Was Matt Forte Undervalued in Fantasy Football Drafts?

Matt Forte has been one of the most reliable fantasy running backs over the past seven seasons. Here's why falling his falling into the second round of most drafts could prove to be a mistake.

Writing fantasy football analysis following Week 1 can be a dangerous venture.

It’s easy for all of us who feel so passionately about this game to react to early results without keeping the bigger picture in mind. It’s crucial to remember that the fantasy football season consists of 16 tiny contests, spanning the length of the entire season.

But that’s not to say that what we see in Week 1 should be completely ignored. It’s a safe bet that assuming they both stay healthy, Travis Kelce and Tyler Eifert are going to be high-end fantasy producers for the remainder of the season.

It’s also fair to assume that, if they remain healthy, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown will probably vie for the league lead in targets.

Another assumption I feel pretty confident about making after Week 1 is that Matt Forte was under-drafted in most fantasy leagues going by average draft position (ADP) around the time most drafts took place.

First-Round Talent, Second-Round Price Tag

Using My Fantasy League ADP data from drafts completed after August 1st -- 12-team, PPR redraft league settings -- Forte was selected on average at pick 2.03. Being taken as the 15th overall pick is nothing to sneeze at, but I believe that the consistency that Forte offers -- and has proven to exhibit over the span of his career -- makes this draft price seem like an absolute steal.

It’s tough to argue Forte should have been taken ahead of the likes of  Le'Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy, or Adrian Peterson. But after those commodities are gone, talented but unproven fantasy assets such as Odell Beckham and C.J. Anderson were drafted that have much lower floors than someone who sees consistent volume like Forte does.

Forte probably doesn’t possess the ceiling of a guy like Beckham, but as the saying goes, “You can’t win your draft in the first two rounds, but you sure as hell can lose it.”

Consistency Is King

When talking about year-to-year consistency, Forte’s name has to be brought up among the most reliable fantasy running backs we’ve seen over the last seven seasons (since he entered the league).

Year Total PPR Points PPR Points-Per-Game Overall PPR Rank
2008 304.5 19.0 2nd
2009 217 13.6 12th
2010 264.6 16.5 9th
2011 220.7 18.4 12th
2012 221.4 14.8 11th
2013 338.3 21.1 2nd
2014 346.6 21.7 3rd

As you can see, Forte has ranked as a top-12 PPR running back in each of his first seven seasons, including three top-three finishes. In 2009, by far the worst fantasy season of his career, he averaged 13.6 points per game.

What is even more impressive is that at age 29 (turning 30 in December), Forte has improved his fantasy output in each of the last two seasons. While some of Forte’s production from last season can be attributed to offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, his fantasy points-per-game increased by less than a full point from 2013 when Aaron Kromer was calling plays.

And again keeping in mind that we’re only one week into the season, it appears that the Bears’ offense under new head coach John Fox and new offensive coordinator Adam Gase will again be funneled mainly through Forte. On the field for 90 percent of the Bears’ offensive snaps last week, he saw 73 percent of the team’s total carries and 22 percent of the team’s total passing targets.

As Alshon Jeffery gets closer to 100% health, the usage may decrease a bit, but with no one of substance behind him on the Bears’ depth chart, Forte should receive a heavy workload moving forward.

The Main Takeaway

I know no one cares about my fantasy football teams, but for the purposes of this article I feel it’s important to note that I have zero shares of Matt Forte in my four re-draft leagues. 

And I’m already sick about it.

I fall directly into the category of drafters who overlooked the safe floor provided by a guy like Forte, in place of the enticing ceiling of a guy like Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas.

Depending on how you approach fantasy football, you may still believe that Forte was priced appropriately in drafts. But after seeing his workload and the way he produced because of it in Week 1 against Green Bay, not only am I convinced that Forte's high-floor still exists, I believe that his ceiling may be even higher than we first assumed.

Forte ranks as our sixth-best fantasy running back going forward for the rest of the year. If the Forte owner in your league is looking to sell high after his Week 1 performance, you might not be on the wrong end of many deals.