NFL Fantasy Football: Will Matt Forte Bounce Back in 2010?

Chris DiLeoCorrespondent IApril 11, 2010

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 06: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs against the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field on December 6, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Rams 17-9. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Matt Forte was drafted out of Tulane University in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, and he made an immediate impact for the team by accumulating an impressive 1,715 total yards, scoring 12 touchdowns and hauling in 63 receptions in his rookie year.

Entering 2009 with high expectations, Forte’s fantasy stock elevated after the Bears completed a blockbuster trade with the Denver Broncos to acquire franchise quarterback Jay Cutler.

The logic being that Forte was one of the few every down running backs in the NFL with all the ingredients to become a fantasy superstar. He has great hands making him a major factor in the passing game, a monopoly over the goal-line carries and a premier quarterback that would force opposing defenses to respect the passing game.

On paper, that was sound logic. It caused Forte to be drafted in the top five in nearly every fantasy draft. Often times, he was selected as a second or third overall pick. Unfortunately for the fantasy owners that drafted him, he fell well short of expectations and was one of the bigger fantasy disappointments of 2009. 

Forte’s amounted 1,400 total yards and 54 receptions, which helped him rank 12th among running backs in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues. However, his total of four touchdowns really hurt his value in standard scoring and touchdown heavy leagues. 

Forte had several issues working against him, such as a sub-par offensive line as well as several nagging injuries. He was slowed early due to an injured hamstring suffered during the preseason. Then he played through an MCL injury most of the year, which required arthroscopic surgery at the conclusion of the season.

Taking into account his injuries, and assuming he returns to full health in 2010, it was reasonable to consider Forte to bounce back this upcoming season. 

When the Bears hired offensive coordinator Mike Martz in February, this gave even more reason to be optimistic considering Forte’s receiving skills combined with Martz’s pass-first philosophy and how the coach likes to utilize running backs in the passing attack. Although it is plausible that his rushing attempts decrease in this offense, his overall touches could potentially increase, which would increase his value, especially in PPR leagues.

This optimism was short-lived because Chicago then signed running back Chester Taylor to a $7 million contract in March. The size of the contract is not one of a backup so it seems that the Bears intend on utilizing Taylor in their offense. Although head coach Lovie Smith has declared Forte the starter, he also indicated that he will be in offseason competition with Taylor. 

On the positive side, Forte is just 24 years old compared to Taylor, who turns 31 this season.  If Forte could exhibit the explosiveness, versatility, and goal line prowess he displayed his rookie season, he could be in line for the lion’s share of the workload.

Forte was drafted to be the Bears’ featured running back and it should be his job to lose.  It is imperative that he establishes himself as the primary back in the eyes of coaches during offseason workouts and training camp.

On the negative side, if Forte holds onto his starting job, it looks as if his days of being an every-down back are over. Taylor should be very active on passing downs, and could potentially see plenty of time in a change of pace role. This scenario leaves open the possibility of Martz sticking with Taylor for long stretches of games.  

Assuming that Forte is the starter and will give way on passing downs to Taylor, he should be considered a No. 2 fantasy running back for the 2010 season. 

This takes into account the multitude of risks for Forte. His durability, the possibility of losing playing time to Taylor, as well as the fact that the Bears have yet to address woes along the offensive line run risk for Forte. Perhaps the biggest concern is whether he can reassert himself as an effective goal line back. 

In keeper/dynasty leagues, Forte is not one of the best options available at this time, as there are at least 15-20 young and talented running backs that offer better upside both now and in the future. 

I couldn’t fault anyone, however, for hanging onto him for another year to see how the running back and offensive line situations shape up, and whether he proves his disappointing 2009 campaign had more to do with injuries than lack of ability.

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