Name the first NFL running back that comes to mind. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Chances are, you thought of Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy or even the running back on your favorite team. All worthy candidates, but it may be time to stop overlooking Matt Forte, who could quietly be the safest bet in your entire fantasy league in 2014.
Forte may not go No. 1 on draft days across the internet, but he needs to be a top-five pick at the very least.
We will start with the numbers, because that’s truly all that matters in fantasy. Forte rushed for 1,339 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013 and mixed in 594 receiving yards and three touchdown catches for good measure. Of particular interest to fantasy owners, he received 76.9 percent of the Chicago Bears’ carries in the red zone and was targeted 11 times in the passing game inside the 20.
Forte also led the league with four carries of 40 or more yards, so there is an explosive element to his game.
What’s more, Forte was third among running backs with 74 catches and fourth in receiving yards. His involvement in the passing game alone makes him more enticing than the majority of players at his position.
It’s not as if 2013 was a breakout, once-in-a-lifetime season for Forte either. He has never rushed for fewer than 929 yards in a single season and topped 1,000 yards on the ground in four of his six years. He is also durable and played in all 16 games in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013 and 15 games in 2012.
Before we get too carried away with the eye-popping numbers, we need to address concerns about his age. Forte is 28 years old, and there is certainly a chance that all those touches will eventually catch up to him. However, as Zach Zaidman of the Chicago Bears Radio Network pointed out, Forte’s keeps himself on the field because of his training:
Martellus Bennett says he trained with Matt Forte this offseason and it changed his career.— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) July 27, 2014
Plus, the Bears drafted a formidable backup in Ka’Deem Carey, who finished third in the NCAA with 1,885 rushing yards last year at Arizona. He checks in at 5’10” and 207 pounds and possesses the size and speed combination that makes a number of running backs so dangerous in the NFL.
Simply put, he was the backup ball-carrier that Chicago was missing in 2013.
On the surface, it may seem like Carey will steal some touches from Forte, and that will probably be the case. However, Forte will be fresher because of it throughout the entire season and more productive in those critical fantasy playoff matchups in Weeks 15, 16 and 17.
Who wins the NFC North?
We know Forte puts up incredible numbers consistently every year, and his durability means you can feel relatively safe about him in terms of injury (or at least as safe as you can feel about any running back). What else makes him such a fantasy stud?
That would be the offensive weapons that are everywhere you look in Chicago.
The Bears were second in the league in total points in 2013, and that was just in Marc Trestman’s first season as head coach. They return all 11 starters from that unit and should be even better in 2014 with more experience in Trestman’s system.
It will be absolutely impossible for opponents to stack the box against Forte because Jay Cutler will find Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery or Martellus Bennett. Safeties who creep up to stop the run will be leaving their cornerbacks on an island against some of the best receivers in the entire NFL.
That means more room for Mr. Forte to operate.
Forte discussed his team’s overall potential recently, via CSNChicago.com:
“Just by being out there and going against them this whole training camp, our defense is definitely talented. We've made some plays here and there as well, but I think our team as a whole is really talented. We have a chance to be really good this year.”
Speaking of that defense, the Bears missed the playoffs last season because they ranked dead last in the league against the rush. This year, Chicago addressed that weakness and added veterans Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston along the defensive line and drafted cornerback Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech.
With a stronger defense and an explosive offense, the Bears should find themselves in the lead often in 2014. They will be in position to run the ball and the clock, which is fantasy code for more opportunities for Forte.
Don’t let those opportunities go to your fantasy opponents because you overlooked Forte on draft day.
*In-depth stats from Michael Beller’s breakdown on SI.com.
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