This is the time of the year when coaches and players need to go on vacation, and stay on vacation for six weeks. Just find a hammock somewhere in Fiji, and chill there while someone whose name you can’t pronounce properly brings you drinks that you also can’t pronounce properly. Good times will be had by all.
There are several reasons why this is a good idea. Firstly, there’s the obvious need for a little R and R away from the fooseball grind which occupies roughly 327 hours of the player/coach’s time per week from September to January or maybe February. Being on vacation also lowers the likelihood that you’ll be incarcerated for being a complete moron, so that’s an added and much needed benefit in the NFL during these heady times. But just don’t ever spend your free time in Denver.
Selfishly, though, for us fantasy minds there’s yet another plus when players and coaches are far removed from civilized society and away from microphones and notebooks: they can’t say anything to anyone to raise an already high draft price. You’re the devil, Matt Forte.
In fairness, I suppose Forte’s ADP is likely already at its peak. But in both 10- and 12-team leagues he’s typically teetering between first and second-round status, and right now he’s usually in the latter category. For example, at Fantasy Football Calculator his ADP is currently 14.7, and in ESPN drafts he’s a little further down at 19.2. That ESPN number is quite nice, as it rather remarkably puts Forte in ideal RB2 territory for those with an early first-round pick.
But alas, both of those ADPs will likely rise soon, at least marginally. Mostly because of this and the insect-like buzz it’s generating (from CSN Chicago)…
“I would expect [to be used more],” Forte said. “Coach Trestman, I think he said he watched a lot of film on me and has seen me run different routes. So we’ll get back to catching the ball out of the backfield like we did the prior years.”
That’s Forte yesterday describing an increased emphasis on the passing game for the Bears under their new head coach Marc Trestman, which will very much include himself and more balls landing in his hands. But whatever, players say stuff. It doesn’t really mean much unless we hear from someone in the know.
“I just got done looking at all his catches from 2010. He was on the line scrimmage, he was running out of the backfield (and) he is great in space,” Trestman explained. “He has a skill set that goes full spectrum of what you want out of a running back. He can run inside. He can run outside. He can catch the ball extremely well. I saw him as a very good route runner for a wide receiver. I saw him in slants in 2010. I saw him run rail routes, sideline routes.”
That’s from back in March, and it certainty sounds like Trestman — a well-established offensive mind and quarterback guru who comes from the CFL, which is very much a passing league — is impressed with Forte’s pass-catching ability, as he should be. If he successfully restores Forte in a sort of Ray Rice-lite role in which he pushes or exceeds 500 receiving yards in addition to over 1,000 on the ground, his draft valuation will creep up further (bad), along with his production (good).
The 2012 season was a fine one for Forte on the ground with his 1,094 rushing yards and five touchdowns. But through the air, it was wildly disappointing. He had a very average total for his lofty standards, finishing with 340 receiving yards on 44 receptions. In his five-year career, it was the first time Forte fell below 50 receptions in a season, and below 450 yards.
To better gauge just how far Forte fell, consider that despite missing four games in 2011 he still finished with 490 receiving yards. He missed just one game last year, yet his receiving yardage fell by 150. Not good.
His 2012 tumble looks much worse when we use our abacus to calculate Forte’s per year receiving yards average excluding 2012. That number is 496.25 yards, a number which is a little higher than 340, and it represents a fair amount of lost fantasy value. Can Trestman and his wizard mind change that? Well, maybe and probably. We’ll go with probably.
As CSN Chicago’s Joe Mullin noted while looking back on Trestman’s NFL offenses during his time as either a coordinator or quarterbacks coach (10 seasons), his running backs averaged 65.4 receptions per year. That includes his 2002 season with the Raiders when Charlie Garner had 91 receptions for 941 yards, an average of 10.3 yards yards per catch (all career highs). And as Dave Richard observed, Trestman’s NFL offenses featured at minimum 25 percent of the team’s receptions landing in a running back’s hands, which topped out at 35.1 in 2000 when he was in Arizona.
So yes, the potential for an abrupt and sizable spike in Forte’s receiving yardage is certainty there (good), which unfortunately comes with the possibility that when most of you are drafting late next month, he’ll cost you a first-round pick (bad?).