Don’t Count on Frank Gore (Fantasy Football)
Since signing with the Colts in 2015, Frank Gore has been the ultimate value pick for any fantasy players willing to put their faith in the aging legend. He was more often than not one of the final starting backs to come off draft boards but finished these last two years 11th and 12th in standard scoring. At this point, it might seem wise to just ride him until the wheels have visibly fallen off, because up until now he’s defied all expectations. The tail end of 2016 spelled out a dismal future for the tailback, however. In fact, one might argue that much of his success last year was something of a fluke.
The main attraction of RBs is their ability to score touchdowns consistently. This is magnified deeper down the rankings, where workload and opportunity become paramount to the success of roleplayers who don’t have a team centered around them. When the star backs are all taken, do you want the guy who averages high YPC, or do you want the guy who you know for a fact is going to be fed the rock at the goal line time and again? Bilal Powell averaged 5.5 YPC in 2016, and his teammate Matt Forte only had 3.7. Powell was the superior talent on a per-touch basis, but Forte got the lion’s share of the volume, especially at the goal line, allowing him to finish the year ahead of Powell in total fantasy points scored (in standard scoring, at least). LeGarrette Blount scored so many touchdowns that he finished as a top-10 back even in PPR, despite catching a grand total of seven passes for 38 yards on the season.
Red zone efficiency matters, and Gore was not efficient in the red zone. His teammate, Robert Turbin, scored three more times on 11 fewer attempts. Even worse was the direction this pattern trended – Gore scored all four of his rushing TDs before the team’s Week 10 bye, at which point Turbin had only run in a pair of scores. That’s right: Frank Gore didn’t score a single rushing touchdown in the second half of the season, while Turbin amassed five such scores. Clearly impressed, the Colts offered Turbin a two-year extension, which obviously doesn’t bode well for Gore’s future goalline opportunities. Don’t forget that the Colts drafted a prospect at the same position in Marlon Mack, either, and also signed Christine Michael, for whatever that’s worth these days.
Much of the reason Gore was able to stay viable was due to his proficiency as a pass catcher. It was his best year as a receiver since 2010, and his four touchdowns were the most he’s ever scored through the air in one season. Andrew Luck bounced back in a big way in 2016 but as good as he projects to be, it’s difficult to imagine a Colts offense where Gore is able to put up comparable receiving stats as he ages and shares more of his snaps with other players.
ESPN has Gore’s ADP at 61. At that point, you’re taking him ahead of players with tremendous upside like Doug Martin or Ameer Abdullah. Even if you’re insistent upon drafting a safe veteran, you’d be better off waiting a few more rounds and settling for Matt Forte, using the pick for Gore on a top-tier QB (Russell Wilson, Derek Carr) or TE (Jimmy Graham, Tyler Eifert) instead. If he falls to the 9th or 10th rounds, don’t avoid Frank Gore, because that’s good value. But remember, it’s not a value pick if you have to reach for it.