Boring is never in-season, especially in the off-season, when a lot of owners are looking to swing a dynamite trade. Boring can be extremely valuable, though, and at a position as deranged as running back, it’s imperative to hunt for any inkling of value.
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Forsett, currently the 48th-ranked running back in our positional rankings, is a nice guy to target over these next few months. He’s a player whose value has a great chance to rise, mostly because he’s being valued like a week-old McRib sandwich you stepped over on the sidewalk.
Forsett’s value is hurt by a couple things. First, he’s a running back. Secondly, he is entering his age-31 campaign. Next, he’s coming off a season-ending injury. Lastly, Javorius Allen, his young backfield mate, played decently well last season when Forsett was out of the lineup.
However, I think we’ve knocked Forsett too low. In our six DLF February startup mock drafts, his ADP was RB53 (157th pick), so his value appears to be even lower than what we have him ranked. This presents an opportunity to acquire an undervalued asset for very little.
Better Than You Think
Forsett’s 2014 breakout was similar to wideout Travis Benjamin’s emergence this past season. The fantasy community sort of mocked it early on before realizing it wasn’t a fluke. Forsett still hasn’t completely shaken the label of a pedestrian runner — someone once referred to him as oatmeal — but he is a very good NFL back.
Over the past two seasons, among running backs with at least 300 carries, Forsett leads the NFL in yards per carry at 4.94. Better than Le’Veon Bell. Better than Jamaal Charles. Better than — you get it.
In that span, he’s eighth in total rushing yards despite having fewer carries than any other back in the top 15. He’s proven to be an effective receiver, too, hauling in 75 of 100 targets since the start of 2014.
Admittedly, because of a 10-game season in 2015, his two-year numbers are heavily affected by his monster 2014 campaign, when he racked up 1,529 total yards (1,266 rushing) and eight scores with a pristine yards-per-carry clip of 5.4. While he didn’t match those numbers in 2015, he was still pretty solid, carrying the ball 151 times for 641 yards (4.2 YPC) and two scores.
You’re Only As Old As You Feel
While Forsett doesn’t have a huge sample size from which to draw conclusions, it also means he’s young, in football years.
Because Forsett bounced around the league for a long time before finally getting a workhorse role with the Ravens, he’s been subjected to a lot less pounding than the average 30-year-old running back. Forsett has just 733 rushing attempts in his eight-year career and only one season (2014) of more than 160 carries.
Just for a point of reference, Bell, entering his fourth season, already has 647 carries while Adrian Peterson, entering his age-31 campaign just like Forsett, has carried the rock a whopping 2,381 times.
Season-ending injuries are never a good thing, but a broken forearm, which is what ended Forsett’s 2015, is much better than any lower-body injury. Forsett should be completely fine for the start of off-season activities.
Throw An Allen Wrench Into The Plans
While there will always be trepidation with older running backs, the play of Allen last year may be what’s really causing owners to devalue Forsett.
Allen took over the Ravens’ backfield after Forsett broke his arm in Week 11. Allen was a solid late-season producer, especially in PPR leagues, as he handled at least 16 touches in five of Baltimore’s last seven games.
Allen’s rushing numbers from his rookie year were rather blah. He gained 514 yards on 137 carries (3.75 YPC), finding the end zone once.
He put in work as a receiver, though, hauling in 37 of 49 targets for 295 yards and two scores over the final seven weeks. This included a monstrous 12-catch, 107-yard day against the Cleveland Browns. Davante Adams is jealous of those receiving numbers.
Allen definitely deserves a hat tip for catching 75 percent of his targets, but Allen’s receiving production, I believe, was largely based on the Ravens’ offensive situation at the time. All of Allen’s six starts came with Steve Smith Sr. and Joe Flacco out of the lineup. He was lining up behind quarterbacks Matt Schaub, Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Clausen, meaning it was checkdown city. While Kamar Aiken fared decently well over the second half of the year, that trio of quarterbacks, combined with Aiken as the team’s top wideout, made Allen a pretty nice option.
Basically, the offense was bereft of quality NFL players, and Allen reaped the benefits.
Let’s take a look at Allen’s and Forsett’s numbers from 2015:
Albeit not by a significant margin, Forsett was the better runner, even in a down year compared to his 2014 performance, while Allen took advantage of his busy role in the passing game.
There were some grumblings of Forsett being a possible cut candidate, but carrying a meager $1.17 million cap hit, it was never going to happen. Baltimore confirmed as much last week. The Ravens also have Lorenzo Taliaferro and have reportedly shown interest in Trent Richardson, as well. Both are longshots to have meaningful roles anytime soon.
I don’t know how the Ravens’ backfield will shake out this upcoming season, but Head Coach John Harbaugh recently hinted at a camp battle while also praising Forsett. “The featured back will be the best back, and to me Justin Forsett certainly fits the bill,” Harbaugh said, according to Baltimore’s official team website. “He’s proven that already.”
It’s dangerous to dissect a quote this far removed from the start of training camp, but it makes it sound like Forsett will go into camp as the guy to beat for the lead role. I may be grasping at air here, and there is certainly a possibility of Allen and Forsett splitting the load fairly evenly.
Thanks to an injury-riddled season last year, Baltimore had its first losing record since 2008. The Ravens are an organization used to winning and focused on contending again in 2016. I think Forsett is the better player right now and gives them the best chance to get back to their winning ways. My guess — purely a guess six months away from the season — is Forsett will have a significant role in 2016.
On The Cheap
As I already mentioned, we have Forsett ranked 48th among running backs, and in our six February startup mock drafts, he had the ADP of RB53. How much could he possibly cost to acquire? Maybe a third- or fourth-round pick? Maybe a six pack of beer?
In my mind, it’s as simple as this: with where Forsett’s currently being valued, very little has to happen for his value to rise and possibly rise considerably. Namely, he needs to secure the Ravens’ lead role.
Obviously, as a running back in his 30s, there’s a pretty low ceiling to Forsett’s dynasty value, but I envision him being a player contending teams look to acquire in the middle of next season, which makes Forsett valuable to everyone right now.
Like fellow DLF writer Brian Malone put it in his (dope) piece on rebuilding: we should be indiscriminately seeking value. The current makeup of your roster — title contender, already loaded at running back, in a complete rebuild, etc. — is irrelevant. We should be value-hungry robots, constantly acquiring value whenever possible, and a player whose value has a good chance to rise should be a straight dime-piece in our eyes.
If Forsett helps you in the pursuit of a title in 2016, that’s great. If you give up a 2017 third-round pick for him in March and ship him off in November for a 2017 second-round pick, that works, too.
For those who don’t invest heavily in the running back position, like myself, it’s critical to find cheap production. We know the position is bonkers, and Forsett provides us with a low-cost, low-risk option who could end up being a valuable asset this fall.