The San Francisco 49ers received further praise this evening as the NFL Network Top 100 recognized running back Frank Gore in the player-voted Top 100 list. Gore ranked No. 28 a year after ranking No. 94. Among players who appeared last year, this is the biggest climb thus far. Check out Gore's reaction to showing up in the top 100 once again.
We can debate Gore's ranking, particularly among the running backs, until doomsday. What this ranking shows more than anything is the kind of respect Gore receives from the players that voted. Gore had his ups and downs in 2011, but he was a workhorse for the 49ers, while also providing veteran guidance to Kendall Hunter.
There have been times in the past where Gore never wanted to come out of the game and wanted all the carries. This past year, Gore seemed to recognize he is on the other side of his career and was more understanding of the need to mix up the running backs. The team has loaded up on backs and it will be interesting to see how carries are spread around this season. If the team goes into the season with Gore, Hunter, LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs, that's a lot of options for a variety of situations.
Gore will still likely lead the team in carries, but he will likely drop from his 282 carries in 2011. I don't think we'll see a career-low, but I do think we'll see a broad mix of backs getting significant touches. While individual numbers may not be tremendously high, the entire group could be in position to put up some sizable numbers.
There are two 49ers players remaining to be included, and I think it's safe to guess they will be Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. We'll see where they show up in the rankings.