Frank Gore's NFL standing in perspective

Alan from Long Beach, Calif., cannot understand why Frank Gore's stock seems to be dropping in various NFL rankings, including the ones ESPN.com has put together recently. Alan considers Gore more valuable to the 49ers than any back is to his team, but he's seeking confirmation.

GoreMike Sando: Gore ranked tied for 10th in our balloting for best running backs in the NFL this offseason. I ranked Gore seventh behind Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson, Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles. Gore has missed nine games over the past three seasons, including the final five in 2010, and he was limited in other games.

Gore recently turned 28 years old. I still think he's among the very best backs in the NFL when healthy. He hasn't been healthy enough lately. His carries have diminished every season since 2006, but his production has been consistently strong. He's tough, runs hard and breaks tackles. He catches the ball well and set a career best last season by averaging 9.8 yards per reception. He blocks well in protection.

Gore has no weaknesses beyond concerns about his durability. Those concerns are real based on games missed and age relative to the 30-year-old barrier that has struck down plenty of running backs. The 49ers keep drafting running backs as insurance, but Gore remains their best back by a wide margin. I'd expect him to start the next two seasons and remain as productive as injuries allow him to be. His line should improve and that will help.

The chart lists the top 10 running backs in our rankings while providing basic rushing stats for them over the past three seasons. I've also included how many games they've played and how many they've missed to injury or other factors.

2011 RB Power Rankings: Three-Year Rushing Totals