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Dynasty Debate: Matt Forte vs. DeMarco Murray

Editor’s Note: Allen Bassett is huge supporter of DLF via twitter. Today, he generously offers us his personal insights on the choice between two popular and similarly drafted running backs in Matt Forte and DeMarco Murray.

Thinking about the choice between Matt Forte and DeMarco Murray? Before we look at the numbers, let’s look at the current team situations.

The Chicago Bears signed Michael Bush as a free agent, traded for Brandon Marshall, and drafted Alshon Jeffery. The NFC North will be a very tough division and the Bears clearly realized a good defense is not enough. Jay Cutler is a gunslinger and will be airing it out a lot more. Bush showed he can handle the workload and should be taking the goal-line carries.

The Dallas Cowboys largely left the offense alone. All key players are back, along with the coaches. They did lose Laurent Robinson and Martellus Bennett to Jacksonville and New York, respectively. The Cowboys need a third wide receiver, but could easily see a balanced attack if either Dez Bryant or Miles Austin go down again.

Now for the numbers.

Currently, Matt Forte is being drafted as the 12th running back and 27th overall pick, while DeMarco Murray is being drafted as the 14th running back and 30th overall pick according to MyFantasyLeague.com keeper league draft data.

Forte played in 12 games before getting hurt last season. He is threatening a holdout if he doesn’t get a new contract, and with Chicago balking, I’m scared. To me, that’s risk number one.

Forte had a healthy 4.9 yards per carry in 2011 to go along with 997 rushing yards and 490 receiving yards. If you just look at those numbers, you would be correct to think he could be a RB1 in fantasy. However, this may not be the case when you consider that 58.5% of Forte’s receiving yards came in the first three games (23% of his playing time). Those defenses ranked 20th, 30th, and 32nd in pass defense, respectively. Don’t forget, Forte’s yards per carry was a disappointing 3.6 in 2009 and 4.4 in 2010. To me, that’s risk #2.

If you look at games where Forte faced defenses ranked 20th and higher in rushing (seven games), he averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry. However, looking at games where Forte faced defenses ranked 19th and lower (five games), he averaged a paltry 3.0 yards per carry.

In the 2012 schedule, the Bears’ opponents will average a 2011 rushing defense ranking of 14.5 from weeks three through sixteen. Also, Forte will likely be taken out based on situations with Bush on board, which is dangerous for any fantasy football owner because it limits that player’s ceiling. According to Thefakefootball.com, Forte has only scored three times in 33 attempts within the five yard line. The Bears will give Bush every opportunity to own that position in 2012. To me, that’s risk number three.

Three strikes and you’re out is a baseball metaphor, I’m told.

So where does that leave Murray?

For numbers sake, we can only look at the games once Murray began getting at least ten carries a game (starting with New England in week six). Also, I have even left out the 253 yard St. Louis game as an outlier.

Using the same type of research, Murray had two games against defenses ranked 20th and higher and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Remember, this does not include the St. Louis game where Murray rushed 25 times for a ridiculous 253 yards. He also had five games against defenses ranked in the top 19 for rushing and averaged a very respectable 4.6 yards in those contests. Murray isn’t holding out, has a full offseason as the lead tailback, and will be fully healed from the broken ankle he suffered last year. Also, Murray will only be taken out for a breather, which does not limit his ceiling nearly as much as situations will.

To be honest, I wasn’t that high on DeMarco Murray until after starting the research. Now, I believe the sky is the limit. That sky is already held by Arian Foster, who gets handed the rock 21 times a game (Murray averaged 18.7 carries per game after taking over the starting spot). The numbers for Foster, Murray and Forte may surprise you.

The chart below shows Forte vs. Murray vs. Foster:

Rushing Only Forte Murray Foster
Defenses ranked 20-32 5.2 yar/car (7 gms) 5.4 yar/car (2 gms, not StL) 5.4 yar/car (6 gms)
Defenses ranked 1-19 3.0 yar/car (5 gms) 4.6 yar/car (5 gms) 3.6 yar/car (7 gms)
Difference -2.0 yar/car -0.8 yar/car -1.8 yar/car

As you can see, all three running backs have solid stats when facing a defense that finished in the worst 13 in the league. However, look at the top 19 defenses. Even the mighty Foster averages one fewer yard per carry. I am not saying that Murray will outperform Foster this year (but if it happens, you heard it from me first). Foster is too valuable in the passing game which won’t be duplicated in Dallas. For reference, Murray averaged three catches per game at Oklahoma. But then again, who else will be catching passes from the backfield?

Now, if you remove week 13 when Forte was hurt and normalized his points/game over the season, he would have been the sixth highest running back at 248 points. If you take Dallas’ weeks 7-13 and normalized Murray’s points/game over 16 games, it would amount to 245 points. I believe this is Forte’s ceiling, but not that of Murray’s. If healthy, Murray could easily be in the area of LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice as they fit similar situations and talent. Plus, the chance of Felix Jones unseating Murray is quite low.

Fantasy football is all about risk, ceiling, and some luck. Matt Forte has too much baggage for me and if there is any lengthy holdout for Forte, you could expect more of a Chris Johnson 2011 situation.

To me, I’ll roll the dice with Murray over Matt Forte if given the choice.

You can follow Allen on Twitter – @FD_Bass.

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Brady Lawson
10 years ago

I personally am avoiding both RBs at their current ADP. I think an important factor that you didn’t mention about Murray is his injury risk. He is similar to McFadden. Huge amounts of talent but can’t stay on the field. I owned him in a couple of leagues last year and traded him away after a couple big games based on his injury history in college. Sure enough, he went down before the season was over. It’s possible he overcomes his injury problems, but you can’t ignore the history.

Jacob
Reply to  Brady Lawson
10 years ago

I would tend to agree with you Brady about the injury history. In my eyes, it is the big reason why I won’t ever have guys like McFadden or Murray on any of my teams. With the injury history, I’m not going to pay the price required to get theme for half of a season.

Reply to  Jacob
10 years ago

you cant win championships by always being conservitive in your drafting. the rb position is getting more complicated and jambed with committees. you gotta take some chances with guys this talented?

Reply to  bigD
10 years ago

the main reason i like mcfadden and murray so much is exactly the rb by committee??? these 2 are probably the only ones that really wont be in a committee? when they are both healthy they will be on the field and they will be their teams ground games.

Jack Daniels
Reply to  Brady Lawson
10 years ago

That’s why you have to get depth. I have both Murray and McFadden as my #1 and #2. Age + talent will always win over “injury history”. Everyone gets injured and I think Murrays broken foot on a bad tackle would have put anyone on the IR.

Guys who play it safe usually end up in the middle of the league, just one or two wins away from the playoffs. Those who have the talent and depth to overcome injuries hold trophies.

Reply to  Jack Daniels
10 years ago

I don’t know about that. There is a huge middle ground between playing it safe and drafting guys with big injury histories. I’m not saying these guys are worthless, they just don’t end up on my teams because I won’t pay the going rate for them. I’m just saying I would much rather have Forte for a full season than Murray for part of a season and need to carry a backup for the rest. That then allows me to take more risks on some sleepers/fliers instead of burning a lot of resources on a few high quality backups that I know I will need for a good chunk of the season.

As for playing it safe leads to missing the play offs, I don’t think that is true at all. I’ve been top point scorer 3 of the last 4 years by picking guys that stay healthy and are very consistent week in and week out. Sure, you need a little risk, but I would rather have it in sleepers/flier than on injury risks.

Reply to  Jacob Feldman
10 years ago

name me one rb that you can bank on week in and week out without getting hurt. they all do. they’re game life is about 5 years? thas why everyone has 2 or more now. you have to draft depth and carry backups. its the beast of the game now.

Reply to  bigD
10 years ago

Nothing is a guarenttee, but some guys are just healtier than others. To think otherwise is just a little foolish. Forte has been the guy and played a full 16 games 3 out of 4 seasons. Peterson has played 14+ in 4 of 5. McCoy has played 15+ in 3 of 3. Ray Rice is 16 in 3 of 4, just like Forte. What about McFadden? Hasn’t topped 13 games in his career. Definitely a pattern there.

Lotto4Life
10 years ago

Forte had a healthy 4.9 yards per carry in 2011
Forte’s yards per carry was a disappointing … 4.4 in 2011

Lotto4Life
Reply to  Lotto4Life
10 years ago

Hit submit too soon. That should have been
3.6 in 2009
4.5 in 2010
4.9 in 2011

Feel free to nuke these comments after correcting.

Sensei John Kreese
Reply to  Lotto4Life
10 years ago

Wont nuke your comments, man.

At the risk of sounding sarcastic, What point were you trying to get across? Those YPC figures were already addressed in the article….see “strike 2”

Deadly EFX
Reply to  Sensei John Kreese
10 years ago

His point is actually pretty clear. What the writer points to as “strike 2” I look at as a positive. His ypc have gone UP the last three years. And this is with defenses keying on him.

That’s what you want in an RB. So how can that be a negative against Forte?

Considering the weapons now in Chicago, defenses won’t be so quick to stuff 8 in the box now. I expect Forte to have more room to run and to take full advantage.

Admin
Reply to  Lotto4Life
10 years ago

Looks like it was just a typo on our part. Fixed now!

Lotto4Life
Reply to  Eric Dickens
10 years ago

I assumed it was just a typo. It’s easy to get crossed up when dealing with that many years and stats.

I’m one who thinks a better offense overall is really going to ding Forte’s value. I’m avoiding him this year after he carried me in a redraft last year.

Ray Voeller
10 years ago

I have Murray ahead of Forte,Charles, MJD and McFadden. Other than the injury history he is the total package to be a top 5 fantasy back. Have Foster, McCoy, Rice, Mathews, T.Rich and CJ2K ahead of him. This article confirms my personal rankings.

Coach
Reply to  Ray Voeller
10 years ago

mjd is top 4 in my mind for this year. Foster, Rice, MJD, McCoy.

if we’re talking long term thats another story.

bill
Reply to  Ray Voeller
10 years ago

ditto

Cyrus Miller
10 years ago

I had to make this decision in a startup dynasty league. While I like Murray, I think he is an injury risk and I went with the more consisent (but less exciting) Forte.

Here is my take:

Strike 1: He won’t hold out. It isn’t feasible to hold out, I am sure he will be there. Since I am comfortable with that decision, this becomes a ball for me.

Strike 2: While a concern, Forte has been consistently used in the passing game over his career, and I think his effectiveness is directly related to the Bears offense. If they faced a good defense, the defense took Forte out of the game and the Bears offense couldn’t get anything going. With Marshall and Jeffrey, I think Forte will have a lower percentage of touches compared to the overall team, but will have more chances and produce more because the offense is more effective. But I am fine leaving this as a strike.

Strike 3: The stats show that Arian Foster, the RB I consider #1 right now, has the same differential of around -2 ypc when facing good defenses. And it doesn’t affect his productivity, he is still #1! So I am not concerned about that.

I am confused by the concern regarding Bush… the article says that Forte has only scored 3 times out of 33 tries within the 5 yard line. While that definitely means they will give Bush a chance, that also means that Forte only stands to lose about 3 TD. Since he seems to be a failure at converting these, I am fine with Bush taking the beating and Forte being fresher for the between the 20’s work.

Also, I think this is more symptomatic of the offensive line, which is pretty bad but could be improving. If they don’t get a push, the RB can’t make much difference.

As far as I am concerned, Forte is the lower RB1 that can be had for an RB2 price. Murray could be a stud and definitely has youth on his side, but I don’t trust him to stay healthy.

Allen
Reply to  Cyrus Miller
10 years ago

1) The injury to Murray was a fluke. Broken bones are impossible to predict and are fully healable. If it was an ACL/MCL or head injury I’d be scared. Do you remember Peterson flipping in the endzone and breaking his collarbone in Oklahoma? He had a similar knack out of college and it worked out for millions of fantasy owners.

2) The problem with Bush taking over all short-yardage and goalline work is what that leaves for Forte. If he only has a chance at yardage, that becomes a quite significant handcuff on a player many draft as their RB1.

Let’s say the Bears start on the 20 yard line. Through different plays, Forte has 24 yards rushing and 17 yards receiving up to the opposing 22 yard line. Forte takes a carry to the outside, turns the corner, and gets shoved out at the 3 yard line. Knowing he will not get a single carry at this point while Bush is healthy makes it a tough sell. Bush takes it in from the 3 and now has more fantasy points than Forte.

This is what I mean by ‘situation back’ which will not happen in Dallas, Baltimore, Houston, Minnesota, etc where the Running Back only gets taken out for a breather. Dallas is a high-octane offense if Romo doesn’t crack another rib. That’s a healthy formula.

Coach
Reply to  Allen
10 years ago

personally i think bush is a better more complete back than forte is anyway. id take murray over forte. id take a lot of guys over forte.

CQD
Reply to  Coach
10 years ago

The Bush-love is bizarre… I can’t figure out where it’s this coming from, either.

* He averaged 3.8 ypc last year. He had 5 games where he averaged LESS THAN 3 ypc!

And…

* “More complete”? Seriously? Bush has never had more than 37 receptions in a season, and had only 3 games with more than 3 receptions.

One more thing:

* In games where Bush had to carry the rock 20 or more times, he averaged 3.6 ypc compared to Forte’s 5.54 average in such games.

So, while Forte’s 2011 numbers (12 games, 997 yards rushing, 4.9 aypc, 52 receptions, 490 yards) seem similar to Bush’s (977 yards rushing, 3.8 aypc, 37 receptions, 418 yards), Forte, who is also 2 years younger, is clearly preferable.

Cyrus Miller
Reply to  Allen
10 years ago

1) I understand this particular injury is a fluke. But I view Murray like McFadden without much track record– both have a long history of injuries, and whether each individual one is a fluke or not, I want to stay away.

Peterson was different, IMO, coming out of college, and I was never concerned about him with injuries.

2) I can see your point with the hypothetical scenario. But that is assuming that the Bears score every single drive. More typically, they will score 1 to 2 rushing TDs a game. That means that Forte will get the yardage and might break a long TD, and if the team is set up for short yardage, Bush gets his vulture.

As the article clearly states, Forte has only scored 3 TD from within the 5 yard line. Look at his stats for the past several years and remove those 3 TDs– he is still a great player in PPR leagues on an every week (when healthy) basis. I like that consistency. I actually prefer players who can rack up points without scoring TD’s, because that is more likely to maintain.

BP
Reply to  Cyrus Miller
10 years ago

A lot of people seem scared of Murray because of his injury history, and relate him to Run DMC. I don’t necessarily agree, and think a lot of people are blowing it out of proportion based on what they;ve read or heard. The broken foot was a fluke and could happen to anyone. Hamstring strain during training camp does not really bother me, it’s not uncommon. Otherwise, I think Murray missed 4, maybe 5 games his entire college career. He got dinged up some, but played through the pain and was effective. I think the ability to play through injury and be effective is a desireable quality in an rb. He really hasn’t missed much playing time. He’s missed more NFL games than he his college games, and that was because of an injury that doesn’t concern me at all. I’ll gladly draft Murray and expect big things out of him. But just in case, of course he will be handcuffed.

Coleman Kelly
Reply to  BP
10 years ago

Cyrus makes a great point here. Players that don’t require TDs for points are desirable. Catches are much easier to predict that TDs, which are totally fluky.

Since 2008, Forte has scored 29 total touchdowns: 21 rushing, and 8 receiving. Take out the 12 from his rookie year, and Forte has scored 11 touchdowns of 10 or more yards since 2009, and 6 TDs from inside the 10 yard line. Forte will get the big play opportunity, and he’ll still be able to score. I’d rather have him than Murray due to the injury history. In dynasty, I could see the argument against Forte though, and he may not be in Chicago next year.

BJ
Reply to  BP
10 years ago

First off, I thought the article said it was a debate? All I saw was pointing out anything bad with forte and brushing off all of demarco’s weak points. Forte has never been a touchdown scoring machine so stop talking about how much bush is going to eat into his touchdowns. This same argument has been made against forte for the past three seasons with taylor and barber. Please just stop.

This is the biggest issue I have with the community here at DLF. Everyone is way too interested in the future and all of these shiny new toys. I keep reading how people won’t trade a top rookie draft pick for a guy like brandon marshall or hakeem nicks. The guys you are drafting will be lucky to turn into these vets. This same idea applies here with this argument. Give me the sure thing. Hell, could you imagine if forte doesn’t come back next year and ends up on the jets or another team with a offensive line? Don’t get me wrong, I am a demarco fan but forte is an established RB1. It’s just not a fair argument yet….

Just my two cents…

Cyrus Miller
Reply to  BP
10 years ago

To reply to BP–
Murray had the injury history knock coming out of college. Whether he missed a lot of games is irrelevant, he didn’t fall to the fourth round because of talent, but due to the injury concerns.

To reply to BJ–
Rest assured it is not just the DLF community. Everyone loves shiny new toys in dynasty leagues. It reminds me of a Family Guy episode where Peter wins a prize and is given the choice of a boat or a mystery box. While he really wants a boat, he gets excited by the mystery box and says “It could be anything! It could even be a boat!”

At least we are comparing Murray, who did explode a bit last year, instead of someone like Wilson.

(Haven’t looked at the stats, but didn’t Murray fade before the injury?)

Allen
10 years ago

Your point about consistency is dead on. However, with the addition of Bush, Forte’s ceiling is much lower. That is not good for a player drafted as a RB1.

Chris R.
10 years ago

What long injury history are we looking at with Murray? How many total games did he miss in his entire career at OU compared with how many touches he had? I’m of the belief if a guy is knicked up and plays it’s not an injury. When McFadden is hurt, he’s OUT, for months on top of months. If were just talking Ryan Mathews level of injury concern where he gets knicked and has to be on the injury report, that’s not a big deal.

Whether you have Murray, or a RB who has never gotten injured, your still facing a chance he gets hurt. Murray to me easily has the potential to finish top 10 and a RB1 with that offense, how many catches he racks up, and involvement in short yardage, goal line, and the passing game. Dallas uses him like a work horse and he’s talented enough to let that situation be gold for fantasy owners.

I sold high on MJD numerous times this off-season in what was a “downgrade” to Murray and picked up as many moving parts on top of that I could. 1st rd picks, high upside WR’s like Denarius Moore, or whatever else that team had to offer.

I have Forte and Murray both on 1 team and there is a good chance Forte will be traded before 2013, I feel alot more confident with Murray this year and long term.

Invisibulman
10 years ago

I guess I am the only one who thinks this isn’t that close… I have Forte well ahead of Murray. Forte has been a borderline elite RB for several years. Murray is a guy who had a couple of good games before he got hurt.

The Bush signing doesn’t concern me at all because Forte has never been a goal line threat. That isn’t new. He pours on yardage very consistently and catches a ton of passes out of the backfield.

Bottom line is that I need to see A LOT more of Murray before even considering him in this tier. Once upon a time Steve Slaton was an awesome breakout rookie… until he became Steve Slaton.

Rich Dunn
10 years ago

First, Forte’s franchise tag will pay him around $7.7 Million. For the 4 years of his rookie contract he earned less than half that in total. So, yes he’d like to get a long term deal but I seriously doubt he’ll pass up $7.7 Million. And how does he get a pay day in 2013…by having a great 2012. In fact Forte has publicly stated he’ll have no choice but to play under the tag if a long term deal isn’t worked out. Second, I really don’t see the concern with Bush. Barber was getting around 10 touches per game prior to Forte missing time in 2011. Taylor was getting similar touches in 2010. When DMC was healthy Bush was getting around 10 touched per game. Add all that up and Bush will probably be getting around how many touched per game….ding, ding, ding… TEN

NJ-EAGLES-FAN
10 years ago

Any chance you can publish that chart for the top 30 RB’s? It would be nice to get a league wide perspective on those numbers.

Allen Bassett
Reply to  NJ-EAGLES-FAN
10 years ago

Are you talking about the defenses ranked 20-32 vs 1-19?

Steve
Reply to  Allen Bassett
10 years ago

Yes – I’d like to see all the relevant RB’s compared this way. I think it would be both beneficial and interesting to see. Any additional insight into how RB’s compare to eachother is helpful for drafting, trading, and picking starting lineups. It may reveal that certain players are more consistent and must starts regardless of matchup while also revealing that some players considered “must starts” really aren’t when it comes to tough matchups. The more tiers the better – top 10 vs 11-20 vs 21+. Adding “avg points” as another category and giving the number of games vs each category may be helpful as well. This may be to much work if you’re doing it by hand – if you’re just using spreadsheets though – it would be nice to see.

Rich Dunn
10 years ago

Sorry, inadvertantly hit submit prior to finishing…Murray came into game 7 with fresh legs and “hammered” the 31st and 32nd rated Run D’s and scored a TD against each. His only 2 TD’s of the season. In the last 4 games prior to going on IR he carried 64 times for less than 3.5 ypc. During this entire period F Jones had a high ankle sprain and was only active for a few games. A year ago everyone was touting F Jones as the “guy”, if/when he’s healthy this year I’d anticipate him getting a decent workload. The other thing to consider is Jones is only a few months older than Murray and has actually had many less touches over the last 4 years than Murray; albeit Murray’s were mainly in college. Imo, Murray’s long term value is at least somewhat dependent on what Dallas does with Jones. Give me Forte.

Eric MacKenzie
10 years ago

Is someone seriously knocking Matt Forte’s goalline game in favour of DeMarco Murray? Dallas had a grand total of five rushing touchdowns last year. Five. Not goalline touchdowns. Rushing touchdowns and one of those five was by Tony Romo.

Murray is a speed guy and put up most of his great number while playing at home on turf. He managed one game away from Dallas with a ypc above 3.5 and that was in Philly where he had a mere 8 carries.

Further, his splits against top defenses are being carried by one solid game against Seattle and a game where he had 8 carries against the Eagles. Seems a bit of a jump to assume he’s suddenly dominating top rushing defenses.

Murray will put up solid yardage because of the offense he plays in. Don’t expect a lot of TDs and he’ll be hit and miss against solid defenses.

Matt Mueller
Reply to  Eric MacKenzie
10 years ago

Yep. Dallas typically relies on Romo in the redzone. They have Dez, arguably the best redzone threat aside from Calvin, and still have Witten/Austin.

Not too mention I think the D’s of Giants/Eagles/Wash are much better than Detroit/Minn/GB.

Gimme Forte.

Cyrus Miller
Reply to  Matt Mueller
10 years ago

Glad to see additional insight.

I love the idea of Murray, and think that with a solid RB, the Dallas offense would like to become less dependent on Romo.

But until it happens, and until Murray stays healthy, I am not paying his price tag. Forte’s ceiling comes at a discount, Murray’s does not. And Forte’s floor is higher than Murray’s.

Adam
10 years ago

Forte, that was easy.

Ask
10 years ago

The pool says most people would rather own Murray. Bur really dont get it, Forte has put up great numbers for more years, Murray just had a couple of good games – i really hope he will be a good RB 1 as i have him in my primary league.

Chris Crane
10 years ago

I choose not to vote

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