Ravens Re-sign Justin Forsett
Although Forsett made less money than several other backs on the open market, he came away as a winner this offseason. He stays in the same situation that led to his breakout age-29 season, and oh yeah, let’s not forget that he will be 30 years old in October. The Ravens return one of 2014’s most efficient runners in the league on a per touch basis.
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At the start of the 2014 training camp, Forsett was viewed as nothing more than camp fodder. The journeyman was behind Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce on the depth chart and he was battling rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro for the third spot. Ray Rice’s suspension coupled with an early nagging injury to Pierce opened the door for Forsett’s breakout season.
In a familiar zone-blocking scheme, with a head coach whom he had already played for in Houston, Forsett rushed for 1,270 yards and eight touchdowns on just 235 attempts (a 5.4 yards-per-carry average). He also added 263 yards on 44 receptions. Forsett finished as the No. 8 running back in standard leagues and the N0. 7 back in PPR leagues.
Although the Ravens boasted PFF’s fourth-best run blocking unit, it would be unfair to give them all of the credit for Forsett’s season. He led all running backs with at least 25 percent of their team’s rushing attempts in breakaway percentage—the percentage of yards that come on runs of 15 plus yards. He racked up 18 individual runs of 15 plus yards and 529 of his 1,270 rushing yards came on these chunk yardage plays.
It’s fair to question whether these chunk yardage runs are tied to an offense’s blocking success, but this has no effect on Forsett. He’ll have the luxury of running behind the exact same unit from last season, minus Owen Daniels on the edge. Crocket Gillmore is likely to take most of Daniel’s snaps. He showed promise as a run blocker (+0.7) on 212 running plays last season.
Although new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is bringing in a new system, he has vowed to adapt to the Ravens’ offense. Trestman specifically said that he’s not going to change the zone-blocking scheme that fits Forsett perfectly.
A big piece of what made Forsett so valuable in 2014 was the fact that he was one of the few true lead backs in the NFL. Forsett was on the field for over 50 percent of the offense’s snaps in all but one game—the second game of the season. Over the final eight games, he was consistently seeing at least nearly three out of every four snaps. His role in 2015 will be hard to pin down before the draft, but keep in mind that Trestman has used a one-back system for two straight seasons. No running back saw a higher percentage of snaps than Matt Forte over the last two seasons combined.
There is also room for growth in fantasy production when it comes to Forsett’s usage in the passing game. Last season, Forsett was only targeted 56 times and he ran 304 snaps in route. The Ravens through a total of 99 passes to their running backs. Trestman used his featured back differently. Forte saw 118 targets on 509 snaps in route. If Forsett maintains the lead back role, he’s very likely to see at least a slight bump in his reception numbers.
Forsett may not have a repeat season in the touchdown department, but as the current lead back, we safely project him to finish as a mid-range to high-end RB2.
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Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy and he also covers the NFL for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL. You can also add him to your network on Google+ to find all of his past material.