Fantasy Football 2011: Is Matt Forte a bargain?

September 1 7:53am

By Antonio D’Arcangelis

In 2008, Matt Forte was an unexpected boon for fantasy owners who took a shot on him in the middle rounds. While just about everyone else was focused on other big-name backs like Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart and Chris Johnson, Forte was largely ignored as a marginal talent on a bad offense. By the end of his rookie season, Forte had accumulated 1,238 rushing yards and 8 TDs on 316 carries – not to mention 63-477-4 in receiving numbers that helped make him the fourth best overall back in fantasy. Since then, he’s come back to earth, largely because his rushing workload has decreased. Last season, however, Forte was a Top Ten fantasy back, finding more room to run and reaching paydirt a total of nine times.

Now could be the time for him to really shine. With the addition of Marion Barber, Forte’s numbers should actually get better. Barber is a solid short-yardage and third-down back, but he’s been less effective near the goal line in recent years and won’t dominate the work inside the red zone. While Chester Taylor isn’t yet completely out of the picture, his days are probably numbered. And there’s a good chance that Forte will assume a greater workload than 2010 and once again hit the 300-carry mark for the Bears. Chicago has a team that’s going to grind out some games despite the presence of Jay Cutler. Offensive line coach Mike Tice doesn’t have a bevy of road-graders to work with, but he’s a smart personnel guy and knows how to develop young lines. Tice has shuffled around his veterans (Chris Williams, Roberto Garza, Lance Louis), found a gem in second year-tackle J’Marcus Webb (now at all-important left tackle) and added rookie tackle Gabe Carimi – a Wisconsin product who could flourish on the right side. It’s a group that’s played well in preseason and could surprise some folks in 2011.

Forte isn’t the kind of guy teams can game-plan for, because he’s not the biggest threat on the team, and he’s capable of exploiting small openings with his preternatural field vision. He’s not a Jamaal Charles or Chris Johnson – he won’t take it 80 yards to the house on an inside draw – but he’s fully capable of amassing 1,700 total yards and 10-12 TDs because of his ability to change directions and burst through the hole. The addition of a tall veteran possession receiver in Roy Williams – who complements a burgeoning mix of talented young receivers – will pull some of the focus away from stopping the ball at the point of attack.

Forte’s current ADP is 3.01, and if you take him as the first pick of the third round, you’re getting an immense bargain. He’s a great RB2 (if you go RB-WR with your first two picks) and he’s a much safer pick than the backs in this area (the aging Steven Jackson and work-weary Peyton Hillis). If you can’t land fantasy stalwarts Michael Turner or Frank Gore, Forte might just be the next logical choice. And unlike Turner, he’s heavily involved in the passing game, recording at least 50 catches in each of his first three seasons. I’d venture to guess that in PPR leagues, he’s a much better bargain than Turner, Hillis and maybe even Gore.

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