Frank the Tank Never Quits
Another NFL draft has come and gone, and the sports world is buzzing about all of the recently acquired players who are primed to make an impact at the NFL level. 2016 hosted a very deep draft class, loaded with many great talents at all positions including defensive linemen, offensive linemen and running backs. Now, people are beginning to say: “Bring on the fantasy analysis”, as it appears most NFL teams have a rough idea of how their roster will look this upcoming season. This is certainly the case for most teams, but there are still a couple huge questions marks in the NFL for fantasy owners; including the running back group for the Indianapolis Colts.
Frank Gore had an extremely lackluster season for the Colts last year, falling below 1,000 total rushing yards for only the second time in his career. On top of this, Gore did not rush for more than 100 yards in any of his 16 games. Multiply that with the fact that his former backups Dan Herron and Ahmad Bradshaw are now in free agency, and you have a borderline emergency situation for both the Colts and interested fantasy owners.
Help on the way?[the_ad id=”58837″]In the Colt’s defense, they have done everything to help the running back situation short of actually picking up another three down back. They devoted over half of their picks this year to offensive lineman, which should help immensely after having a line that ranked 12th best in pass-blocking, 19th best in run-blocking, and 12th in penalty yards allowed . The signings of recent draftees Ryan Kelly, Le’Raven Clark, Joe Haeg, and Austin Blythe should serve to protect Andrew Luck better, and open up the run game in the process.
The Colts also picked up Robert Turbin during the offseason, whose role will hypothetically be to offer a change of pace role to Gore’s hard-nosed running style. However, if we learned anything last season, it is that names like his, Bryce Brown’s, and Chris Polk’s belong nowhere near rosters in fantasy leagues unless completely necessary. So what happens if Gore goes down with an injury, or if the Colts find out all the gas in the tank has been used up?
The only other options left on the Colt’s roster besides Turbin are Jordan Todman, Trey Williams, and FB Tyler Varga. Not an enticing group of runners, to say the least, and certainly not viable fantasy options. Todman and Williams have each been given their shots, and they have each respectively failed. All arrows in this backfield point down, and that seems pretty obvious.
Gore the Bell-Cow?
Naturally, as a result of this, the Colts were marked by just about every draft analyst out there as a “sure thing” to draft a running back this past weekend. Despite the projections and mock drafts however, the 2016 NFL Draft came and went without the Colts picking up a new back. You can’t blame or critique this decision too hard, as they filled other positions that performed badly last year (in particular their o-line and secondary). But, this would lead us to assume that Gore will be trusted at the age of 33 to carry bell-cow duties behind Andrew Luck.
As mentioned before, many point the finger at the offensive line in Indianapolis as being the source of running-woes for Frank Gore last year. A further look at this back’s history in respect to the lines he’s run behind would say much differently. Let’s take look at his production since 2008:
|Year||Team||Games||Rush Yards||Yrds per GM||TD||O-Link Rank|
*Stats compiled from NFL Statistics
As you can see, Gore has had some of the worst luck of any running back in terms of getting even a half-decent offensive line in front of him. Yet, despite a lackluster supporting cast, this guy has been able to provide fantasy owners with a more than consistent level of fantasy production. Frank Gore has gained at least 850 yards from scrimmage in each of the last eight seasons, while never having a top ten offensive line. That’s pretty damn impressive. However, from here, it begins to go downhill for his fantasy prospects in 2016.
Age: An Inconvenient Truth[the_ad id=”62257″]In 2015, statistically, Frank Gore ran behind the second best offensive line of his career at 17th best in the league (the best of his career being the 11th best 49ers O-line in 2013). So while you have to take into account that he was with a new team, and in a new offensive scheme; you cannot ignore the inconvenient truth that San Francisco probably traded him away for a good reason. Gore did manage to carry for 967 yards on the season last year, but that was the second worst total of his career, and you could tell that he was a shell of his former self. This is grim news, and early fantasy football rankings are reflecting a major lack of trust in the former pillar of consistency.
He is currently being drafted in mock drafts on Yahoo Fantasy at 112th overall, and has been ranked as the 32nd overall running back by FantasyPros. Even with the boosted offensive line, I just don’t see him producing at the same level this year. Frank Gore is now three-years past the 30-year old benchmark (one that has slowed down nearly all great running backs not named Adrian Peterson), and there isn’t a lot of tread left on his tires. There is no need for you to embarrass yourself and draft him in fantasy leagues this season.
Free Agency Woes
Despite his lack of fantasy value this upcoming season, everyone fully expects Frank Gore to be the immediate starter for the Colts this season.
With that said, all is not lost for the backfield in Indianapolis. There are a number of free agents on the market right now that could possibly be a good fit. As of now, the only two feasible options for three-down duties are Arian Foster and Bryce Brown. Bryce has had small segments of greatness throughout the past couple of season, but is a tremendously unexciting option for an offense led by Andrew Luck.
Arian Foster is a lot more enticing, but he is also approaching the age of 30, and has only played 25 of the past 48 games. Picking up Foster to supplant Gore would be like trading a rock for a brick.
There’s Still Hope![the_ad id=”58882″]A way more feasible, and possibly smart option for the Colts would be to wait until teams begin slimming down their rosters over the course of the offseason. They need another option at running back badly, and it’s only a matter of time before their hand is forced due to lack of production or injury. There are a lot of teams that are carrying prominent running backs right now that won’t be able to carry them onto their 53-man roster. There are currently four teams carrying 4 or more backs on their rosters: the Chiefs, the Ravens, the Titans, and the Patriots.
In particular the backs from the Chiefs and Ravens raise fantasy interest. West, Davis, and Ware from Kansas City have all proved they can carry the load; and they certainly don’t need to be all on the same roster. From the Ravens, Buck Allen, Justin Forsett, Terrance West, Trent Richardson, and now Kenneth Dixon are all sharing a backfield. With the exception of Trent (who the Colts wouldn’t touch again with a ten foot pole), I could see any one of them joining the Colt’s backfield and making contributions from Day 1. Teams around the NFL should be slimming down their rosters sooner rather than later, so it should leave ample time to plan your draft strategy around a relevant FA pickup by the Colts
If this doesn’t happen before then, you should pull a sneaky move in fantasy drafts this upcoming year. Let your unsuspecting friends draft the ailing Frank Gore, and then when the dominos do fall, wait for the moves to be made and head to the fantasy waiver wire. Your league-mates will hate you for it, and you might get a legit RB2 out of the deal. Just don’t say you got the idea from me.
Christian is a native New Englander. He remembers watching in horror as Drew Bledsoe of the Patriots went down against the Jets early in the season in 2001, and seeing the 199th overall QB, Tom Brady walking onto the field for the first time. Everyone knows the rest of the story, and it was through watching this inspirational progression that he developed an immense love for the game of football, and as a result, fantasy football.
After high school, Christian moved to South Carolina in order to pursue a Political Science degree from the College of Charleston. It was here that his already standing love of the NFL was exposed to a culture that lived and breathed college football. This only served to solidify his obsession and status as a self-proclaimed football “super-nerd”. When he’s not bombarding his friends with endless football statistics, or crunching numbers; Christian can be found playing tennis, or enjoying a few cold ones at the beach.