than a step in the last year or so. Considering the fact that Frank has averaged just over 16.5 carries/per game over the course of his career, he’s taken quite a beating. There won’t be any magic elixir that gives Frank Gore his youth back. Another year in the league will probably make Gore slower and more injury prone.

Perhaps Levitan is right – maybe Frank simply can’t be the 49ers “bell cow” any longer, and that’s why the 49ers got him some help. But would I consider him the top running back in the league to avoid?  Fantasy draft “experts” said the same thing about Gore last year – his 1,211 yard 8 TD season proved them wrong. If you’re a 49ers fan, you have to hope he can do it again this year.

7 Comments
7 comments
Shawn Frazier
Shawn Frazier

Please don't blindly love Gore. The days are done that he is the bellcow. Most importantly, the Niners added 2 or 3 (Rock Cartwright as well) RBs to the group and haven't subtracted any as of yet. I see Anthony Dixon having a very hard time making the team. However, Gore has a ton of competition in James, Hunter, Jacobs etc. I cannot see Gore getting his career avg touches of 16.5 much less the regular 20 touches you expect. I find it interesting you upped his touches over his avg. There is no way the Niners let the other RBs sit and waste their talent. The other thing to consider is that Gore signed a 3 year extension prior to last year. I would love him to be available for the duration of his contract. We will never know if that is possible, but by going to RB by committee, we give Gore the best chance to be around in 2013 and beyond. Hopefully the Niners figure out how to open the holes so that each of these backs can have some success. They all do things a bit different from each other. Having Gore and James or Jacobs and Gore, or Jacobs and Hunter or some other 2 back combination could be something we see often this year. I would expect that to work very well. Remember also that Gore is the only Niners back we have seen reliably pass block. Maybe Jacobs can too in our system. Gore as a pass blocker is one of the reasons he didn't catch many passes last year. Another reason is he dropped quite a bunch thrown his way. I love Gore. The problem is that 29-30 is the end of life for most RBs. I will not blindly love Gore. Apparently the Niners do not either, considering recent additions who will get touches as well. He is at the top of the do not draft list because he has been a top performer for his career that will not continue to out perform.

formerKNBRemployee
formerKNBRemployee

I don't think he's a back you "stay away" from because of health, although he is getting towards the twilight of his career. I think it's more because you also have Jacobs (who is likely to vulture a lot of goal line TDs) and also Hunter and James who will work as change of pace backs. Gore isn't going to get 90% of the running plays like Jackson is STL, so yes, I'd say you'd want to avoid Gore as a fantasy runningback- but I think he will have a good year where it really counts.

Fitz's Future Unemployment Check
Fitz's Future Unemployment Check

He was very hit and miss last year. I think Harbaugh rode him hard because he knew Gore could handle the load. This season I think best usage of him would be to reduce the carries and keep him fresher. Use the stable of backs instead of making one guy do all the work.

3rdKing
3rdKing

Gore will run through everything and anything. I thought he was playing hurt and slow last year and we went to the NFC Championship. This guy has a few more pro bowl years left, especially with progression from #11 and Mr. James coming to town. NOBODY!

Butcherboy415
Butcherboy415

Gore is awesome regardless of tread on the tires. I am ultra biased tho and just love him. I do hope we see tons of lamichael and Kendall to save frank for the playoffs and get a earth wind fire thing going with all our backs. Great work ruthless....

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