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Matt Forte

Chicago Bears Running Back

Matt Forte was one of the big surprises of the 2008 fantasy football season. I had a friend who drafted Matt Forte begrudgingly in several drafts when no one else worthwhile seemed available.

That Matt Forte pick ended up propelling him to two league titles. Matt Forte proved to be a workhorse with 379 combined touches (rushes, receptions) in 2008 for the Chicago Bears – who really had no one else on offense.

Coming into the 2008 season, the Chicago Bears were listed in several publications having the worst offensive line in the NFL. They were mired in the perennial poor-man’s quarterback battle between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, that no one outside of Chicago really cared much about. Combine that with no receivers and an aging, injury-prone defense, and most experts thought the Chicago Bears were in for a really long season.

Matt Forte 2008 Rookie Season

Matt Forte - Chicago Bears Running Back Matt Forte came in as a 3rd round running back who was big and rough, but had fallen in the draft because he was a little slow of foot for NFL scouts. (I compared him to a young Deuce McAllister in size and running form, but without the game-breaking speed Deuce once had.) Really, the only thing Matt Forte had going for him was the Bears had no one else to be their #1 runner, so he was going to "get his chance".

In most fantasy leagues, then, Matt Forte went among the last of the starting rookie running backs (Chris Johnson was considered a backup), usually in the 6th round or so. When you got to the point where you pretty much thought every other starting NFL runner on the fantasy draft sheet sucked, you drafted Matt Forte, because you didn’t know he sucked yet. On that decision, many fantasy league titles were won.

Matt Forte 2008 Fantasy Season

Matt Forte came out early and broke a long touchdown run against the Indianapolis Colts Defense, and it seemed like it was a dream season after that. Matt Forte had over 1,200 yards and 8 rushing TDs in 2008, but it was his receiving totals that put him into the elite category.

Matt Forte had 63 catches for 477 yards and 4 more touchdowns – which gave him respectable touchdown numbers for the year. Kyle Orton couldn’t find anyone downfield, so he was dumping off the ball to Matt Forte all year. The Bears still missed the playoffs, but they did well enough to compete for a spot up to the final couple of weeks.

Note, that’s a reason to draft Knowshon Moreno in receptions leagues, because he might be subject to the Kyle Orton "Matt Forte" reception effect.

Matt Forte 2009 Fantasy Football

So that brings us to my Matt Forte 2009 fantasy prediction. A lot has changed in a year. In fact, Matt Forte is listed as the #2 or #3 overall pick in most fantasy football leagues. I’m not seeing it.

Let’s look at the inclusion of Jay Cutler on the Chicago Bears Roster.

Jay Cutler and Matt Forte

You expect to see Jay Cutler look downfield a whole lot more than Kyle Orton did, so don’t expect to see Matt Forte continue to catch 60+ balls this year. I would go for the 30-40 range – perhaps as low as half as much. Matt Forte has shown he’s a good pass catcher, but the Bears didn’t bring in Jay Cutler to dump off the football.

On the other hand, if Jay Cutler jumpstarts the Bears Offense like the front office and Lovie Smith wants him to, Matt Forte should get more touchdown opportunities than he did in 2008. Eight rushing touchdowns isn’t very many for an elite running back going 2nd overall in most league, and Forte will need to double that total (1 per week) to justify being drafted that high.

That’s possible, but only if Jay Cutler transforms the Chicago Bears Offense. The problem is, Matt Forte and Greg Olson will continue to be Cutler’s most talented options, so he might struggle to find a big play guy.

Devin Hester led the Bears receivers in receptions last year, but I have a hard time believing Hester will run routes effectively enough to become a #1 receiver. Earl Bennett was Jay Cutler’s teammate at Vanderbilt and Lovie Smith says he’ll be given a chance to win the starting job opposite of Devin Hester, but Bennett didn’t catch one pass in his rookie season last year.

Matt Forte’s Workload

Matt Forte doesn’t qualify for that 370+ rushing attempts jinx, like Michael Turner does this year. But that’s really just a technicality. Michael Turner had 376 rushes and 6 receptions last year. Matt Forte had 316 rushes and 63 receptions last year.

Add all that up and Matt Forte touched the ball (and got hit) only 3 times less than Michael Turner in 2008. So if you are the type to be concerned with Michael Turner’s body recovering from so big of a workload in 2008, you should probably be concerned about Matt Forte, as well.

Matt Forte Profile

With that in mind, Matt Forte is 23 years old and can’t be said to have taken the career pounding that other 1st round runners in 2009 fantasy football have. Matt Forte has the body type that doesn’t last too many season in the NFL: 6’2" and 222 lbs.

I still compare Matt Forte to Deuce McAllister in terms of body types (once again, without Deuce’s original speed) and Deuce eventually ran into problems on the injury front. Still, that took 2-3 years of real NFL workload before it happened to Deuce, so that shouldn’t be a major concern in 2009 for Matt Forte.

Draft Matt Forte in the top 5 picks and shrug your shoulders if he starts to get nagging injuries in 2009.

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