Missed the List: Matt Forte
Ben 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.
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