Missed the List: Matt Forte

Khaled Elsayed gives his take on a player who just missed out on making the PFF Top 101

| 3 years ago

Missed the List: Matt Forte

2013-101-missed-forteBen and Sam have had their say and now it’s time for me to weigh in on the player who I feel was most harshly done by in missing the PFF Top 101 of 2014. Sure, the process produces a consensus-based outcome, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t disagreements and I won’t lie when I say tensions got very high when my case for my player fell on deaf ears.

Who was that player? Well it was none other than Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.

A little clue into how the process works. Each of the analysts goes away and makes their own Top 101 lists, before merging them and getting a joint list. That is followed by discussion and then the list is written up. Now when it comes to Forte I had him in the 70s and it’s not hard to explain why; He’s dangerous with the ball in hand.

The Blocking Problem

And to a degree this is where my colleagues and I differed. They really value pass blocking in a back and in that regard Forte stunk. He was in a lot of respects an unmitigated disaster with his 17 quarterback disruptions the worst of any running back, and his grade in this regard also the lowest.

Even there, though, I’d counter that they were punishing him a little because the Bears really used him a lot in that regard, heightening his chances of getting beat. Indeed, he was in pass protection on 145 occasions which was the third most of any back. So while he was indeed poor, what would have happened to the grade say Adrian Peterson got if he was in pass protection an equivalent amount of times or if his quarterbacks held onto the ball as long as the Bears’ QBs did?

So my rationale is: I’d like Forte to have done a better job there but I can live with those 17 instances (seven of which occurred during a three-game span) because what he did with the ball in hand was impressive.

Give Him the Ball

A workhorse back, he held up under the weight of the third-highest total of regular season carries and produced the second-highest yardage total. Even so, I can see why that alone may not propel him onto the list with a rushing grade that was bettered by nine others who rushed at least 200 times. His yards per attempt was far from spectacular, he fumbled twice and we had the Bears down for third-highest run blocking score of all teams. If you’re asking me who had a better year out of him and Marshawn Lynch then I’m saying Lynch who overcame some truly terrible blocking at times.

That, however, is not the question. And when I bring receiving into the mix I’m left frustrated that Forte didn’t crack the Top 101. In the modern game having a back who can make things happen catching the ball out of the backfield is incredibly important, so to find a lead back who can do that should be championed, rather than ignored. Forte would finish with the fourth-most receiving yards and fifth-highest receiving grade in a demonstration of his excellence, which combined with his rushing grade would see only four other running backs end the year with a better combined grade.

In The End…

Those numbers, those impressive numbers, are why Forte should have made the list and while I understand my colleagues wanted a more complete individual, they’ve essentially punished Forte for being trusted (perhaps wrongly) to do more than other backs in the league.

So I’ll leave it to you to decide as to whether you think he was harshly done by. Do you agree with the group consensus that he got more help from his run blocking unit, didn’t star enough as a rusher and wasn’t a good enough blocker? Or do you think that his overall body of work on his 363 touches of the football make him one of the best 101 players of 2013? For me there really is no question that this back belonged.


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled

  • Thomas Holm

    I think somewhere in the 80-90s would have been fair. You can argue that he was the third best out of the Bears offensive trio (Marshall, Jeffery and Forte) so i think the 80-90 range would have been fair.

  • Silver12345

    Khaled, you clearly have a higher Football IQ than your colleagues.

  • Daniel Lawson

    how many RB are better then him? 3? 4 at most… most RB don’t even have the kind of load he has either… not only as a runner, but moving into the slot at time and pass protection… AP can’t catch and he can’t block and Shady can’t block

    • Wyzel

      Forte can’t run against 8 man fronts nor is good in goalline work. AP wasnt asked to catch due to musgrave being terrible, look at 09 when vikings had a QB, 43 for 436. Also AP had a better blocking season than Forte.
      This forte better than AP argument is stupid. AP has played in 12 more games has 2700 more total yds. and 40 more TD’s.
      Keep telling yourself his receiving and blocking makes him better.

      • Tommy MIlanovich

        I am a huge bears fan but anyone who says Forte is better than AP is stupid… kinda the same with saying AP is better than Forte… The fact is that AP is a much better runner than Forte and I dont think anyone will argue that. Honestly AP is probably the best runner I’ve ever seen, I wasnt alive for the walter payton era or berry sanders. But based of highlights I like AP. Forte wont wow you anywhere but he is one of the few backs in the league that can do it all well. I would say Forte is a top 5 back. AP is probably the best in the league, then Mccoy, then Lynch, and then probably Forte. Thats how I would grade it. But AP is my #1 and has been since I first say him play. He is the Walter Payton, Berry Sanders, Jim Brown… of this era

        • Chuck Canning

          Tommy, It is Jim Brown and from there a debate can begin on who is 2 and 3 and 4…. Brown was a beast possessing a strength/speed combination which could still dominate today.
          He was the only ball carrier I have seen who created Butkus-like fear among opposing players. After Brown… Sayers if you excuse the career cut short by injury or Sanders for those who include longevity as prerequisite for consideration. For three and a half seasons Sayers did things on a football field that were beyond belief. It sucks that so much of it was not preserved on film. Sanders came closest to displaying that same type of magic and did so for 10 full seasons – and incredibly had perhaps the greatest single season ever by a RB in his 9th season.

          • Wyzel

            Yeah it is too bad Sayers film isnt there, and that the bears ran him into the ground in three years. I agree that its really hard to compare apples to apples for players anymore, especially going back that far. Brown never played against guys 100 lbs bigger than him, most players were smaller. Even in Walter’s time the fridge was considered huge and by todays standard he is normal.

      • Chuck Canning

        Wyzel, Daniel’s assertion that Forte should rank as a top 5 RB has merit. Stats-wise the case is clear: rushing yds 2nd, rushing TDs 6th, yds per attempt 9th, yards per game 4th; total TDs 8th (4th among RBs), yards from scrimmage 3rd. Yes, his PFF pass blocking grade was a poor -4.0. But that was influenced by an offense where we was called to regularly execute chip blocks before rolling into pass patterns.
        Granted AP is absolutely one of the all-time greats running the ball and by comparison Forte is merely a good one. But you had to cherry pick back five years to find one decent season Peterson had as a receiver and even then that season roughly matches Forte’s worse.

        • Wyzel

          I didnt cherry pick, I picked the one year he had a legit QB. Watch last year, AP didnt get a screen pass until week 14 or 15, it was pathetic, instead musgrave insisted on doing bubble screens week after week. Forte is a better pass catcher, I won’t argue that, but the I think the reason AP stats are so low had to do with musgrave more than AP being bad at it.

  • halm

    To weight pass protection more than receiving is absolutely criminal. First and foremost a half back/running back is an offensive weapon and so key offensive statistics should definitely play a bigger role in ranking him.
    It’s also important to remember the most likely reason Forte was asked to block so often is due to a brand new o-line in front of him.

  • Steven

    Forte is asked to do more than 95% of RBs in the league, and struggles at times because of it. But his net results is a huge fat positive for the Bears. If the team didnt trust him to block they wouldnt have him pass block as much as he does and we all know jay likes to hold that ball a bit longer than most QBs. Sounds like your colleagues looking too much at stats and not using the eye test as much, Thats great in baseball, but this is not baseball.

    • [email protected]

      Agreed, baseball is a MUCH simpler game. In football you have 22 guys affecting every play.

  • Tommy MIlanovich

    Well first off pass blocking should be graded in %. If Matt Forte gave up 17 QB pressure it should be compared to how many times he was asked to pick up the blitz. If he was asked to pick up the blitz idk say 75 times. He was effective 77% of the time. Now we take someone else like idk McCoy, Now idk the actual statistics but I’m just throwing numbers out for an example. Lets say he had 7 QB pressures but only had to pick up the blitz 20 times because he was not asked to pick up blitzes as much. That means McCoy was only effective 53% of the time making Forte the more reliable back in blocking. Now idk if the grading is done like this but I assume not. Most backs in the league would have a much worse grade than forte in terms of blocking if they were asked to block as much as him. So what they need to do is break it down to a much more equal level. Simplest way to achieve this is just to break it down to percentages and see how effective they were when asked to do that specific duty. If there in the backfield blocking with no blitzers they are 0-0 that play. If they pick up the blitz well and do not give up a QB pressure they are 1-1 on that play. If they give up a QB pressure on the blitz then they are 0-1. They should not be penalized however when lets say the RT biffs on his block and the running back is unable to stop the penetration from the defender, but if he does lay the block it should affect his statistics positively, so we give him a freebie, 1-0. So at the end of the year the back has been asked to pick up 56 blitzes, he gives up 10 QB pressures, but he makes up for broken blocks 2 times. So that makes him 48-56 (46-56 but the 2 added blocks brings it to 48-56) in the backfield making him 86% effective… Thats how they should be graded. No player should be penalized for being a bigger part of their team. Agreed?

  • Burma Jones

    “To weight pass protection more than receiving is absolutely criminal.” I have to agree with this. Not that your team and scheme won’t influence your offensive stats, but how well and often a back blocks is way too dependent on factors other than the RB to be meaningful and snub someone as patently talented as Matt Forte off of this list.

  • Jesse

    He only gets those receiving touches because he’s the passing back; which is also why he gets te pass block opportunities. They go hand-in-hand. So, to me, it’s cherry-picking to laud one and put the other in the corner.

  • Andy Collier

    Wow, this is really surprising. Forte was involved in 36% of the Bears offensive plays last year, and they passed a TON! He also almost amassed 2,000 yards from scrimmage. So he’s not a good pass blocker? How many times did he block compared to other RBs? I think that’s paralysis by analysis…