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TRADING SPACES: Matt Forte


By Alan Satterlee, DFW Senior Writer and Co-Owner, @Speedkills_DFW

// DFW / REDRAFT 2016 SERIES

KEY VITALS
After eight tremendously successful seasons in Chicago, Matt Forte will don the green and white of the New York Jets in 2016. To say that the Bears got their investment out of their 2008 2nd round pick is to put it mildly. Forte has been an institution in the Bears’ offense, rarely missing time (just eight total games in eight seasons) and consistently productive. With an average of 1,590 total yards per season, Forte has been simply been an offensive force and factoring for the eight missed games, that’s more than 100 yards per game for Forte — game in, game out, over eight years (106 yards per game). In turn, Forte has been a fantasy football force, never ranking lower than 18th at his position and he’s ranked in the Top 10 among running backs in five of his eight seasons (including #8 last year). Heading into 2016, Forte ranks 38th all-time in rushing yards at 8,602 and if he can hang on for two more seasons (he certainly seems so), Forte will crack the pivotal 10K mark in 2017 (but if he were to have a magical season in 2016, perhaps there is a chance this year although 1,398 rushing yards would seem a bit unlikely given that his career best is 1,339). If Forte can play at a high-level (and if somehow he could be be a part of the equation to lead the Jets to a Super Bowl run) a case could be made for Forte to get into the Hall of Fame someday (again, he needs significantly more still though). Forte certainly has been one of the elite of his generation, along side Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles (from the same draft class), Steven Jackson (drafted four years earlier), Frank Gore (drafted three years earlier), Marshawn Lynch (drafted one year earlier) and three backs from the draft class a year after Forte (Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster — although Foster wasn’t drafted). Probably for many people here, the name Matt Forte probably draws vivid memories as you may have started playing dynasty football around then (for me personally, that was my first year in dynasty and we had a separate rookie draft that year). It was a class filled with steals and misses. Darren McFadden was the 4th overall pick, then a string of backs taken in the late first (Felix Jones at pick #22, Rashard Mendenhall at pick #23 and Chris Johnson at pick #24). The second round of that NFL Draft saw gems Matt Forte, Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles selected — and FYI Tim Hightower (5th round) and Justin Forsett (7th round) also went that year. Forte enters 2016 in his age 30 season (and will turn 31 in December). As good as he’s been, Forte received a fairly meager contract really at 3-years, $12M (to put into perspective, Doug Martin landed $7.15M per year in Tampa Bay, Lamar Miller received $6.5M per year on average from Houston, and Chris Ivory received $6.4M annually from Jacksonville).

 

CAREER STATISTICS

YearTeamGamesGames StartedRush AttRush YardsYPCRush TDRecRec YdsRec TD
2015Chicago Bears13132188984.14443893
2014Chicago Bears16162661,0383.961028084
2013Chicago Bears16162891,3394.69745943
2012Chicago Bears15152481,0944.45443401
2011Chicago Bears12122039974.93524901
2010Chicago Bears16162371,0694.56515473
2009Chicago Bears16162589293.64574710
2008Chicago Bears16163161,2383.98634774
TOTAL12012020358,6024.2454874,11619

 

FANTASY OUTLOOK
Forte2On the one hand, Forte is a year older and comes off his “worst” season in the NFL (at 1,287 total yards, with three missed games), but on the other hand, he goes to a markedly better offense (which seems a bit odd to say when someone goes to the Jets). The Jets though were better than the Bears in pretty much every category you can think of: the Jets were 10th in yards per game at 370.3, versus Chicago who were 21st at 344.6; the Jets ranked 11th in points per game (24.2) versus the Bears who were 23rd (20.9); the Jets were a better passing offense with 4,057 passing yards (13th) while the Bears had 3,660 (23rd); and the Jets also edged the Bears in rushing yards as well, 116.8 per game to 115.9. In doing projections, I have Forte with a solid season ranking him as RB13, so an elite RB2 for your team this year (I have Forte for 968 yards and 6 rushing TDs, with another 362 through the air on 45 receptions and another 3 TDs through the air). Forte has been a true difference-maker in PPR scoring as he’s averaged 61 receptions per season (and he set the NFL record with 102 receptions in 2014). That works well as there are receptions to be had in this offense as well — between Bilal Powell (47), Chris Ivory (30), Zac Stacy (9) and Stevan Ridley (4) there were 90 receptions that went to running backs last year. There is one fly in the ointment though and that is Bilal Powell — he’s a good receiving back as well. As mentioned above, Forte received a 3-year, $12M deal from the Jets — and then the same day they gave nearly the same amount to Powell with a 3-year, $11.25M deal. Hmm. It’s possible that Powell eats into Forte’s looks in the passing game more than fantasy owners would like. For what it’s worth, in a May 16th New York Post article, Forte said that he thinks he can lead the league in rushing this season. Forte has never won a rushing title — the closest he came was in 2013, when he finished second with 1,339 rushing yards (and he comes off a career-low 898 rushing yards). In a follow-up question, the Post asked Forte if winning a rushing title was a “realistic goal” to which Forte replied, “Why not? Is that a realistic question?” I will say it’s been safe to NOT bet against Matt Forte (that’s for sure), and he goes to the place where veterans of late go to dominate. Somewhat out of nowhere, Ryan Fitzpatrick was the 12th-best quarterback last year, while Brandon Marshall (#3 WR last year) and Eric Decker (#13 WR) continued their dominating ways after signing with the Jets. Marshall referred to Forte as “the best all-around back our league has had” in the last eight years and it’s hard to argue with him, so maybe I am selling Forte short at RB13. As for veterans signing with the J-E-T-S, I am also reminded of Thomas Jones who signed there after seven NFL seasons and then he simply tore it up (averaging 1,438 yards in three seasons from 2007-2009).

 

FFWIMAGE-JetsNEW TEAM IMPACT
Getting their ducks in a row, the Jets actually signed Forte, Powell and Khiry Robinson all on the same day (March 10th). Assuming Ryan Fitzpatrick re-signs with the team, they should have a pretty potent offense again, and it’s hard not to imagine that all the Jets aren’t better having swapped out Chris Ivory for Matt Forte. As such, Forte’s signing makes all the skill-position players safe, attractive fantasy options. They also are likely to be under-valued on draft day. Fitzpatrick was QB12, but he is QB31 in ADP currently (which no doubt will rise once he’s drafted but Fitzpatrick will not be in the top 12 of quarterbacks drafted). Brandon Marshall has just a 4th round ADP (despite being WR3 last year) and Eric Decker has a surprising 7th round ADP (nowhere near where he finished last season).

 

FFWIMAGE-BearsNEW TEAM IMPACT
As for the Bears, they are down one Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, but up one Jordan Howard and Daniel Braverman (so net-net, that’s not a positive), plus they will get Kevin White back after the prize of their 2015 draft missed the entire season. Expect Howard and Jeremy Langford to split the work in some fashion. Howard is a big power back who you would think would be a good candidate for 1st and 2nd down work in the trenches to pick up the tough yards. Langford, meanwhile, should be a good candidate for solid targets in the passing game and I would think that he is also more likely to be the main back (and Langford has the most pure upside for the Bears in 2016, and Langford could potentially pop for a big season). In particular, Langford has very solid receiving skills (he had 22 receptions for 279 yards last year as a rookie) while Howard offers almost nothing in this area (just 8 receptions per season in college). This will be a camp battle to watch for sure this summer, but here in May I have Langford slotted as RB20 in PPR scoring.