You'd need good eyes and a quick first cut to run through the hole between Marion Barber and Frank Gore in Yahoo! average draft position. There's a bit of a gap after Joseph Addai (6.4) rounds out the running back top 5, but the margin between Barber (9.0) and Gore (10.3) is thin.
Here to clear a hole for Barber is Matt Buser. Stumping for Gore is Scott Pianowski.
They get 250 words or less to state their opening arguments, while the readers, as always, get the last word. Let's get it started …
Buser says: Both Marion Barber and Frank Gore will be very good fantasy RB1's in 2008, but I've got Barber ahead by a nose based on their team situations.
Andy Behrens did a good job of summing up the 49ers' prospects for the coming season here. Mike Martz certainly makes things more interesting, but interesting and high-scoring are mutually exclusive descriptors. Gore is the clear focal point, and that's a good thing in terms of touches.
The non-Martzian Cowboys were the second-highest scoring offense in the league last season (28.4) and averaged the third-most yards (365.7). There's no real reason to expect a drop-off. Barber enters the season as a true featured back for the first time. Amazingly, while averaging just 10.6 carries per game over the past two seasons, he's totaled 24 rushing TDs.
One stat that I just can't get past: during Gore's breakout 2006 season, in which he totaled a whopping 2,180 yards of offense on 373 touches, he found the end zone nine times. During the same 2006 season, Barber had just 158 touches and 850 total yards, but scored 16 TDs.
This is fairly close, and I'd likely lean towards Gore in a PPR league – like I said, I don't think he'll be lacking for touches. He's just not lacking for some downside, however, on a talent-deficient 49er team. If that's not enough for you, then let the kicker be that Gore is the only one of the two that necessitates the phrase "barring injury" when dealing with projections.
Pianowski says: To understand Frank Gore's true value in 2008, let's first clear up misconceptions about offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Yeah, Martz is a little crazy, and yeah, Martz falls in love with the forward pass. But Martz also knows how to utilize a franchise runner (Marshall Faulk became "the queen on the chessboard" in St. Louis), he loves to throw to his backs (everyone forgets Kevin Jones caught 61 passes in Detroit two years ago), and he actually becomes a run-heavy play caller around the goal line. Anyone who owns Gore in a dynasty league should embrace the Martz signing, not squirm over it.
Gore has the full package as a runner: the power to run inside, the vision and speed to get to the second level, reliable hands. It's hard to forget the electric 2,180-yard season he gave us in 2006. He'll get a few more cheap TDs as the overall offense improves, something that should happen on Martz's presence alone. Gore's an injury risk, sure, but so is anyone who gets tackled 300 times a season. I'm not overplaying that angle.
In fantasy football, sharing is bad. Barber, for all his talent, has always been part of a backfield tandem, first as a Golden Gopher, now as a Cowboy. The Pokes know all about Barber's high-contact running style, that's why they snagged Felix Jones to share the work, and that's why MB3 has one 20-carry game over the last two seasons. Think DeShaun Foster is going to siphon touches from Gore? I'm a big fan of Barber's talent, his run-angry style, his dreadlocks. But Gore is the right decision in '08.