Frank Gore turns 31 next week. That's ancient for running backs. He's carried the ball 2,187 times in his nine-year career, more than any active player besides Steven Jackson.
Gore averaged a career-low 4.1 yards per carry last year, 3.7 over the final 10 games. Kendall Hunter (4.6 ypc over three seasons) is primed for a bigger workload at age 25. Marcus Lattimore will make his much-anticipated debut.
Those are Gore's obvious danger signs. Advanced stats are even less encouraging.
1. Gore received 27 carries inside the opponents' 10-yard line last year. He scored four times, the second-worst rate of any RB with 20-plus chances. Only washed-up Willis McGahee (2 TDs in 21 carries) fared worse. Even Ray Rice (4 TDs in 22 carries) did better.
Gore's backups, Hunter and Anthony Dixon, combined for three touchdowns on six carries inside the opponents' 10.
2. Of the 47 running backs who carried at least 100 times last year, Gore ranked 38th in Football Outsiders' Success Rate. His carries "succeeded" 42 percent of the time.
Quick explanation of Success Rate: A carry succeeds if the RB gains 40 percent of needed yards on first down (4 yards on 1st-and-10), 60 percent of needed yards on second down, or 100 percent of needed yards on third or fourth down. The standards change in the fourth quarter when a team is more than a touchdown behind or running out the clock.
Gore's success rate -- over 50 percent is considered good -- is a terrible sign for his workload. Success rate measures consistency, which should be Gore's strength. It doesn't factor in big plays or breakaway speed. If Gore starts 2014 like he ended 2013, he's not going to approach the 272 carries he's averaged the past three seasons.
As of now Dave Richard ranks Gore 21st among RBs and Jamey Eisenberg has him 22nd, low-end RB2 range.
You have to respect Gore's recent Fantasy production. He's finished 12th, 11th and 13th among RBs in standard leagues the past three years. But with Gore declining and Hunter and Lattimore coming on, we could see a full-blown committee that drops Gore into weekly flex territory.