Spotlight: Frank Gore

posted by Jason Wood on Jul 5th


Jason Wood's thoughts

In a season where there are four "consensus" top fantasy RB options, someone has to pick fifth. In the vast majority of leagues, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew are coming off the board before anyone else. But who should a savvy fantasy owner target with the 5th pick? Should they consider another position; an elite passer like Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers? Let's be honest, that feels a little early, no? How about 100+ catches from the likes of Andre Johnson? Or the potential for 15+ TDs from Randy Moss? In a PPR league, or a league that starts 3 WRs? It's reasonable. But what about the 5th best RB?

Enter Frank Gore.

Thinking of Gore as the cornerstone of your 2010 fantasy team might not "feel" right at first blush, but it's really not a stretch.

He was the 5th best fantasy RB last year, in just 14 games. In 2008, what many considered a down year for him, he finished RB14. In the prior two seasons he was the 4th best RB (2006) and the 9th best (2007).

Fantasy football is a game of statistics. I always cringe when people try to disparage a focus on the numbers. FANTASY IS A NUMBERS GAME! We don't win leagues because our players show moxie or heart. We don't get crowned the champs because our players are stable locker room guys. We win leagues because our players put up monster stats aka NUMBERS. And that's something Gore does...and he does it very well.

Since becoming a starter in 2006, Gore ranks 7th among RBs in PPG:

Rank First Last Games RuYds RuTD Recs RecYds RecTD FPTs PPG
1 LaDainian Tomlinson 62 5129 66 188 1563 7 1,121.1 18.1
2 Chris Johnson 31 3234 23 93 763 3 555.7 17.9
3 Adrian Peterson 46 4490 40 83 829 1 777.9 16.9
4 Steven Jackson 55 4997 29 218 1770 5 884.8 16.1
5 Brian Westbrook 52 3760 24 246 2053 15 815.3 15.7
6 Tiki Barber 16 1662 5 58 465 0 242.7 15.2
7 Frank Gore 59 4953 29 209 1700 7 881.3 14.9
8 Maurice Jones-Drew 63 3924 49 201 1782 5 894.6 14.2
9 Clinton Portis 48 3766 28 101 834 1 638.8 13.3
10 Ronnie Brown 45 3174 27 119 1017 1 597.8 13.3

Now that we've established that Frank Gore is an excellent fantasy producer, let's remember that there are reasons to think he's capable of more:

1) OC Jimmy Raye is a better fit than Mike Martz - Mike Martz may be considered an offensive guru by many, but his wide open spread attack was a square peg in a round hole in San Francisco. As a result, Frank Gore struggled in 2008 with his lowest attempts, rushing yards and receiving yards since becoming the 49ers main back. Enter Raye, a seasoned veteran coach of 10 NFL teams, who brought the offense back to basics, and in turn generated improvement. The 49ers have lacked continuity at the offensive coordinator position, and having Raye back for a 2nd year to work on the same playbook is going to provide incremental improvement in every facet of the game.

2) Improving the offensive line was a top offseason priority - The offensive line held together last year but it shouldn't be mistaken for a top unit. In the April draft the 49ers used high picks on OT Anthony Davis and OG Mike Iupati, both maulers who should inject more physicality and athleticism to the front five. That lines primary job will be opening holes for Gore to run for daylight.

3) The passing attack will keep defenses (more) honest - I'm probably a bigger believer in Alex Smith than many, and as a result I think the 49ers will be a more credible passing attack this season. In 11 games last year (thanks in no small part to the emergence of WR Michael Crabtree), Smith averaged 20/34 for 214 yards and 2 TDs passes. Pro rating his 11 games over a full season would've equaled 3,418 yards and 27 TD passes. If my supposition holds true, not only will defenses be less able/willing to key on stopping Gore at the point of attack but it should also mean more extended drives and red zone opportunities for the RB to put some TDs on the board.

4) The 49ers aren't a credible threat to adopt a committee approach - Today's NFL is personified by the running back-by-committee approach. Few RBs are clearly positioned to tote the rock a majority of the time, even if they have the talent to do so. Gore doesn't have that concern. While the 49ers drafted Anthony Dixon as a potential backup, he's pushing Glen Coffee for mop up duty; neither is going to eat into Gore's workload.

5) A favorable late season schedule - By no means should you let a player's schedule overwhelm more important factors like ability and opportunity. But when you're deciding between a group of equally rated prospects, a quick glance at the schedule can help break the tie. In Gore's case, his schedule from Weeks 14-16 looks advantageous to say the least: vs. Seattle (14), @ San Diego (15) and @ St. Louis (16).

Positives

  • Gore is already a Top 5 running back, yet his 2010 situation appears the most advantageous of his career
  • Gore is an elite receiving back, making him all the more valuable in PPR leagues. He's averaged 52 receptions per season as a starter
  • The fantasy scheduling gods are setting him up to help you most when it counts, Weeks 14-16

Negatives

  • Gore misses time, and has severe knee trauma in his history
  • If Alex Smith regresses, the lack of a viable alternative (David Carr and Nate Davis) could derail an otherwise promising offensive outlook
  • The offensive line must improve, and will need two rookies to start and produce immediately

Final thoughts

Frank Gore may be "the next best thing" in 2010. It's crystal clear the there is a consensus Top 4 this season, and fantasy owners are generally hoping against landing the 5th or 6th pick as a result. But if you end up picking in the middle of the first round, don't fret. Consider Frank Gore if you're committed to taking a RB early, because he's been consistently productive, is coming off a Top 5 year, has a better situation in 2010, and has no real competition for carries.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

rzrback77 said:

Frank Gore is a solid prospect this season. He has a 4.8 ypc career rushing average and San Francisco has obviously improved their passing attack and probably their offensive line for this year. Gore has missed a game or two per year and many have tagged him as injury prone. Due to that label, he could slip a little lower than he should in most drafts.

He has the following carry history:

05 - 14 gms 127 carries (9.1 per game) for 608 yds 4.8 ypc 22 targets 15 catches 131 yards 8.7 ypc 3 total TDs
06 - 16 gms 312 carries (19.5 per game) for 1695 yds 5.4 ypc 86 targets 61 catches 485 yards 8.0 ypc 9 total TDs
07 - 15 gms 260 carries (17.3 per game) for 1102 yds 4.2 ypc 69 targets 53 catches 436 yards 8.2 ypc 6 total TDs
08 - 14 gms 240 carries (17.1 per game) for 1036 yds 4.3 ypc 66 targets 43 catches 373 yards 8.7 ypc 8 total TDs
09 - 14 gms 229 carries (16.4 per game) for 1120 yds 4.9 ypc 75 targets 52 catches 406 yards 7.8 ypc 13 total TDs

Even though he doesn't see the typical 20 carry per game that a lot of bell cow RBs do, he is prominently featured in the passing attack and that more than makes up for the fewer carries in ppr leagues. I see similar usage this upcoming season with a little improvement in performance.

Banger said:

What's not to like? He's in his prime, they've addressed the disasterous line and while it may take so time it certainly won't be worse than last year, the talent around is young and should improve (Crabtree/Davis/Morgan), he's an everydown back, the team overall is likely to be pretty good and he's got no threat behind him. He should probably be about the 5th back off the board in nearly every format. I'd probably take CJ, ADP, MJD and then either him or Rice. He's going to be a stud this year.

TS Garp said:

Fantasy owners are drooling over Gore's prospects this season after the way the Niners upgraded their offensive line. I agree that his potential is immense and I expect great things from him. However, despite the fact that he's never missed several games in a season, he's often banged up, and I don't see him playing 16 games again.

Bird said:

Injuries are a concern with Gore but his production is worth the risk. His team will compete for the division title and he will have many scoring chances in that offense. SF leans towards the pass so there won't be a ton of carries to be had but Gore will make up the differnce with his receiving.


Frank Gore projections

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