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Spotlight: Matt Forte

posted by Will Grant on Jul 10th


Will Grant's thoughts

As of July 4th, the question on everyone's mind is 'Will Matt Forte hold out this season?' He hasn't signed his tender offer yet and he has missed all spring and summer OTAs and training camps. However, Forte recently commented that he won't hold out and hurt his team for the regular season.

The most likely course of action will be for him to sign his franchise offer and then negotiate a long term contract during the season. This makes the most sense for Forte though, as he'll make more in two games under the franchise offer than he did all of last season. He wants long term money comparable to what Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy received, but the Bears want to see if he's fully recovered before committing to him long term.

Early Success
Forte has been a staple in the Chicago offense since they drafted him back in 2008. Forte is a dual threat both as a runner as a receiver, and has more than 50 receptions in each of his first four seasons. Despite a poor offensive line in Chicago, Forte has posted more than 1400 yards every year, including last season when he missed four games due to a knee injury. He started the season on a tear, posting 10 or more fantasy points in eight of his first nine games. Even when he 'struggled', Forte still had more than 80 yards from scrimmage. The one knock on him, if he has any, is that he doesn't score a lot. Despite 11 full games last season, Forte only scored four TDS. He only had 13 TDS over the previous two seasons as well. Even with the limited scoring, Forte has been a guy who posts starter quality fantasy numbers.

A New Chicago Team for 2012
Going into this season, the expectations of the Chicago offense couldn't be higher. New GM Phil Emery has brought in a legitimate stud wide receiver in Brandon Marshall, and added rookie Alshon Jeffery in the second round. With the new 'pass friendly' offense that Mike Tice is installing, many Chicago fans are talking about a 4000 yard passing year for Chicago QB Jay Cutler. While 3800 is more realistic, it still means that there will be plenty of receptions to go around. Forte has always been a big part of the passing offense for Chicago, and he'll be a big part of their passing offense this season as well. While this might be the first time he has less than 50 receptions, he'll still have close to 400 yards receiving and score a couple TDS after the catch.

As a runner, Forte has really come into his own. After posting two sub-4.0 YPC his first two seasons, Forte has really turned it up over the last two years. He had a solid 4.5 back in 2010 and had a whopping 4.9 last season before he went down to injury. Despite poor line blocking, Forte has managed to make the most of his opportunities and can really do some damage when he gets into the open field. Last season alone he had 29 carries for more than 10 yards, including 13 of 20 yards or more and six of 30 yards or more. The Bears will need that big play capability this season as they hope to make it back to the playoffs.

Competition this Season
Perhaps the biggest challenge to Forte's dominance is the addition of former Raider Michael Bush. After Forte went down last season, it was clear that the Bears needed more depth at RB, especially with Forte in a contract dispute. Michael Bush stepped in for Darren McFadden last season and posted almost 1400 yards from scrimmage and 8 TDS. The Bears signed Bush to a three year deal and while Forte has been absent from the spring OTAs and Mini Camps, Bush has been running with the first team, learning the new offense. The success that Bush had in Oakland can't be immediately copied to Chicago, but Bush definitely has some skill. He has had a lot of time to bond with his new team mates and learn the new offense as well. When Forte returns, Bush will still be the backup running back, but he is proving that he can step in to give Forte a breather and still be very successful.

For 2012, you can expect Forte to be back in the 1500 yards from scrimmage range again this season. The presence of Michael Bush will cut into Forte's carries, but he'll still see the bulk of the rushing and receiving yards. From a rushing prospective, Forte should crack the 1000 yard mark again this season, and chip in another 450 - 480 yards receiving. From a TD prospective, Forte will still fall short of the double digit TDS that most stud RBS post. Between Chicago's focus on downfield passing, and Michael Bush splitting time with Forte, he'll post another 7-8 TD season.

Positives

  • 1400+ yards from scrimmage in each of his first four seasons. Forte is a guy who can carry the load
  • Even with the hold-out, Forte is still considered the top back. When he returns, he'll step right in to the primary spot
  • Revamped offense will provide more superstars for the defense to key on, increasing Forte's big play potential because defenses can't stack the box

Negatives

  • Forte's holdout prevents him from getting critical playing time with the first team in a new offense
  • Michael Bush is a viable backup, limiting Forte's upside potential
  • New offense will focus on passing more, and if it is very successful, Forte may be shut out of the passing game

Final thoughts

Many fantasy owners have been reluctant to draft Forte so far this season because he is holding out. However, Forte has too much to lose to extend his holdout into the season, and he recently commented that he expects to be in camp at the end of July. However, there are other reasons to be conservative with your assessment of Forte. By skipping all OTAs and mini-camps, he's losing valuable time with the 1st team offense as they try to learn a new offensive scheme. With Michael Bush in town, getting all the 1st team reps, he will be better prepared than Forte when the season begins, and could take a chunk of Forte's carries at the start of the season. However, by the time the season gets rolling, Forte should be back to full speed, and will finish the season as a solid RB2 with RB1 upside potential. Look for him in the second or third round, depending on your league format. Bump him up a bit in PPR leagues because he'll finish with more than 40 receptions as well this season.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

mphtrilogy said:

nervous, very nervous...

coming back from injury, coming late to camp? and a very good shared back situation...

really tempering expectations...

Knowit said:

Bush vultures a lot of opportunity even if there are zero issues with health or contract status

meyerj31 said:

Even in a pass-friendly offense under Martz the offense still ran through Forte for the past two years. They aren't going to suddenly throw it 50 times a game because they picked up Marshall and a decent rookie WR.

Last year they were 51/49 pass/run and I thoroughly expect that ratio to remain the same. Bush will get 7-10 touches a game, and Marshall will get a lot of the pass looks, but Forte is still the beast to own in that offense.

I view those other additions as increasing the effectiveness of the non-Forte touches in the offense rather than taking away his touches, and I would be shocked if he has less than 80% of his fantasy points from 2011. Expecting a rock solid 18 PPG from him this year, with upside.


Matt Forte projections

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