… Frank Gore will be a top 5 Running Back

Let’s have some crazy fun with a running back this time. The insane statement of this article is Frank Gore will finish this year as a top 5 running back. I know the first thing you’re thinking, he’s already over 30. I know and 99.9% of the time I totally agree but Gore is a different kind of back. What makes him so special? Let’s dive right into why I think Frank Gore is going to light up the fantasy football world in a way we haven’t seen from him yet in his 10-year career.

MODEL OF CONSISTENCY

Any fantasy football expert will tell you that the key to having a great fantasy team year in and year out, whether it be a redraft, IDP, or dynasty league is consistency! It’s great to have players who can go off and score 32 points one week for you, but if they score 32 one week and then 4 the next that’s no good. You want players who are going to stay as consistent as possible because while 14 points per contest may not be sexy, the more I can count on my player or team scoring ‘X’ amount of points each week on a regular basis the more confident I feel before every match up no matter who my opponent may have in their line up. In today’s fantasy football world, Frank Gore may be the most consistent running back there is.

Gore has played 10 NFL seasons, and has hit 1000+ rush yards in 8 of those 10. How rare is that feat? Only 11 other running backs in NFL history have had at least 8 seasons with 1000 or more rushing yards: Emmitt Smith (11), Walter Payton (10), Barry Sanders (10), Curtis Martin (10), Franco Harris (8), Tony Dorsett (8), Eric Dickerson (8), Thurman Thomas (8), Jerome Bettis (8), LaDainian Tomlinson (8), and Steven Jackson (8). That’s extremely great company for Gore to be in. 9 of the 11 previously mentioned named backs are current Hall of Famers with LT a shoe-in as well, and Gore will likely join them in Canton at the end of his career.

While Gore has never been the NFL rushing champion, he has never had fewer than 600 rushing yards in a season. That career low came in his rookie season way back in 2005 when Gore had just 1 start all year behind Kevan Barlow. The only other season he missed hitting 1000 yards was back in 2010 when he was at 853 yards before he broke his hip in week 11. Had he continued on the pace he was on, Gore would have hit 1000 yards in week 13 and that would have given him 9 consecutive years with 1000+ rush yards, which would have made him just the 4th player in NFL history to have 9 or more consecutive 1000 yard rush seasons (Smith, Sanders, Martin). In the 8 years that Gore did hit over 1000 yards on the ground he had over 1100 in 7 of 8, and hit a career high of 1695 in 2006. He’s averaged 1201 yards and 8TDs on just 264 carries in those 8 seasons.

ALL YOU NEED IS LUCK, LUCK … LUCK IS ALL YOU NEED

The other day Gore came out and called Andrew Luck a “football god,” and from what Gore has worked with in the past he isn’t wrong. Gore has been working with guys at quarterback like Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, and Colin Kaepernick over the course of his career. None of those names mentioned have ever struck fear in the heart of a defense, hell they may not scare a 4-year old if they popped out of the closet in the middle of the night. The point is even being 32-years old Frank Gore is about to play with the best quarterback he has ever lined up behind and a guy in Andrew Luck that could finish his career as one of the best ever at the position.

Luck has thrown for at least 3800 yards and 23TDs each of his 3 NFL seasons, including a league-high 40 touchdowns last year. Luck has also gained at least 250 yards on the ground and found the end zone with his legs 3 times or more each season.

In Gore’s 10 years in San Francisco a QB has surpassed 3000 yards just 3 times; Kaepernick in 2014 & 2013, and Alex Smith in 2011, although none of those three seasons did we see a 49ers QB go for better than 3369 yards (Kaep in 2014). Also just once in Gore’s decade-long stint in California did one of those QBs pass for better than 20 scores, Kaep in 2013 with 21. So not one quarterback in 10 years could out produce Andrew Luck as a rookie!

With pretty bad QB play let’s breakdown how Gore finished in the fantasy world compared to his quarterback each year in San Fran:

GORE vs QB (STANDARD SCORING)

YR GORE FANTASY POINTS GORE FANTASY FINISH 49ERS QB FANTASY POINTS 49ERS QB FANTASY FINISH
05 92 37th 58* 43rd
06 272 4th 236 17th
07 189 9th 88* 37th
08 188 14th 177* 27th
09 230 5th 194 24th
10 160 20th 180* 27th
11 180 13th 255 18th
12 198 11th 202 27th
13 180 13th 320 12th
14 151 16th 314 16th

*Multiple QBs played that season, none 10 or more game. Numbers are of top producing QB.

Gore has been an RB1 in 4 seasons out of 10, and finished outside the top 16 backs just twice. Those two years were when he was a rookie in 2005 and got just 1 start, and 2010 when he missed virtually 6 games. On the flip side only once, yes just ONCE did Gore have a QB finish as a QB1. That was Colin Kaepernick in 2013 when he barely cracked QB1 status by finishing as the 12th best quarterback just 1 point ahead of Tony Romo and Tom Brady. Not only were the quarterbacks basically invisible for Gore during a majority of his 49ers career, the evidence goes to show that even when they played well the SF QBs rarely hit QB2 level. The only way Andrew Luck fails to be a top 2 quarterback in the 2015 fantasy world is if he brakes a femur.

DON’T PASS ON GORE

Gore has always just been a bruising back who runs north and south, hits the hole hard, and runs people over right? In the words of Jim Carrey as the Grinch …. “Wrong-o!” Prior to Greg Roman taking over as offensive coordinator, Gore was used very frequently in the passing game. How much was he used and how productive was he? See for yourself:

GORE PASSING GAME PRE & POST GREG ROMAN (OC)

YEAR TARGETS RECEPTIONS YARDS TDS
2005 22 15 131 0
2006 86 61 485 1
2007 69 53 436 1
2008 66 43 373 2
2009 75 52 406 3
2010 72 46 452 2
2011 31 17 114 0
2012 36 28 234 1
2013 26 16 141 0
2014 19 11 111 1

*RED text are years BEFORE Greg Roman became OC*

Taking away his rookie season in 2005, Gore averaged 74 targets per year while catching 69%, or 51 passes per year. He surpassed 400 receiving yards in 4 of those 5 season and had at least 1 score in all 5 with multiple trips to pay dirt in 3 straight years (08-10). Once Roman came in as the OC, Gore was not given the opportunities in the passing game we saw prior to Roman’s arrival. From 2011-2014 Gore saw no more than 36 looks, averaging just 28 targets per year. He caught more than 20 passes just once in 4 seasons with Roman running the offense, and hit over 150 yards just once as well. He failed to score in 2 of those 4 years and had 1TD in the two years he did find the end zone. Since Pep Hamilton became the Colts OC in 2013, running back as a unit average 100 targets per season. Gore will a majority of the workload which means he could realistically see in the realm of 65-75 targets this year. Plus with speedsters like TY Hilton, Phillip Dorsett, and a guy in Andre Johnson who will keep defenses honest I wouldn’t be shocked to see Gore post career highs in receiving yards and scores in 2015.

CONCLUSION

Right now Frank Gore has an ADP of mid 3rd round, and if he drops to me round 3 I’m taking him faster than Jared took kids from the Subway parking lot. Not only will Gore play with the best quarterback of his career, on the best offense of his career, with likely the most opportunity in the passing game of his career, he also has one of the softest Strength of Schedules for running backs heading into 2015. He and Indy backs have the 6th easiest S.o.S with 7 match ups against teams that finished in the bottom 10 in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing backs. 7 easy match ups versus just 3 difficult games (teams in top 10 vs RBs in terms of fantasy points) which all end by week 9. Gore’s fantasy playoff schedule feature 1 easy match up and 2 neutral ones. The last 3 years the top 5 running backs at the end of the season averaged 267 fantasy points. If Gore hits 267 that would be his 2nd best total of his career but I expect him to do that. I expect him to be a top 5 running back come the close of 2015. I expect him to post the best numbers by a RB over 30 ever in fantasy football. And when it’s all said and done I expect him and Luck to make one of the most formidable QB-RB teams in the NFL this year. If you grab two stud WRs or a WR and Gronk with your first 2 picks in fantasy football this year, then Gore MUST be on your radar round 3. It may sound crazy, but trust me, Gore will kill it in the fantasy world in 2015.

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