When the Bears drafted Matt Forte in the second round, 44th overall, in the 2008 NFL Draft, they landed one of the top running backs in a very talented rookie class.
Forte lived up to the expectations of his coaches as an every-down back.
Forte finished last season with 1,238 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He also had 63 receptions for 477 yards. He totaled 12 touchdowns—eight rushing and four receiving.
Last season, Forte had only three games in which he rushed for more than 100 yards. The best rush defense he achieved this against was the Colts' (ranked 24th). The other two teams were the Rams (ranked 29th) and the Lions (ranked 32nd).
Forte did manage to reach more than 100 yards of total offense in eight games. Two of these games were against top-five rushing defenses.
Not bad for a rookie rusher.
This offseason, the bears made two moves that should boost Forte’s production. The Bears acquired Jay Cutler in a trade from the Denver Broncos. The Bears also added seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace.
In addition to signing Pace, the Bears also acquired Frank Omiyale.
Pace's presence will allow Chris Williams to move to the right tackle position, also allowing Omiyale to move from tackle to right guard.
This is a big improvement for the Bears' offensive line in 2009.
With the upgraded offensive line and Cutler under center, Forte is almost guaranteed to improve upon his 2008 rushing stats.
Forte’s 1,238 rushing yards came from 316 rushing attempts. This is only a 3.9 rushing average. For the '09 season, look for Forte to carry the ball more than 300 times, and have an increased rushing average of 4.2 to 4.5 yards per carry.
Last season, Forte led the Bears in receptions with 63.
With Cutler under center look for this number to drop. Even though Forte proved he was a solid receiving option in last season, Cutler is a strong–armed QB who likes to take chances down field more than checking down to his backs.
In 2008, Payton Hills led the Broncos backfield with 14 receptions. Cutler targeted Hills only 17 times.
Last season the Broncos went through more running backs than Chad Ocho Cinco went through touchdown celebrations.
All of the Broncos' running backs combined had a total of 46 receptions. Cutler targeted them just 63 times.
Kyle Orton targeted the Bears' backfield a whopping 103 times. Forte was targeted 77 times out of the 103.
In Chicago, the receivers are not as talented as those Cutler had in Denver. Look for Cutler to target his backfield more like in 2007, when he targeted the Denver backfield 80 times.
Look for about 75 percent of the passes to the backfield to go to Forte, which will give him a solid 45-50 receptions.
Some of Forte’s favorable matchups against the run are:
- Weeks One and 14 against the Packers (ranked 26th)
- Week Three against the Seahawks (18th)
- Week Four against the Lions (32nd)
- Week Six against the Falcons (25th)
- Week Seven against the Bengals (21st)
- Week Eight against the Browns (28th)
- Week Nine against the Cardinals (16th)
- Week 13 against the Rams (29th)
This year, Forte plays against five teams with rush defenses ranked better than 15th. These teams are Pittsburgh (ranked third), San Francisco (13th), Philadelphia (fourth), Minnesota (first), and Baltimore (third).
Forte’s fantasy playoff schedule includes:
- Week 14 Packers (ranked 26th)
- Week 15 Ravens (third)
- Week 16 Vikings (first)
With the Bears' key additions of an upgraded offensive line and Cutler under center, along with Forte’s impressive rookie season and a schedule that is favorable against the run in ’09, Forte is one of the safest picks at running back in the top of all drafts.
He warrants strong consideration to go No. 2 overall after Adrian Peterson is off the board.
I project Forte to have around 1,400-1,500 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards, and 10-15 touchdowns.
Forte did have a hamstring injury during OTAs. His progress needs to be monitored during training camp and the preseason to see if he has fully recovered.