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:
|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.