Draft Strategy

Against All Odds: Can Matt Forte Remain an Elite Fantasy RB?

Matt Forte Fantasy 2015

Matt Forte regularly gets mentioned among the league’s elite running backs. He is one of the most versatile backs in the NFL, does most of his talking on the field and regularly churns out eye-popping stats. Forte has amassed over 1,000 yards in his last three seasons and also added over 200 catches, over 1,000 yards receiving and eight catching touchdowns over that period.

Matt Forte

Matt Forte Fantasy Preview 2015

Matt Forte regularly gets mentioned among the league’s elite running backs. He is one of the most versatile backs in the NFL, does most of his talking on the field and regularly churns out eye-popping stats. Forte has amassed over 1,000 yards in his last three seasons and also added over 200 catches, over 1,000 yards receiving and eight catching touchdowns over that period.

The Tulane product leads the league in yards from scrimmage since 2008 with 11,431. Forte is easily one of Bears most productive offensive player in the last decade yet could the team be moving on from him after this season?

Forte is perilously close to 30 years old and entering a contract year with his future in Chicago hanging in the balance. He has been a loyal member of the Bears team since being drafted in 2008 and has said he will report to mini-camp despite his contract situation.

Without getting into the contract side of things, there is an informed opinion that suggests Forte will not be a Bear next season.

Fantasy Reality

In some cases, teams tend to get as much as they can get out of a player before sending him packing towards free agency once the season ends.

In John Fox’s system, however, he will more than likely lessen Forte’s snaps while rotating Ka’Deem Carey and rookie Jeremy Langford into the fold. If you take a look at Forte’s production last year, of Chicago’s 355 rushing attempts, Forte was the ballcarrier 75% of the time. Head on over to the Rocky Mountains and you will find that C.J Anderson carried the ball on 40% of the Broncos rushes while Ronnie Hillman accounted for 24% of carries.

There is a balance in the Denver scenario that Forte has rarely seen in Chicago.

You could also argue that neither back is as qualified to handle the load as Forte but it comes down to a philosophy of coaching rather than anything that either back can do. It must be noted that Forte was on the field for 92% of snaps for the Bears last year. He was run into the ground by former coach Marc Trestman and the unlikeliest of cases is that this will happen again. It could, however, have an impact on what Forte can do going forward in his career.

Matt Forte Carrer Stats

YearTeamGRushYdsAvgTDRecYdsTD
2008
1631612383.98634774
2009
162589293.64574710
2010
1623710694.56515473
2011
122039974.93524901
2012
1524810944.45443401
2013
1628913394.69745943
2014
1626610383.961028084

Forte set a career record and led the Bears with 102 catches last season. There is little doubt that the new coaching staff have seen these stats and will look to continue to get production from one of the premier all-purpose players that the NFL currently has to offer. With the quick passing game that the new staff will look to implement, Forte will be a prime target on underneath routes and as Kevin White and Alshon Jeffrey become accustomed to their new roles in the NFL, expect Forte to be a comfort blanket for Cutler. Cutler has also lost his primary target in Brandon Marshall meaning he will look to players he can already trust and Forte is certainly one of these players. Eddie Royal is expected to see a large chunk of targets and with the consensus being that Fox doesn’t trust rookies, you can take your time selecting Kevin White in your fantasy draft before we see more from him in training camp.

Another aspect that needs to be delved into is the lack of belief that the coaching staff may or may not have in Jay Cutler.

Jay Cutler Fantasy FootballHaving tried to trade for the second overall pick in the draft using Cutler as bait, it is quite clear that the Bears have and would be willing to explore other options when it comes to their man under center. Without Peyton Manning, it is difficult to see John Fox team actually looks like although he did make a Super Bowl player out of Jake Delhomme and that deserves credit. With Manning at quarterback, teams don’t tend to stack the box too heavily and must always be on their toes but with a distinct lack of belief in Cutler shown by his coaches, more teams might be willing to step up into the box and slow down Forte in an effort to slow the whole team down. That is all well and good but we believe that Forte has what it takes to still churn out decent numbers but at 29 and coming off quite a hectic year under Marc Trestman, we are worried as to how that will effect production.

It will take a greater effort from all of the Bears running backs to open up the passing game for Cutler and in order to make teams respect the pass, you must open up the run a little bit. You can expect a heavier dose of running plays in order to keep the defense off the field and to make sure that Cutler doesn’t throw away games for the team. Many people will see this as a perfect example of why Forte’s numbers are sure to go up but you can expect Ka’Deem Carey’s 36 attempts last year to increase and Jeremy Langford to feature in Gase’s system.

John Fox has a good track record of drafting running backs having drafted two of the best in Carolina Panthers history in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and has done well to give them a chance to recover on the sideline when things are going well. What happens over the course of the season to Jeremy Langford is going to be very interesting. He is quite similar to Forte without the experience and nuance, but without the years of abuse to his body also. Fox appears to be getting ready for a split with Forte.

Adam Gase will start out with Forte as the lead back and with all the numbers pointing in that direction and based on Forte’s frame of mind heading into a contract year and his no-nonsense approach to attending mini-camps and other team activities, I would suspect that Forte will make the absolute most out of the carries and catches he is given early on.

Conclusion

Despite all the criticism, I do believe that Forte will have an excellent year, he will be reliable as a fantasy back but could suffer due to the fact that both Fox and Gase will maintain their ‘one-two punch’ philosophy even if Forte convinces them that he is willing to carry the load. He will see the most touches out of all the Chicago Bears running backs but it still might be a drop of 15 to 20% of his touches from last season.

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