The Elite RB Conversation Now Includes Matt Forte/Updated RB Rankings

Like many others, I recommended C.J. Spiller as a top three pick in fantasy football leagues. I ranked such players as Trent Richardson, Reggie Bush and (hesitantly) Arian Foster over Matt Forte. At the time, I saw no fault in these actions. After the first three weeks, however, I took some time for self-reflection. I usually give it three weeks before radically shifting my pre-draft rankings just to make sure I am not overreacting.

Through three unpredictable weeks, filled with Anquan Boldin going for 200 yards then a big goose egg, it has become clear: Matt Forte has arrived as an elite fantasy running back. Whatever it is that Marc Trestman and Phil Emery have done for this offense has worked. As is true for every offense, it all begins up front. When the Bears drafted Kyle Long, most people thought this was a reach. Fast forward heading into week 4 and Peter King disagrees. According to the MMQB (Peter King’s website), Kyle Long is the offensive rookie of the year so far this season. Not to mention rookie RT Jordan Mills has secured the edge on Cutler’s strong side and Jermon Bushrod has secured the blind side. Between those three additions, because I think Matt Slauson is very average, the Bears’ offensive line has risen from terrible to useful. That can only mean good news for a back who also is targeted plenty in the passing game.

Just how often has Forte been targeted this season? Forte ranks second in all of football with 20 targets behind Jamaal Charles. Obviously converting at a higher rate, Forte is tied with Charles for the league lead with 18 receptions. PPR formatting or not, Forte’s receptions are helping you in fantasy because they’ve already resulted in 158 yards. The 158 yard total ranks fifth in the NFL right now behind Joique Bell, Darren Sproles, Jamaal Charles and Reggie Bush. If Forte keeps up this pace, which is pretty unreasonable to think, he will finish with 96 receptions for 736 yards. In 2012, the NFL’s leading receiver among RBs produced 75 receptions and 667 yards (both Darren Sproles). Forte’s torrid pace in the receiving game alone gives him RB1 value in PPR and is enhancing his value immensely in non-PPR.

Along with the opportunity in the passing game, Trestman is giving Forte a full workload on the ground. With 55 carries, Forte ranks ninth in the NFL in that category. Sometimes a runners’ effectiveness declines with volume but Forte’s YPC is still a respectable 4.1. Sure, that number is down from 4.4 last season, but I don’t see any reason to worry here. The most encouraging number of all in Forte’s numbers is his usage where it counts; the red zone. People’s knock on Forte has always been his lack of TD upside because of coaches’ willingness to pull him for a goal line option. Seemingly the tides have turned. Last season Forte only saw 27.3% of the team’s rushing attempts in the red zone. Already this season, that number is up to 71.4%.

If you’ve been reading the news this week, you’ve probably seen Michael Bush was named the team’s goal line back. If a Forte owner in your league is worried about this, I have one word for you: pounce. Even if Forte is not getting carries on the one yard line, he should continue to see them from five and ten yards out. Forte is explosive to the point that he can score from anywhere on the field and Trestman is calling plays to try and get him into the end zone. Forte’s two TDs are already 1/3 of his total from last season and he has 13 games to play. I believe whether or not he receives another carry from the one yard line is irrelevant. He will still be given plenty of opportunities to score touchdowns……more than he has ever seen before.

All this being said, where does Forte rank these days? If you’ve read my material before you know PPR is the format I usually roll with. In this format, I’ve given the Bears’ all-purpose back a huge lift. As of week 4, here is my updated set of RB rankings going forward:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. LeSean McCoy
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Matt Forte
  5. Marshawn Lynch
  6. Doug Martin
  7. Ray Rice (should play this week)
  8. Trent Richardson
  9. Arian Foster
  10. Frank Gore
  11. Reggie Bush
  12. Darren Sproles (good buy low opportunity)
  13. Alfred Morris
  14. C.J. Spiller
  15. DeMarco Murray
  16. Giovanni Bernard
  17. Eddie Lacy (should be back after the bye)
  18. Darren McFadden
  19. Bilal Powell
  20. Chris Johnson
  21. Steven Jackson (out until week 7)
  22. DeAngelo Williams
  23. Le’Veon Bell
  24. Maurice Jones-Drew
  25. Lamar Miller
  26. Willis McGahee
  27. David Wilson
  28. Stevan Ridley
  29. Joique Bell
  30. Rashard Mendenhall
  31. Knowshon Moreno (seems like his grip on the job is slipping)
  32. Daryl Richardson
  33. Danny Woodhead
  34. Ryan Mathews
  35. Fred Jackson
  36. Pierre Thomas
  37. Brandon Bolden
  38. Montee Ball
  39. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
  40. Jason Snelling
  41. Bernard Pierce
  42. Shane Vereen (out until at least week 11)
  43. Ben Tate
  44. Daniel Thomas
  45. Michael Bush
  46. Jacquizz Rodgers
  47. Ronnie Hillman
  48. Marcel Reece
  49. Andre Ellington
  50. Kendall Hunter
  51. Zac Stacy
  52. Mark Ingram
  53. Bryce Brown
  54. Roy Helu
  55. Chris Ivory
  56. Mark Ingram
  57. Johnathan Franklin
  58. Mike Tolbert
  59. LaGarrette Blount
  60. Isaiah Pead

Let me know your thoughts on my updated rankings. Who do I have too high/too low? One thing is for sure in my mind however: the elite RB conversation now includes Matt Forte.

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