The San Francisco 49ers have been frustrating fantasy owners throughout the last few seasons. When training camp and OTAs begin, the same questions surrounding the 49ers’ running game always arise. Can Frank Gore tough it out and make it all 16 games this year? Will Gore’s age, running style and heavy workload finally catch up to him? If Gore can’t hang tough then who is going to take his place as the primary back?
Gore will be 31 when the 2014 season kicks off, and all of the aforementioned questions are legitimate concerns heading into next season. Owners have been wary of Gore’s overall health since he missed five games in 2010. However, they shouldn’t be. Gore has participated in all 48 games since that 2010 season, and along the way averaged around 1,200 yards and eight TDs in each of those three seasons.
Gore is the No. 1 guy for the 49ers as we inch closer to 2014. If he can stay healthy and productive, his role will not be challenged by other RBs on the roster. The problem fantasy owners will soon realize is the uncertainty regarding who will become the new bell cow if Gore were to suddenly be out of the picture. The 49ers are exceptionally deep at the position, and HC Jim Harbaugh could go a number of different directions if Gore’s production or health were to suddenly drop off.
Other RBs on San Francisco’s depth chart:
Anthony Dixon: Dixon has never missed a game in his four years backing up Gore, but he was a backup those seasons for a reason. He never showed that flash that coaches look for in guys who are trying to steal a job from someone else, and his 3.1 YPC average in his four years is subpar at best.
Kendall Hunter: Kendall was the most productive 49ers RB other than Gore in 2013. He averaged close to five YPC and scored three TDs last season. He has the most similarities to Gore, and could essentially fill the role Gore leaves if he doesn’t produce.
LaMichael James: This player is very shifty, great in the open field, and is a talented pass-catcher. A little undersized to be considered an every-down back in the NFL, but could be a useful change of pace guy if the 49ers wanted to use him as such.
Marcus Lattimore: He sat last season to rehab his knee after a gruesome injury while at South Carolina. If he returns to what he was in college he could become an instant fantasy starter.
Bruce Miller: He is a starting FB and a great blocking back. Miller just signed a three-year extension. Harbaugh loves this guy. No real threat to steal carries from the primary back.
Gore will be the guy when the 2014 season starts barring injury or off-field issues. The two guys that stand the best chance at an increase in opportunities are Hunter and Lattimore. The year of 2014 will be the last year of Hunter’s rookie contract, and the 49ers will give him the chance to prove he can be their No. 1 guy. Lattimore has a lot to prove after two knee injuries as a Gamecock, but has the ability and potential (if he is indeed fully recovered) to be a superstar football player.