Frank Gore has been one of the most consistent fantasy football running backs in the game for the past 8 seasons. Since getting regular playing time in 2006, he hasn’t had a season with fewer than 249 touches, and has easily surpassed 1000 total yards each year. At 31 years old, however, Gore appears to be entering the twilight of his career. He compiled just 1,269 total yards last year, his lowest number since his 2005 rookie season. However, that yardage is still impressive, and his 9 rushing TDs were the second most of his career.
Gore is still a featured piece in the 49ers offense, but he’s giving up carries to Colin Kaepernick (92 carries) and Kendall Hunter (78 carries). As he ages, that trend is likely to continue. The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to move on, as is evident by last year’s 4th round pick of Marcus Lattimore and this year’s 2nd round selection of Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde.
Gore’s fantasy football draft stock has fallen considerably. He’s now being drafted in the late 4th rounds on average. This new draft slot seems appropriate, as his production and playing time will likely continue to decline. Lattimore is still a gigantic question mark, and shouldn’t threaten Gore’s playing time. Hyde, however, is going to see the field. He’s a big powerful runner that should be a good change of speed from Gore. While Gore can use his speed and agility to burst through a hole, Hyde can use his body to create his own hole.
While Gore is likely to lose carries to Hyde, Gore also has a couple distinct advantages over Hyde. First, Gore is an asset in the passing game that Hyde is not able to match. Hyde barely saw a pass come his way at Ohio State until his senior year, and even then, he only caught 16 passes for 147 yards. Surely the 49ers would love to use Gore and Hyde in a tandem backfield, but that’s not something that’s likely to be the case until the end of the season, and will only happen if Hyde can prove himself to be a capable feature back at this level. Since splitting time is likely the worst case (non-injury) for Gore, and far from a sure -bet to actually happen, I still like Gore’s value as a 4th rounder in drafts. He doesn’t have the upside that some of the younger backs do in this draft, but he still has a well-defined role, making him a much safer fantasy option than other mid-round backs.
*Photo credit – Mike Morbeck via Wiki Commons.