Earlier this off-season, I did an installment on Justin Forsett. As fate would have it, the Baltimore Ravens drafted Kenneth Dixon, one of this class’ best backs, in the fourth round, putting a little damper on Forsett’s future outlook. While I still think he can produce in 2016, things get pretty murky for Forsett after this season.
Still, the logic in pursuing Forsett is sound. He’s an older back, which almost automatically makes him an undervalued asset, and the numbers show us he’s a good player.
Those same things apply to Indianapolis Colts’ running back Frank Gore.
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As Jeff Miller, Nick Whalen and I discussed on a recent episode of the DLF Podcast, because I don’t like to invest heavily at the running back position, I often find myself with a lot of older backs and intriguing lottery tickets, because both of those types can usually be found in the clearance aisle.
Older running backs are dirt cheap, and it makes sense. We all know about “the wall.” Every back hits it, and when they hit it, they usually hit it hard (see: Marshawn Lynch). The older they get, the closer they get to said wall.
Older running backs are also boring. There’s no allure of the unknown. They aren’t the new kid on the block, and there’s not much upside.
What the geezers usually provide, though — and this is certainly the case with Gore — is solid production at a reasonable price.
He’s Still Got It
Gore and Matt Forte are the gold standard of consistent, year-to-year production for running backs over the past decade. Entering his age-33 season, Gore is still finding a way to get it done, which is something he’s done his entire career.
That kind of year-to-year production is remarkable, especially considering the average lifespan of running backs. Since his rookie year, Gore has never been worse than an RB2 (top 24) in PPR leagues, an insane 10-year stretch of holiness.
With just one RB1 (top 12) finish in the last six seasons, Gore hasn’t been a top-end producer in recent years, which is to be expected. He’s still been a worthwhile fantasy asset, though.
Gore kept up this trend last year, his first with the Colts. He racked up 1,234 yards and seven total touchdowns. He finished under 4.0 yards per carry for the first time in his career, checking in at 3.7, but at least some of the efficiency issues can be attributed to a shaky offensive line and a real trainwreck of an offense, particularly after Andrew Luck was injured.
Gore saw less work with Luck under center, but he was more efficient. In the seven games Luck started, Gore ran it 109 times for 448 yards (4.12 YPC) and three scores.
While Gore’s consistency makes you feel warm and safe, it really doesn’t mean much outside of providing us with a baseline, unless we start playing fantasy with last season’s numbers.
What’s promising for Gore is all signs point to him having just as good of a year — if not better — as he did in 2015.
For one, with Luck healthy, the Colts’ offense should be improved, which in turn gives everyone’s stock a lift. In 2015, Indianapolis scored 333 points and ran 1,005 plays. The year before, with Luck playing 16 games, the Colts scored 458 points and ran 1,052 plays.
That’s a gigantic difference of 125 points while the gap in plays (47) isn’t quite as big.
I don’t need to tell you that an offense scoring more points is good for everyone, including Gore. The Colts should move the ball a lot better in 2016, which should lead to more of those precious touches near the end zone.
Robert Turbin is listed as the Colts’ backup running back, and the team signed Josh Ferguson as an undrafted free agent. Ferguson has been a hype all star this off-season, drawing some hefty comparisons. While he’s probably a lock to make the roster due to Indy’s lack of running back depth, Ferguson is a long shot to make a significant impact in 2016.
Neither Turbin nor Ferguson figure to threaten Gore’s workload this year in any way, especially the early-down attempts. Ferguson may find his way onto the field in some passing situations, but Gore caught 34 balls last year so he’s fully capable of doing it all.
The Sticker Price
Gore is so cheap right now.
In our June staff mock drafts, he was RB43, going in the same range as Wendell Smallwood, Jordan Howard, Chris Ivory and Isaiah Crowell. While I listed those players just to give you an idea of who else has a similar value, I’d certainly take Gore over any of them. Smallwood and Howard, both rookies, could end up being stars, or they could be insignificant players. Who knows? I’d rather have someone I know is good.
A phrase I hear often — and I’m guilty of this thinking, too — is “Player X” is a win-now piece. I get the logic. Gore is really old and he may not do much (or even play) in 2017, so he’s not someone you can really count on past this season. Therefore, the thinking goes, rebuilding teams can ignore him.
That’s a mistake.
If Gore is an undervalued player, which I believe he is, then he should be attractive to everyone.
I touched on this in a recent staff piece on rebuilding, and I’ll hit it again. If Gore’s value increases during the upcoming season — and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where his steady workload makes him really attractive to other “win now” owners who have been plagued by running back injuries — then he’s a guy you should covet. Even if you deal for him today and have zero intention of having him on your team by November, it’s smart to acquire him.
I think that’s especially true for an owner who is rebuilding as you may be able to flip him for a nice little profit, even if it’s nothing too big. If you give up, let’s say, Javorius Allen or a 2017 third-round pick for him in a straight-up deal, and then trade him away midseason for a 2017 second-rounder, you just did work. The house flippers on HGTV’s Fixer Upper would be so proud.
While Gore is certainly a worthy pursuit as a solid flex play or possibly an RB2 for anyone who fancies themselves as a contender in 2016, he’s an attractive trade chip for rebuilding teams, as well, making him a player everyone should be price checking.