This fantasy profile looks at a quality running back who has a considerable amount left in the tank, but how much of it will be used?
The 49ers were two horrific special-teams turnovers away from reaching the Super Bowl, putting an unfortunate conclusion to a renaissance of a season. Under former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, the Niners rejuvenated former draft bust Alex Smith and turned him into an efficient quarterback. More importantly, running back Frank Gore had a great year, throwing up 1,211 yard swith 8 rushing touchdowns. He has been San Francisco’s feature back since 2006.
At age 29, Gore has already peaked, leading many to believe that a decline is seemingly on the way. The 49ers have acquired both Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James through free agency and the draft respectively; this leads to a heavy platoon at halfback for San Francisco. Moreover, incumbent backup Kendall Hunter showed great promise towards the end of last season, which makes for a whopping four running backs that can garner significant playing time in San Fran.
However, Gore will probably remain the number-one choice for Harbaugh. Although his receiving numbers have declined steadily through the years, he is a tough runner and is good for 7 to 8 rushing TDs this year. The influx of Jacobs and James will be a threat to Gore’s touches; however, both of the new backs suffered injuries in the Niners’ preseason game against Houston on Saturday. The status of these injuries are yet to be determined, but lost playing time for either of those guys will result in more time for Gore. If he gets over 200 carries, expect something in the neighborhood of 1,000 yards.
There’s no doubt Gore had an impressive 2011 season (his rushing yardage output was the second-highest in his career), but it will be extremely hard to replicate such a campaign. It’s easy to argue that the Niners’ depth at running back will detract from Gore’s touches, but will the rotation of backs keep his legs fresh? Will he slow down now that he is almost 30 years old?
Gore has been ranked in several spots amongst running backs, being spotted from about 15th to 25th in positional rankings. He will invariably be chosen in about the fourth to fifth round; I would exercise caution before drafting him. Running backs who have a bonafide grip on first-string reps should be selected before Gore.
Will you take a chance on Frank Gore? Can he repeat last season’s feats?