Great Chicago Debate: No, Not Cubs or White Sox, Matt Forte or Chester Taylor?

John GustafsonContributor IMay 29, 2010

A few days ago I engaged in a discussion about Chester Taylor being over-hyped. This was alarming to me because I love Chester Taylor as a fourth RB and have been targeting him around the eighth round.

I have also been avoiding Matt Forte. I loved him last year, but after 2009’s disappointing performance, I wasn’t going to go out of my way to pick him. With the help of special contributor Dave Perrin, I’d like to re-create that discussion. Dave’s arguments helped open my eyes to a possible fantasy gem that I may have been overlooking.

One of the keys to being a successful fantasy player is being flexible and open-minded. With that in mind, take a look at the back and forth between Dave and me regarding the Chicago Bears RB situation.


Dave: Okay, here’s something that’s been sticking in my craw since he moved to Chicago:

All this talk about Chester Taylor being “the guy” in over Matt Forte—based on what exactly?  On how he’s pretty much never done it in almost an entire decade in the NFL?  I’m sorry, but this reeks of the worst kind of band-wagoneering, for both players.

Lets take a sober look at the Chicago RBs:

Chester Taylor—he had one good year, and it really wasn’t that good.  Trust me, I had him that year.  Yes, he got 1,200 yards rushing and about another 300 receiving, but he had six lousy TDs and only two in the first nine games.  He had one TD in his first game and then only one more for the next two solid months.  Two months!  And that was four years ago.  His best season in nine years was 100 yards and two TDs better than the “horrible” season Forte had just last year (and if you consider that one of those TDs came in Week 17, its only one TD better).

Matt Forte—yes, he had a disappointing season.  Disappointing based on his being projected as a top-three RB, but the guy was dinged up all year and Chicago’s line played like crap for him compared to ‘08.  He still put up 1,400 total yards.

So why is everyone jumping all over themselves about a guy who been in the league since ‘02 and put up 1,000+ yards rushing exactly once, four years ago?  Why is he going to be “the guy” and take the job from a guy who had a down year last year and a great year as a rookie?  I don’t care what they’re paying Chester Taylor.  It's a little more than what LT’s getting and he’s not going to be “the guy” either.  Doesn’t it make sense that they got Taylor as insurance and to take a decent load off of Forte’s shoulders, because 380 touches his rookie year was too much?

Here’s what’s really burning my britches, though—where’s the real analysis?

All I’ve been hearing is “Oh! Chester Taylor is just soooo much more talented a running back than Matt Forte!”  Really?  Because that’s not what everyone was saying about Forte last year.  Either people were wrong about Forte last year or they’re wrong about him this year.  Or both.

Here’s the arc of how Matt Forte has been perceived over the last 2+ years:

2008 preseason—Matt Forte is a great guy, works hard, just not truly special.  The kind of guy you root for but not an elite talent.  Could have a chance to surpass Benson if Benson keeps screwing up.

2009 preseason—Matt Forte IS a special back!  Sure-fire top-three next year, possibly even the No. 1 pick in PPR format!  “A lock” for 300+ carries, 70+ receptions, 1,500+ yards, 12+ TDs, yadda, yadda, yadda…

2010 preseason—Matt Forte is an absolute dog!  He’s never even averaged 4.0 YPC!  Chester Taylor is gonna take that job!

So what’s up?

Maybe this is what’s up—Matt Forte, everyone was right the first time.  Great guy, lotta heart, well-rounded player, not an elite talent.  Overachieved in ‘08, underachieved in ‘09.  What should we expect in 2010?  How about a bounceback year but not what we saw in ‘08?

And Taylor?  Maybe everyone was right the first nine times—he’s not a starting RB.

So everyone was wrong about Forte last year.  So we’re all mad because we got burned taking him early in the first round.  Let's not make it worse by being wrong about both of these guys this year.

If Chester Taylor is soooo much more talented than Matt Forte, why has he only gotten one chance in nine years to be “the guy”.  Four years ago.

Seriously, who do you trust to be “the guy” if you’re Lovie Smith?  The guy who’s had one borderline RB1/RB2 season in nine years?  Or the guy who had a serviceable RB2 season and a top-five season in just two years in the league?

Child, please.

Okay, I’m officially off the soapbox.  Your turn.


John: Interesting argument, but Taylor played behind one of the best backs in the NFL. Also, if I’m Taylor, where else can I make loads of coin for basically playing a part time role while saving my body and increasing my bank account? Not may other professions, so if I were him, I would have happily played second fiddle to AP.

I’m not ready to peg him the man, but I do think we’ll see a timeshare here. I think most are in love with Taylor because he can be picked around the eighth round or later while Forte will cost a fourth or fifth round pick.

Backs do well in a Martz offense so we’re all trying to find the gem here. If you look at history, Martz only had two backs worthy of getting the ball once and that was in 2004 when he had Faulk on his way out and Jackson on his way in.

That year Faulk got 51 percent of the touches to Jackson’s 35 percent.

I think that’s a likely expectation in this situation. With that in mind, I’d still rather have Taylor late and hope he can increase his % and cut into Forte’s touches than spend a valuable early pick on Forte hoping he can get more.

Taylor = higher ceiling, lower risk.
Forte = lower ceiling, higher risk.

Taking Matt Forte is not a risk I’ll be taking this year.


Dave: And I’d be happy to get him as an RB2 in the fourth or fifth round, maybe with a nice set of WRs in between.  Just don’t see Taylor as having much value except as a backup.

This is a good thing though—looks like we won’t have to fight over these guys if we play in the same league this year.


John: Very true lol. I’m glad you brought this up though because I’m seriously on the fence about Forte. I want to like him, but I’m just not totally convinced. I’m going to keeping searching for reasons to consider him.

Ha, I think I found my answer. As miserable as Forte’s season was last year he still finished 12th overall at RB in ppr. I think he may have found himself onto my list.


Dave: Ok then—it's on!


John: I added him to my list, but would still likely take a WR late round four, early five, so he’s all yours buddy!

Or is he…


Dave: All I’m saying is they’re not paying Forte to sit on the bench either.  Look, I expect Taylor to play.  I expect them to limit Forte’s carries—to less than 300.  I’m not putting Forte up there with Gore and potential top-five RBs, just saying he’s going to be better than last year.  And better than Taylor.


John: Well said, thanks Dave! I may have missed a good one had you not brought your perspective to my attention.

In the end, it’s up to you decide which back you like more in Chicago, but as Dave pointed out, don’t fall in love with Taylor. He’s a nice mid-round value pick, but don’t go expecting him to steal the job from Forte anytime soon.

This could change over the summer, but right now it looks like Forte will be the higher scorer out of the backfield in Chicago.

This is a battle we’ll have our eyes on all fantasy summer long!


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