How Many Catches Could Justin Forsett Have This Year?

Can new Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman turn Justin Forsett into the league's top pass-catching running back in 2015?

Viewed as little more than a depth chart signing at the start of last season, Justin Forsett took full advantage of the opportunities set in front of him to seize the starting job in Baltimore and end the year as the eighth best running back in standard-scoring fantasy football leagues.

Now with running back-friendly Marc Trestman in town calling plays for the Ravens offense, many are wondering if Forsett will see even more touches this upcoming season, and in particular if his workload in the passing game will be expanded this year.

Trestman's Tendencies

Known by many as the "Quarterback Whisperer," Trestman's ability to operate as a running backs guru reached the forefront following Matt Forte's recent 100-plus reception season under his watch.

And when we look back at Trestman's track record as offensive coordinator, we see that Forte wasn't merely a one-hit wonder.

SeasonTeamPlayerTgtsRecRec YdsRec TDs
1988BrownsEarnest Byner-595762
1989BrownsEric Metcalf-543974
199549ersDerek Loville-876623
199649ersTerry Kirby-524391
1998CardinalsLarry Centers94695592
1999CardinalsAdrian Murrell71493350
2000CardinalsMichael Pittman91735792
2001RaidersCharlie Garner91725782
2002RaidersCharlie Garner111919414
2003RaidersCharlie Garner70483861
2013BearsMatt Forte95755943
2014BearsMatt Forte1281028084

During his tenure in the NFL, Trestman has had a running back record 69 or more receptions seven timess. This includes Derek Loville with 87 receptions with the San Francisco 49ers in 1995, Charlie Garner with 72 and 91 receptions with the Raiders in 2001 and 2002, and most recently, Matt Forte with 75 and 102 receptions in 2013 and 2014.

On average, the lead pass-catching backs in Trestman's offenses have put up 72 receptions for nearly 600 yards on 94 targets each season.

Based on this history, it shouldn't surprise anyone to hear that Forsett and the other running backs' roles on check-down and play-action passes this year will be critical to the offense. "That will be a part of what we're doing," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "It'll be a big part of it."

Even quarterback Joe Flacco reiterated Forsett's role as a safety valve in the passing game, saying that the veteran back is "going to be a huge checkdown guy for us."

So with all this being said, just how big of a workload in the passing game can we expect for Forsett this season with Trestman calling the plays in Baltimore?

Projecting Forsett's Workload

Forsett has always been a more than capable back in the passing game throughout his entire career.

Between 2008 to 2013, in limited playing time Forsett recorded 23 receptions per season on just 32 targets (good for a 75.4% catch rate). This includes an impressive 41 receptions on 57 targets in his rookie year with Seattle.

And last year, when finally given a chance to take on a full-time role with the Ravens, Forsett recorded 44 catches (which tied him for ninth most in the league at the running back position) on just 59 targets. Always known for having good hands, Forsett posted a 74.6% catch rate last season, which ranked him in the top one-third of the league among all backs with at least 25 targets.

PlayerSeasonsTargetsRecRec YdsRec TDsCatch Rate
Justin Forsett2008-201332.4231700.275.38%
Justin Forsett20145944263074.58%

So now that we've established Forsett's ability to cash-in on any opportunities coming his way in the passing game, just what will these opportunities look like this upcoming season?

If we use the last tailback coached by Trestman, Matt Forte, as an example, we see that Forsett's outlook is actually quite promising.

PlayerSeasonsTargetsRecRec YdsRec TDsCatch Rate
Matt Forte2008-20127153.64651.875.38%
Matt Forte2013-2014111.587.57013.578.54%

Prior to Trestman's arrival in Chicago, Forte's career average of 54 receptions per season compares closely to Forsett's 44 receptions in 2014. But with the installation of Marc Trestman's system with the Bears, Forte's already impressive usage in the passing game jumped up even further. Forte's production enjoyed a greater than 50% increase across the board, going from 54 receptions for 465 yards on 71 targets to a whopping 87.5 receptions for 701.0 yards on 111.5 targets.

Our projections peg him for roughly 55 catches, but a full-on Trestman barrage could see that total climb even higher. If we extrapolate Forte's recent increases onto Forsett's numbers from 2014, we see that his numbers project out to 72 receptions for nearly 400 yards on 93 targets for 2015. While 72 receptions is nothing to sneeze at, as we discussed earlier, this is exactly in line with the average production of a Trestman-system running back.

Predictions for 2015

As the the Ravens' most reliable and efficient pass catcher according to our Net Expected Points metrics and serving as the team's early-down back alongside a new offensive coordinator who will dial up his number in the offense heavily and a quarterback who will look his way early and often, Forsett has the recipe for success in 2015.

And with the expected production many are predicting from the Ravens' lead back based on the sheer volume of targets Trestman's tailbacks have historically received, it's obvious that Forsett is being severely under-drafted with an ADP in the late-second or early-third round.