How important is Frank Gore?

According to reports, Frank Gore ended his holdout and showed up at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara this morning.

How important is his return?

He’s 28 years old, he’s got mileage, and he’s coming off a hip fracture. Those are the down sides to Gore.

On the other hand, he’s the best player on Jim Harbaugh’s offense. Vernon Davis may be younger and bigger and faster, but Gore is more skilled and more suited to be the focal point of an offense right now.

Since 2006 Gore has accumulated 6,958 yards from scrimmage, third in the NFL over that period. LaDainian Tomlinson ranks second with 7,974 yards, and Steven Jackson ranks first with 8,390.

With Gore, you could imagine Jim Harbaugh coming up with a game plan just clever enough to un-stack the box and get the defense to at least respect the possibility of a pass. Then, against seven-man fronts, Gore could have the best season of his career. We could witness Harbaugh’s NFL version of the Toby-Gerhart offense from two years ago. Gore could be a top-five fantasy football player this year, for what it’s worth.

Without Gore, the possibility of winning the division seems much more remote. Vernon Davis is the next best player on the offense, so the game plan would have to revolve around Alex Smith getting him the ball. Certainly, the 49ers have a much better chance at winning the NFC West with both Gore and Davis in the starting lineup.

Do you think Gore will lead the 49ers to the playoffs this year? And will this be the best year of his career?

 

Follow me on twitter @grantcohn.

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