Now for another installment of our Fantasy Stock Watch periodical. This series takes a look at players who either exceeded their anticipated contributions this year, or failed to live up to them and what we can expect come 2014. The biggest concern: you want to draft based on value, rather than paying for stats that will be hard to repeat and/or paying an expectant price for development that may not come.
Fantasy Stock Watch 2014: Other Entries
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
2013 ADP: 26 (RB16)
2013 Position Rank: RB13 (30th Overall)
2013 Expectations: Frank Gore
Assessing relative to his ADP, you’ll see above that Gore exceeded his 2013 expectations. Gore finished the season just outside RB1 range, while he was drafted as a mid-range RB2. Concerns about his age (Gore turned the dreaded 30 years old in May) are largely what limited his draft stock – he’d finished as the 12th best RB in 2011 and 11th in 2012, so we weren’t drafting based on recent history. A drop of four spots wasn’t necessarily colossal, but it does indicate concerns over the aging back and his role in the San Francisco offense heading into the season.
With a deep playoff run last season, on the heels of two post season games in 2011 Gore hadn’t had limited time to recuperate this past offseason, compounding age concerns.
2013 Results: Frank Gore
Early on, Gore defied anyone who thought that a combined 351 touches in 2012 (including the post season) would slow him down. In September and October (his first eight games) Gore notched seven touchdowns, while compiling 714 total yards and averaging 4.23 YPC on the ground. Through the first two months of the season, he defied anyone who ranked him poorly – including ourselves, who pegged him as consensus RB17.
All told, Gore rolled up 1269 scrimmage yards and finished with nine touchdowns. The nine scores matched his most since 2009. Impressive numbers.
With that said, during the season’s second half the mileage did appear to become an issue. The veteran RB suffered from a marked decline in production over the second half of the season. He didn’t average over 4.0 YPC in any month after September, and notched an average of just 3.92 over his last 8 games; compiling 510 yards rushing (555 total yards), down 204 rushing yards relative to the first half of the season despite picking up just 16 fewer attempts. He lost his scoring touch too, getting into the endzone just twice after starting with seven scores in eight games.
The reduction in production carried into the playoffs as well, where Gore averaged just 3.42 YPC over three games including an absolute shut down at the hands of the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game (11-14). Gore left the game with a finger injury that will require (minor) offseason surgery.
Again, all told Gore had a nice campaign as part of another strong season from the 49ers, but we’d be remiss in not noting the fact that he seemed to wear down as the season moved along.
2014 Outlook: Frank Gore
Expect Gore to return in his age 31 season as the starting running back of the San Francisco 49ers. I am fully aboard the Marcus Lattimore hype train, but suspect that we’re a year ahead of ourselves in that regard. Gore isn’t due any guaranteed money and has 3.15 million in bonuses coming due during the 2014 calendar year, but San Francisco won’t walk away from one of the franchises all time greats with one year left on his deal.
With that said, if we noticed the dip in production, the powers that be in the bay area did too. They drafted Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of last year’s draft knowing full well that he wouldn’t be participating in their 2013 season. He did however, get an opportunity to learn behind the scenes in his first year and reportedly impressed during his limited practice window while recovering from a significant knee injury suffered in the fall of 2012.
Lattimore is expected to be a full participant in the 49ers offseason program this year and should be ready to contribute to the team in 2014. Coach Jim Harbaugh certainly thinks so, Matt Maiocco of CSNbayarea.com quoted Harbaugh yesterday as saying “I think this has been an outstanding year for Marcus. Tough at times, but I think great things will happen for him.” Update: for his part, Lattimore says he’s feeling great heading into the offseason.
Indeed, he’ll be in the mix next season. Gore can continue to be productive for the 49ers but with 276 carries this season (up from 258 the year prior) he clearly wore down late in the year. The team will use Lattimore, provided he progresses as expected through the offseason as a change of pace back, giving the veteran Miami grad a chance to rest. Expect to see Gore’s carries come down a fair bit in 2014, limiting his fantasy value.
For Lattimore, the presence of Gore has the same impact but I think we could see solid production out of the South Carolina product if he gets an extended look. His college stats don’t really jump off the page at you – he averaged 4.8 yards a pop but that’s fairly pedestrian compared to the production of the rest of this year’s rookie class – but he put enough on film to suggest that he will be able to contribute at the pro level. His draft profile, outside of durability concerns, is glowing.
Think more of a Denver Broncos distribution from this year, with Moreno carrying the load and Lattimore playing the Montee Ball roll. I could see 250ish touches for Gore next season, with the potential for him to run at a more efficient clip, to 150 or so for Lattimore if everything comes together just right. Provided Lattimore fares well in 2014, I think this is Gore’s last year as a 9er.