Where does Frank Gore rank among current NFL running backs?

USA TODAY Sports

As Frank Gore hits his 30th birthday, where does he rank among current NFL running backs?

Last week, James put together his thoughts on the 49ers' running back position as it compared to the NFC West. He ranked the 49ers first, in large part because of the depth at the position. Naturally, this got some Seahawks fans in a huff over the perceived disrespect to their man Marshawn Lynch. Some didn't bother reading that this was a look at the entire running back depth chart for each team, while others simply thought Lynch was better than the entire depth of the 49ers' running back corps.

I bring this up now because Tuesday marks Frank Gore's 30th birthday. For professional athletes, 30 is a bit of a dirty number. Plenty will look great for many years after their 30th birthday, but a lot of people view 30 as the beginning of a decline. Some decline before 30 and some decline after 30, but 30 is a nice round number to help us figure it out.

The folks at NFL.com put together a ranking of the top 30 running backs, broken down into various groups. Adrian Peterson got his own spot at the top, then they went to "Studs", "More franchise running backs", "You can't go wrong", and so forth. After Adrian Peterson, the "Studs" included Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster and Doug Martin. The "More franchise running backs" included Jamaal Charles, Alfred Morris, Ray Rice and our own Frank Gore, listed eighth.

Gore is coming off back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons, and saw his yards per carry rise from 4.2 in 2010 to 4.3 in 2011 and 4.7 in 2012. Arguably more important, Gore played in all 16 regular season games each of the last two seasons. He had not reached 16 regular season games since his record-setting 2006 season. Considering he played in five playoff games the last two seasons, that's kind of a big deal.

Gore has benefited from having quality running backs behind him the last two years, and should benefit again in 2013. In considering what he can do in 2013, where do you see Gore fitting into the framework of NFL running backs? I don't think total yards will tell us everything in part because we'll see a lot more LaMichael James. Will having Hunter AND James behind him further add to Gore's own effectiveness? With two effective running backs behind him, how much time has this bought Gore on his career?

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