This article is part of our NFL Observations series.
I'm not a Frank Gore fan. It's nothing against him personally – he was an excellent player at his peak, and, to my knowledge, has never done anything unsavory off the field. It's more that I think he's unduly praised by an obsequious media simply because he's a likeable veteran. You see it with all the likeable veterans – Jason Witten, Larry Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning. All such "class acts," we get it. But I've written on that before, and I don't want to belabor it here.
But Gore's career has been remarkable for a modern running back, and I don't just mean because he's lasted this long after tearing his ACL twice in college. Well, I do mean that, but I want to illustrate it in a particular way.
Gore was drafted with the 65th pick in 2005, the year three running backs, Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson and Cadillac Williams, were taken with overall picks two, four and five. Let's go year by year and list some of the backs taken contemporaneously and in subsequent seasons:
2005: Brown, Benson, Williams, Marion Barber, Brandon Jacobs, Darren Sproles
2006: Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney, DeAngelo Williams, Joseph Addai, LenDale White, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jerome Harrison
2009: Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown, Beanie Wells, LeSean McCoy, Shonn Greene, Rashad Jennings, Arian Foster (UFA)
2010: C.J. Spiller, Ryan Mathews, Jahvid Best
At the end of 2012, Gore had already amassed 1,911 career carries, which was top-40 in NFL history at the time. Still he would outlast virtually every running back taken in that class (Rhett Ellison is still active at TE) and even the generational QB selected at pick 1.1.
Gore will see carries for the Jets in 2020 even though he was drafted a year before Reggie Bush and Maurice Jones-Drew, two years before Ahmad Bradshaw and three years before Matt Forte and Chris Johnson. Remember Jahvid Best? He was drafted when Gore already had five seasons under his belt.
Gore was great early in his career and has largely been a compiler for the last seven years, but no heavy-workload back who debuted this millennium has come close to his longevity. Given advances in analytics, the devaluation of the position and the way rookie contracts are structured, he could be the last of his kind.