Fantasy Football Draft Day Decision: Is Matt Forte a Potential First-Round Pick?

Eric StashinSenior Writer IJuly 11, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears is tackled by (L-R) Clay Matthews #52, Erik Walden #93, Sam Shields #37 and Morgan Burnett #42 of the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 25, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 27-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In the not-too-distant past, Matt Forte was considered one of the elite running backs in the league.  In fact, he rushed for 1,069 yards and added 547 yards in the passing game in 2010.  Throw in 9 total TDs and there was more than enough to be excited about.

Those numbers alone would likely carry him into 2012 near the top of many fantasy draft boards, and his 2011 performance in just 12 games did nothing to stymy the excitement.  He rushed for 903 yards to go along with 490 receiving yards and 4 TDs.  Obviously the touchdown numbers were down, but considering the yardage in just three quarters of a season it is easy to overlook.

So, we should enter 2012 with him ranked among the top few running backs, right?  I wouldn’t be so quick…

The first question we need to ask ourselves is why he missed four games (and the final four games at that)?  Among his bumps and bruises late in the season was a sprained MCL.  In general, knee injuries plus running backs do not equal good things.

That’s not to say that it’s a serious issue and one that will definitely linger into 2012.  In fact, all of the talk is that he’s healthy heading into the season.  Still, you at least have to keep it in the back of your mind.

The second question that needs to be asked is if his role is going to be the same as it has in past years.  The answer is a resounding no.  Remember, this season the team has brought in Michael Bush to operate as an insurance policy/second back.  If Forte isn’t completely over the MCL sprain, or suffers another injury, they have another option that is more than capable.

At the same time, Bush was not brought in to simply sit on the bench and watch Forte carry the load.  While Forte could easily still get the bulk of the carries, Bush is going to see a fair share of looks as well. 

Also, given Bush’s ability, would it be a major stretch if they almost went 50/50 on carries?  OK, maybe not 50/50, but 60/40 or 65/35?  With a four-year, $14 million contract, you know Bush isn’t coming in just to carry a clipboard and watch from the sidelines.

The third thing to consider is Forte’s contract status, or lack thereof.  Forte and the Bears have still yet to reach a long-term contract, nor has Forte signed his franchise tag.  Will he hold out?  Even if he doesn’t miss regular season games, missing any of training camp could easily impact his ability to prepare for and perform during the regular season.

Is Forte a back I would want to own?  Absolutely, but I’m not looking at him as a RB1 either.  Normally, when you post the numbers that Forte has you would think that would be a lock, but there is just too much risk involved at this point.

In the mid-to-late second round as a RB2 I could imagine taking the plunge, but anything before that he carries too much risk.

What are your thoughts of Matt Forte?  Is he a player you are going to target on draft day?  Why or why not?

Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings: