Welcome to another installment of “Over/Under” where I highlight a player, determine some projections based on past tendencies, then state whether I think they will go “over or under” those projections. The criteria will be different for each player based on position and situation. This week’s debate will focus on Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte and the line will be 1,100 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving and ten total touchdowns
Perhaps no player on the Bears’ roster benefits from Lovie Smith’s firing and Marc Trestman’s hiring more than Matt Forte. As a versatile all around runner with exceptional hands in the passing game, Forte was methodically phased out of all short yardage situations as time went on. Even without double digit touchdown numbers, Forte has been a very consistent contributor in point per reception leagues due to his heavy involvement in the passing game.
During the first two seasons of his career, he was used as the team’s feature back. However, when Mike Martz was hired in 2010, he immediately brought in Chester Taylor to form a one-two punch from the running back position. In 2011, Marion Barber III was signed to be the battering ram, but had nothing left in the tank. The first legitimate threat came in 2012 when Michael Bush, one of the best available running backs in free agency, signed with the Bears in what was a bit of a head scratcher.
Each year the front office brings in another power back and each year Forte outperforms all of them. Even though the Bears have had one of the league’s worst offensive lines over the last three years, he has managed to average at least 4.4 yards per carry since 2010. Obviously, it helps when you aren’t accumulating short yardage carries versus stacked fronts for no gain.
Where he really makes his presence felt is in the passing game. He has averaged 53.4 catches for 465 yards and 1.8 touchdowns over his five year career. Last year was the first time he failed to reach 50 receptions and it was one of the main factors leading to Lovie Smith’s dismissal, according to GM Phil Emery.
After an exhaustive coaching search which included at least 13 known candidates, the Bears signed former Montreal Allouettes head coach, Marc Trestman. During his five year stint up north, he won two Grey Cups and CFL Coach of the Year in 2009. The CFL is odd to me, I try to watch it and I want to like it but it’s like asking for filet mignon and someone handing you a White Castle slider. No thanks!
The exciting part of Trestman’s resume is the success he has had as an offensive coordinator. In 1997, he guided Scott Mitchell to the fourth most passing yards in Lions history with 3,484 yards. In 1998, he took a historically bad Arizona Cardinals team to the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and won their first playoff game in 51 years. That year, Jake Plummer threw 3,737 yards. In 2002, while with the Oakland Raiders, Rich Gannon won the league MVP award on the way to the Super Bowl. That year, running back Charlie Garner rushed for 962 yards, seven touchdowns and caught 91 passes for 941 yards and an additional four touchdowns – those numbers are good enough for 347.3 points in PPR leagues and would have placed him .1 point behind Adrian Peterson in 2012. Fun fact, Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, and Charlie Garner led me to my first fantasy football championship in 2002, so I unknowingly owe a thank you to Marc Trestman, too. Thanks bud!
As I mentioned earlier, Forte has been running behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines over the last few years, but that should finally change. The Bears should especially improve on the right side where they drafted Oregon right guard Kyle Long (son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long). They also drafted right tackle Jordan Mills of Louisiana Tech. Early results have been positive for the rookies. They’re starting from day one and have more than held their own through two preseason games while giving Forte and company big holes to run through – he has rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, 8.1 yards per tote. The most intriguing development has been his involvement at the goal line. His touchdown came from three yards out. In the past, he would have come off the field for a touchdown vulture. Hopefully this trend continues. I’m looking forward to this week’s preseason game so we can get a better look at the first team offense.
The over/under line won’t be a walk in the park, but I’m taking the over. I believe in Matt Forte. I look for him to really excel in this offense and do better than he has the last two years. I fully expect him to eclipse his 2010 season while setting a new career high in receptions. This offense cannot continue to be the Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall show. Coach Trestman was brought in to incorporate a secondary and tertiary receiving threat and while people are getting excited for second year wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and free agent tight end Martellus Bennett, look for Forte to be the secondary receiving option this year.
According to Ryan McDowell’s July ADP tracking, Forte is being selected as the RB12 in dynasty start-up drafts with an ADP of 22.67. Look for this number to get closer to the middle of the second round when August’s data is revealed. He is a solid, although not sexy, RB1 with a very high floor in PPR leagues. If I draft a wide receiver in the first round of a start-up, Matt Forte is the kind of running back I hope is there in round two when it’s my turn to pick again.
What do you think? Can Matt Forte achieve 1,100 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving and 10 total touchdowns? Let me know in the comments section below.
Eric is on Twitter @OlingerIDP.