In The Spotlight: Is Frank Gore Done?

On May 14th, San Francisco 49ers Running Back Frank Gore turned 30, and whilst most people may not enjoy the big three-oh, for an NFL running back it carries an even heavier burden. 28 is often the age when running back’s production begins to go south, giving way to younger legs – so by the time you hit 30, there are few left who believe you’ve got the motor anymore. In San Francisco there are a whole host of young RBs who have been itching to get their teeth into Frank’s carries, but today I’m here to quash rumours of Gore’s demise with 4 simple points.

What’s Left In ‘The Tank’ ? Frank Gore rushing for hard yards against one of the meanest Defences in 2012, on his way to over 180 total yards from scrimmage in week 7. Photo: Sean Culligan, SFC

1. Gore has barely ever been a top 5 RB:


Here’s a look at Gore fantasy stats since his 2005 rookie year:

YEAR Games Played Total Points Pts Per Game RB Rank Rush Att. Rush Yards Rush TD Yards p/Rush
2005 14 92 6.00 #41 128 613 3 4.8
2006 16 272 17.00 #4 312 1695 8 5.4
2007 15 190 12.65 #9 260 1102 5 4.2
2008 14 189 13.49 #14 240 1036 6 4.3
2009 14 231 16.47 #5 229 1120 10 4.9
2010 11 161 14.59 #20 203 854 3 4.2
2011 16 181 11.28 #12 282 1211 8 4.3
2012 16 199 12.43 #11 258 1214 8 4.7


If you look at Gore’s ‘RB Rank’ since he came into the league, he exploded in his first year as the 49ers bellcow and raced upto 4th, he replicated that top 5 status in 2009 after missing two games, but aside from that, in  7 full seasons of football Gore has made a name as a top 10 RB when healthy, but he isn’t in the same grouping as Peterson, Foster, Jones-Drew and Rice for example, who consistently get in the top 5 or 6 each year. Gore should not be treated as one of these calibre of backs – and if you do treat him that way you’d say he’s been declining rapidly since his blowout 2006 campaign.


If you’re expecting Gore to be a top 5 RB for the next two years you’re a fool, but it’s reasonable to suggest he’ll remain in the top 10-15 category for a season or two more at least, based on his stats.


2. The important statistics are consistent


Also, the important stats such as yards per rush and rushing attempts have stayed fairly consistent since ’07, and extrapolating his rush attempts per game would probably give a more conclusive figure: 2007 – 17.3, 2008 – 17.1, 2009 – 16.3, 2010 – 18.5, 2011 – 17.6 2012 – 16.1). As you can see it’s a very consistent workload that Gore is trusted with, and new head coaches have not altered this much throughout the past 6 years of service. I would say the 1.5 carries per game in 2012 was due to Harbaugh giving Gore time to rest at the end of the games they we’re comfortable in – it’s not because he doesn’t trust Gore to carry the load.


3. He has no strong challenger sitting behind him


Don’t get me wrong, the 49ers have a great Running Back group, but whilst Kendall Hunter has proves he can be a successful change-of-pace back, and LaMichael James had an exciting end to his rookie year, neither of these backs are going to challenge Gore to be the new top dog in the 49ers backfield. The only real RB that may do that is rookie Marcus Lattimore, who will likely miss the entire 2013 season after his college injury. I’d be happy to say Gore will surpass 250 carries this year if he stays healthy – a figure that is become rarer in the modern day Running Back By Committee (RBBC) system that many teams have adopted lately.


4. Jim Harbaugh has utilised Gore a lot, despite his advancing years


I don’t know if 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh plays fantasy football (and if he does, I wouldn’t like to see his face after drafting Tom Brady first overall in 2008…), but if he does he certainly hasn’t read the ‘Age of Decline’ theory that Pro Football Focus writer Austin Lee (@AustinNFL) has put forward. Gore’s last two season saw him carry the ball a heck of a lot, even with young rookies chomping at the bit to take carries off him. If you take away his monster 2006 year, Gore has only carried the ball over 250 times in a year on three occasions, with two of them coming in the last two years (okay, he played 16 games in the last two years only, but his carries per game is still among the highest in the league. Harbaugh is not ready to relinquish Gore as his lead back just yet, and as such his fantasy value should be maintained.





Gore is not a top 5 running back, and he’s probably only borderline top 10 this year, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on him. I’ve seen Gore ranked around the 17/18 mark pretty consistently around the web, but in drafts I think he’ll fall lower dues to his advancing age, along with the likes of Steven Jackson and Michael Turner (If he can find himself a starting job by then). Gore is not in rapid decline in my eyes, and whilst I wouldn’t take him high in dynasty leagues, he still has plenty to offer as a top end RB2 in 10 or 12 team redraft leagues. His biggest asset is his consistency and his status as a true bell-cow in a league full of RBBC makes him valuable. As long as Harbaugh is trusting Frank, you can depend on him to get you 10-14 points per game on average… Not something to turn up your nose at considering the likes of LeSean McCoy (11.9) Demarco Murray (10.9), Darren McFadden (9.2) and Ryan Mathews (8.1) have struggled to achieve that baseline in last year (and all of these guys may well sit above him in most fantasy RB rankings).


All in all, I’d put Gore at around the #12 rank on my RB board, just ahead of the likes of Stevan Ridley and DeMarco Murray, I’m not giving up on Frank the Tank just yet…


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