Frank Gore

 

 

Love Him or List Him: Frank Gore

 

 

Apologies to the super-annoying reality show with a similar name but I thought this title captures the essence of what decisions we have to make in fantasy throughout the season.  More so in keeper/dynasty leagues but also in one year re-draft leagues, we have players who have a great week or two and we wonder – will he stay hot or was this a blip on the radar?  Should I trade him while his value is high or should I ride his production a while longer or even the rest of the season?  Or when a player has a bad week we think – is this guy done or was this just an off week against a good defense?  This is especially true of older players so I thought I’d start off this series of columns with a player whose age is at the cusp of expected productivity drop off for his position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just to be clear, Love Him doesn’t mean refuse a trade that will blow your doors off.  No player is untradeable if the price is right.  And List Him doesn’t mean trade him for a sack of dirty jock straps.  Try and trade him for what you feel his current value is worth.

 

 

Frank Gore burst onto the scene in his second NFL season when he ran for almost 1,700 yards and eight touchdowns.  While he has never come close to duplicating those numbers he has been a productive RB in fantasy over the years.  Although last season was the first since 2006 that he played all 16 games, he has played at least 14 games in all but one season.  2011 was his best season since 2006 in terms of overall production, but his fantasy points per game have declined each year since 2009.  He’s also 29 this season which generally means the beginning of the end for running backs.  Unfortunately the decline in productivity at this position is often not gradual.  One year he’s near the top of the league and the next his primary responsibility is washing the owners Mercedes.  So despite Gore’s successful 2011 campaign it’s not a huge surprise his ADP this year is low, in the 3.06 range and about 20th among running backs.  The assumption is if you drafted Gore it was probably as your RB2, and the plan going into the season is to start him every week or close to it.  We can argue whether or not this drop in draft value was warranted, but now that the season has started his ADP is about as relevant as the after dinner speaker at a bulimia convention.  What matters now is, if you have Gore should you hang onto him or should you trade him?  If you don’t have him should you trade for him?

 

 

When San Francisco signed bruiser Brandon Jacobs back in March, Gore’s 2012 value started to head south.  The thinking was Jacobs would become the goal line back.  Then the Niners drafted LaMichael James in the second round and Gore’s perceived value for 2012 really dropped.  Now the team has Kendall Hunter as the heir apparent to Gore taking more reps, Jacobs stealing goal line carries and James becoming the third down threat.  There would be very little left for Gore.  But how accurate an assessment was this really?  And does it still apply now that the season is underway?

 

 

First let’s take a look at 2011 for reference:

 

 

GP

Att

Yds

TD

Yds / Att

Yds / Gm

Att / Gm

Rec

Yds

TD

Yds / Rec

Rec / Gm

Yds / Gm

Fm

Frank Gore

16

282

1211

8

4.3

75.7

17.6

17

114

0

6.7

1.1

7.1

2

Kendall Hunter

16

112

473

2

4.2

29.6

7

16

195

0

12.2

1

12.2

1

 

 

 

Before taking into account the Niners off-season moves, there would be no reason to suspect Gore’s production wouldn’t at least approach 2011 which would make him a top RB2 even if Hunter gets a couple of extra carries per game.  Other than for team depth there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the organization to make adding running backs a priority.  So what to make of the off-season moves then?  Well Gore had 282 carries last season, his most since 2006.  At 29 years of age you don’t want to be giving your running back that kind of workload.  In my opinion Brandon Jacobs was signed in March as injury insurance and to do a bit of the heavy lifting, not to replace Gore as the solitary short yardage back.  The Niners are in win now mode, and when the chance was there to acquire an established running back for insurance they jumped on it.  How would it have looked if Gore went down week 1 and they have only Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon to carry the ball?  Jacobs has value but has never been a consistently dependable fantasy producer and is himself a bit injury prone.  As for James, too many people were quick to assume he would jump in on day one and steal carries from Gore and others.  Understandable, since when looking at last season’s stats we see a glaring need for a pass catching back.

 

 

Considering the lack of quality at wide receiver for San Fran I would have thought for sure one of their backs was catching more than one pass per game.  James showed in college he is a quality pass catcher and was simply too good of a prospect to pass up in the draft.  But this certainly doesn’t mean he will be anointed a starter’s job in 2012, or even a primary third down role.  Like anyone else on Harbaugh’s team he will have to earn it and so far he hasn’t done that, starting his NFL career as a healthy scratch in week one.

 

 

So let’s take a look at the week one results:

 

 

 

Att

Yds

TD

Yds / Att

Rec

Yds

TD

Yds / Rec

Frank Gore

16

112

1

7

1

1

0

1

Kendall Hunter

9

41

0

4.56

 

 

 

In the absence of Jacobs and James, we see Gore had a very productive fantasy day.  He had exactly 50% of the Niners carries, a little less than his 2011 average of 56%.  Hunter was the beneficiary, getting 28% instead of his 2011 average of 22%.  But how do we try and determine the positive effect the missing running backs had on Gore’s performance?  Well first of all Gore’s running touchdown was not in a short yardage or goal line situation so Jacobs probably wouldn’t have stolen that carry.  And it wasn’t in a third down passing situation so James probably wouldn’t have stolen it.  So let’s give the six points to Gore even if all four backs had played.  Actually that in itself is not likely to happen, one of Jacobs, James or Hunter is likely to sit when all four are healthy and available.  Determining how many yards Gore would have gotten is pretty tough.  But again, if you assume Jacobs would get a handful of short yardage carries or James gets some third down work, neither situation would cost Gore much in the way of rushing yards.  And the team already lessened his workload by giving a few extra carries to Hunter.  Speaking of Hunter he performed well, so there’s always the possibility as the season goes on that he gets more and more carries, reducing Gore’s fantasy output.

 

 

With the upgrade at wide receiver adding Randy Moss and Mario Manningham along with Michael Crabtree finally having a full pre-season to work with Alex Smith, it is a common perception that this Niners team will move away from their dominant running attack and feature more of a passing game.  I’m not really buying that.  Harbaugh is an old-school ‘rushing and defense wins championships’ kind of coach, but after last season he knew that with a better passing game his team could have won a couple more games and who knows maybe could have gotten to the Super Bowl and won it.  The improvements in the passing attack are to better complement the running game, not to replace it.  The plan for 2012 is to maintain their successful rushing and punishing defensive game, while adding more of a threat in the passing attack which will make the running game even better.  We saw evidence of this in week one with the Niners attempting 32 rushes, almost the same as last season’s average attempts per game of 31.  Alex Smith only attempted 26 passes, the difference from last year being he completed 20 of them.  Obviously the game situations the rest of the season will be different than versus Green Bay as will the quality of run defenses they face.

 

 

In 2012 San Francisco face a fairly balanced assortment of run defenses.  From Miami – stop laughing – and the Bears who were both in the top five for run defense last season, to St Louis twice and the Bills who were in the bottom 5, and everything in between the Niners have a very good chance of maintaining or improving on their team rushing numbers from a year ago.  In close games against stout run defenders they will continue their ground and pound attack while mixing in short passes, keeping the game plan conservative save for the occasional bomb to Moss in hopes of a big play or at least loosening up the opposing defense.  In games where they are ahead expect the same relentless ground attack and safe passes, with the improved receiving corps likely helping extend drives when they have the lead.  The only remaining games on their schedule where you could envision them maybe having to play from a big deficit and have to go away from the ground game are the Lions this week, the Saints, and the Patriots.  But based on week one results, a small sample size I know but that’s what we have to go on so far, The Niners should be able to stay with the Lions and the Saints leaving only Tom Brady to worry about scorching the San Fran D.

 

 

I really like Gore’s chances of at least matching last year’s numbers so I wouldn’t be thinking of trading him in a one year league.  IF he stays healthy he may not get 280 plus carries like last year but he should get 250 and his yards per attempt should eclipse last years 4.3.  His health is a concern but you can say that about most running backs, it’s a punishing job.

 

 

One Year League: Love Him.  Hang onto Gore and enjoy the consistent production.

 

 

Keeper/Dynasty League: Love Him, for now.  As always in these leagues with a player at his age, especially a running back, if your season starts swirling around the bowl he’s a good candidate to move.  Chances are Gore will put up better numbers before the Niners week nine bye.  They don’t face a top ten run defense from last year until after their bye then four of their remaining eight games are against teams in the top half of the league last season.  If things aren’t looking good at the halfway point Gore’s value likely won’t be any higher than after week 10 vs the Rams.

 

 

Survivor Update: No not the show the elimination league.  Was worried about Foster so I switched my pick at the last minute last week from Houston to Chicago, turns out it wouldn’t have mattered.  Gotta go with the Pats this week it’s a no-brainer.  Thought about the Bengals but as bad as the Browns looked last week Cinci didn’t look great either at least in the second half and I always hesitate to take a division game.


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