2012 projection: Frank Gore

What exactly do we expect from the 29-year-old Frank Gore next season? Here’s what Football Outsiders projects:

“From an ad­vanced stats perspective, it appears that the 29-year-old is entering the third act of his career. In his first two years, he ranked in the top 15 of rushing DVOA. In the next four, he ranked no higher than 20th. Then, last season, he ranked lower than any other running back with 275 or more carries. He had just 12 broken tackles last year, just 11 the year before, very low totals for a starting back. He finished last among running backs with -6.9 plus/minus as a receiver. Add in that he’s shown up on the injury report (or injured reserve) with a lower-body injury for 13 of the past 23 weeks, and San Francisco was correct in adding two running backs to lessen his workload. Expect only about 225 touches in 2012.”

Football Outsiders stat projections: 216 rushes, 871 yards (4.0 yards per carry) 7 TDs.

My take: This projection seems reasonable. Frank Gore wore down quickly in games last season. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry his first 10 carries, but 3.9 yards per carry his next 10, and 2.4 yards per carry the 10 after that.

Gore should get roughly half of the Niners’ carries this year, and the other three running backs will split the other half.

Gore will mostly play on first and second down, and a lot of the time he’ll be a decoy. As long as he’s had fewer than 15 carries, he’s a threat and the defense has to worry about him. So, he opens up the play action pass game to Vernon Davis and Randy Moss, which will be the Niners best method of scoring touchdowns.

Gore is still a key player for the Niners, but his production will drop significantly next season.

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