Is Frank Gore, the Colt, a 2015 Fantasy Football Starter?
Frank Gore had his bags packed for Philadelphia. Ink had already been spilled about his fit in the Eagles offense.
Then Gore changed his mind. Whether it was the departure of WR Jeremy Maclin, HC Chip Kelly’s non-traditional coaching style or just plain-old gut feel, Gore changed course and opted to sign with the Colts.
We would have liked his fantasy prospects better in Philly’s innovative run scheme behind a talented offensive line. But that’s irrelevant now. Gore is a Colt. But is he a 2015 fantasy football starter?
What’s left in Gore’s tank?
Time isn’t on Gore’s side. He turns 32 in March, putting him in AARP territory in RB years. Only 6 RBs in NFL history have reached 1,000 rushing yards in their age-32 season.
But Gore is a trend-bucker. This past season, he became just the 11th RB to tally 1,000+ rushing yards as a 31-year-old. One of the others retired the following offseason. The other 9 averaged 206 carries, 825 yards and 4.1 TDs as 32-year-olds. Five of the 9 finished short of 750 yards, but 3 of them topped 1,000 again. Gore has a chance to join that latter group.
He didn’t show any signs of decline this past season. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry, a couple of tenths below his career mark but 2 tenths better than he managed in 2013. He finished a respectable 26th in Pro Football Focus’ overall RB grades; 22nd in the run grades. And Gore had his 2 best games of the season in Weeks 16 and 17, busting off lines of 26-158-1 and 25-144. That doesn’t seem like a guy ready to be put out to pasture.
How does Gore fit with the Colts?
Indy’s 2014 backfield was a perfect example of it taking more than opportunity to put up fantasy numbers. Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson played in the same backfield. Bradshaw averaged 4.7 yards per carry, while Richardson stumbled to 3.3. Bradshaw scored 1.20 PPR fantasy points per touch compared to 0.64 for T-Rash.
In other words, Bradshaw was nearly twice as efficient.
Luckily for the Colts, Gore is much more similar to Bradshaw than Richardson. He’s a no-nonsense, downhill runner who excels in the power-type scheme the Colts deploy. Former NFL DB and current analyst Matt Bowen calls Gore a “natural fit” in Indy’s offense. It’s worth noting that Gore played for Colts assistant Rob Chudzinski in college and for Colts OC Pep Hamilton in San Francisco.
Barring another significant addition to the Colts backfield, Gore is the clear favorite to lead the team in carries this season. Bradshaw is a free agent and Richardson is expected to be released. Dan Herron filled in admirably for the Colts late last season, but he’s a former 6th-rounder and tailed off last postseason, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry.
Gore will be dealing with a downgrade in offensive line play as he moves from San Francisco to Indianapolis. He ran behind Pro Football Focus’ #3 run-blocking line last year. The Colts ranked 15th. Luckily, Gore is capable of creating yards on his own. His 2.3 yards after contact per carry last year ranked 24th of 57 RBs.
Plus, the decline in O-line talent could be offset by less defensive attention. With Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener in his huddle, Gore won’t see as many stacked boxes as he did in San Francisco. Don’t expect a significant drop in yards per carry in 2015 -- if it drops at all. That means 230 or so carries could get Gore around 1,000 yards.
Now let’s talk TD potential. Gore figures to be the primary goal-line back for an offense that ranked 3rd in yards and 6th in points last year. The Colts finished 10th in red-zone trips. Bradshaw, Richardson and Herron combined for just 6 rushing scores, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. The trio totaled 18 carries inside the 5-yard line but converted just 5 (27.8%). Gore, on the other hand, is a goal-line monster. He has 14 TDs from inside the 5 over the past 3 seasons. He could push for double-digit scores with the Colts.
But it’s in the passing game where Gore’s numbers figure to get the biggest boost. His receiving role scaled way back under HC Jim Harbaugh. Gore averaged just 18 catches for 150 yards over the past 4 seasons. But he was 1 of the best pass-catching backs in the game prior to Harbaugh’s arrival, averaging 51 catches and 430 yards per year from 2006 to 2010.
He’ll get to put those skills back to work for the Colts, whose RBs play a big part in the passing game. Bradshaw, Richardson and Herron combined for 108 targets and 86 catches last season (plus another 6 receptions for Zurlon Tipton). The year prior, Indy RBs totaled 90 targets and 66 catches. Gore has a good shot at 30-40 grabs this year.
Gore’s 2015 fantasy football outlook
Gore’s age adds risk to his 2015 fantasy football outlook. But if he can fend off Father Time for 1 more season, he has the look of a solid RB2.