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Every year since the 2007 fantasy season, 49ers running back Frank Gore has been a first round pick in fantasy drafts.  I’m not so sure he’s worthy of that status in 2011.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big Frank Gore fan.  Mostly because, more often than not, he’s the reason I can email my opponents on Tuesdays with “In Your Face!” proudly proclaimed in the subject line after he just lead my inappropriately named fantasy team to victory that week.  Gore has been a fantasy stud for years and has put up studly-like numbers for us living the dream vicariously through him, but I think his best fantasy years may be behind him.

Gore suffered a season-ending hip injury in week 12 of the 2010 season.  This injury was the latest in a string of many for him, dating all the way back to his University of Miami days.  He missed his 2002 college season recovering from an off-season knee surgery, and he missed the majority of his 2003 sophomore season after tearing his ACL.  I’m not much of a doctor or a physical therapist or any other medical professional that would require me to be smart and stuff, but if I’m not mistaken, hips and knees are pretty important things to running, cutting, jumping, and bobbing and weaving to fantasy awesomeness.  Gore’s hips and knees aren’t 100%.

Gore has played a full 16-game season in the NFL just once in his career (2006).  Since then he’s missed 10 games in 4 seasons due to injury, and the trend is going in the wrong direction.  He played 15 games in 2007, 14 games in both 2008 and 2009, and 11 games in 2010.  Injuries are impossible to predict and can happen to any player, particularly players that get hit on more than Brooklyn Decker, but I can’t say this trend gives me confidence to invest my first round pick in this guy.

More facts that have me concerned are these – Gore has only had one 300+ carry season in his career (2006).  In no other season has he had more than 260 carries.  Also, Gore has only scored double-digit touchdowns once in his career.  He scored 13 times in 2009.  He has never scored more than 9 times in any other season.  Gore also has a fumbling problem.  He has fumbled 26 times in 6 seasons – an alarming 4.33 times a season, or about once every 3.23 games (the games he missed are calculated in that number).  In fantasy leagues that penalize for turnovers, Gore is going to cost you from time to time.  Boy, I’m really pouring on the hate, aren’t I?  He’s missed enough time already.  The last thing we need is him missing time with hurt feelings.

Okay, so there’s a lot to love about Frank Gore, too.  For instance, there aren’t many better pass catching running backs in the league.  Since 2006, Gore has never finished a season with less than 43 catches, even in the seasons he missed some games.  Over his career, Gore has averaged 3.64 receptions a game (excluding his 2005 rookie season in which he didn’t start), and has averaged 8.5 yards per reception.  He has recorded over 1,400 total yards every year since 2006, with the exception of last season when he only played 11 games (1,305 total yards).  He also boasts a tremendous 4.7 yards per carry average over his career.  These stats prove he’s a productive player when he’s on the field, which is why he keeps his fantasy stock relatively high year after year.  I’m not saying the dude can’t play.

Sorry Frank, I have more bad news.  There’s this whole “new system” thing.  The 49ers canned Mike Singletary and brought in former Stanford head coach, Jim Harbaugh.  The good news is Jim Harbaugh, and his Stanford assistant Greg Roman whom he brought with him to San Francisco, like to run the football.  Under Harbaugh and Roman in 2010, the Stanford offense ran the ball 535 times and threw it 379 times.  To simplify, that’s a running play 58% of the time.  The bad news is Jim Harbaugh has never been an NFL head coach, Greg Roman has never been an offensive coordinator at any level, and they bring a new offense the entire team needs to learn.  Frank Gore scored a 6 on the Wonderlic test.  The Wonderlic test is scored out of 50.  Make of that what you will.  I’m just saying.

To me, the cons outweigh the pros with Frank Gore.  Gore is a second round fantasy pick in my estimation.  Yes he has more value in PPR leagues, but I still wouldn’t take him in the first round.  I view Gore as one of the best RB2 fantasy backs in the league.  I need my RB1 to be more reliable, more durable, and have a higher ceiling.  Gore will be 28 when the season starts and if I own Frank Gore in a dynasty league, I’m looking to trade him.  He still has another solid season or two left in him, but if I can trade him now while his value is high, I’m going to do it.  I’d rather trade him a year too early than a year too late.

You can follow me on that Twitter dealywhacker if you’re into that sort of thing.

  1. Kind of funny, bt I too am having a hard time putting Gore in the first round of most any draft for 2011. His continued problem with injury is concerning. When healthy he produces, but you know you are getting a guy who won’t go for a full 16 when you draft him. I also was a big Gore fan when he was a rookie and took a lot of flak for it and it pains me to now have to say I don’t trust him enough for the first round anymore.

    Currently I have Gore as the 10th overall RB. I put him in RB tier group 3 along with Steven Jackson, Darren McFadden, Matt Forte, LaGarrette Blount, and Maurice Jones-Drew.

  2. Clint

    Clint says:
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    @Russ Bliss I currently have Gore ranked 12th among RBs. If I’m going to take a risk on a player with injury history, I’m going to go with a guy like Darren McFadden who has much more upside than a guy like Gore.

  3. Albert says:
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    I live in the bay area and am also a bit of a Gore hater. First off, the 49ers offense has been terrible in his time there, limiting his TDs. It’s not quite Steven Jackson bad but not much better. Then, there are the injuries, which you’ve discussed at length. I think I heard a stat that as of mid season (before the hip injury, forget which week), Gore had played something like 99.5% of all snaps. I mean, they were working the guy to death. Not sure if Harbaugh will continue the same trend.

    I agree that he’s more of an RB2 but think someone will take him as an RB1. To those people, I say have fun with that. Like Clint, I think someone like Run DMC is perfect to take ahead of Gore.

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