Frank Gore: Is the San Francisco 49ers Star a Top-10 RB in Today's NFL?
As far as production goes, it's possible that Gore's best stat is that he's averaged more than 100 yards from scrimmage per game for his career—one of only 13 running backs to do that with at least 10,000 career yards.
Gore also excels at blocking. The way he punishes incoming blitzing defenders makes me wonder whether he could play right guard for a play or two.
Jokes aside, Gore has excellent vision, power and hands—there's not a lot he does poorly.
However, Gore has lost a step since his 2006 breakout year in which he rushed for 1,695 yards (even the greatest Gore enthusiasts will have to succumb to this fact). He still has the moves to make linebackers and defensive backs look silly, but any breakaway speed he once had is now gone.
This may be Gore's only glaring limitation, but speed is one of the most important traits for running backs. Just watch LeSean McCoy or Adrian Peterson for one series, and you'll see Gore is lacking in burst.
For the sake of argument, we'll take a look at the stats of running backs for the last two years.
|Player||Games||Attempts||Yards||YPC||Rec Yards||Total TDs|
Where would you rank Frank Gore among NFL's best running backs?
Let me preface these rankings by saying that I know there's no fair way to do this. I'm well aware that Arian Foster has played with a better quarterback and offensive line than Gore has, thus making it easier for him to put up better stats. Even so, I'd take Foster over Gore simply from what I've seen.
The six players directly below Foster in the table I'd also take over Gore without a doubt. They are simply more dynamic running backs for various reasons, and in this case, the stats back them up since they all have a higher yards-per-carry average and more total touchdowns.
One could argue that Gore deserves to be ranked higher than Darren McFadden based on durability, but I'm trying to avoid using such a tenuous stance to rank players, not to mention that Gore has a history of injuries as well.
After the top seven, it gets tricky. Turner is a better short-yardage back than Gore, but Gore is a much better receiver. Ryan Mathews has amassed similar numbers, but will he be able to effectively shoulder the load without his partner in crime, Mike Tolbert (not to mention trying to come back from a broken clavicle)?
Steven Jackson, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch all have found Gore-like success without playing alongside an elite quarterback (like Gore).
Chris Johnson is three years removed from being the best running back in the NFL, but he's still one of the fastest and most elusive running backs I've ever seen.
Jamaal Charles was the most explosive runner in the league in 2010, but will he return to form after missing most of 2011 with an ACL tear?
Depending on what one values in a running back, Gore could be ranked in the top five or even lower than the running backs listed in the above table. (For example, Darren Sproles is not listed, but he's clearly the perfect back for the Saints offense.)
At this point I'm splitting hairs, but I'd take Johnson over Gore because, without the drama of a holdout, CJ2K should have a big bounce-back campaign.
I'd give an edge to Fred Jackson based largely on his superior yards per carry. Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't exactly set the league on fire in the last two years, yet Fred Jackson has found a way to average 4.75 yards per carry. That's pretty impressive.
I'm willing to make the leap of faith on Charles, suggesting that he'll bounce back to 2010 form. If so, Charles would round out the top 10.
The only other potential weakness I haven't addressed for Gore is Father Time. I'm not going to play doctor and predict he'll have a major regression this season, but he is 29 years old, which makes him older than nine of the 10 running backs I ranked ahead of him.
Gore, no doubt, belongs in the conversation of a top-10 running back ranking. However, I believe he ranks just outside that elite list, grouped with Turner, Lynch, Mathews, Sproles and Steven Jackson as ball-carriers a dominant 2012 season away from vaulting into the list.
Am I underrating or overrating the 49ers star? Let me know what you think in the comments section.
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