As we continue to reflect on the 2010 fantasy football season, moving forward with the running back class and its performances compared to expectations, its a good time to realize this simple fact: If you are talking about fantasy football, you aren't talking about real football, which means you can ostrich the whole CBA problem altogether! With that in mind, let's diverge from the worries of the 2011 season and look back at some of the best, and some of the rest, from 2010, and see where our guy, Matt Forte falls.
Going into 2010, we thought we knew what running backs were and weren't. Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson were dominant and would be for years to come. Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Michael Turner and Frank Gore rounded out the 1st tier of running backs (at least CBS said so). After that you had Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams, Shonn Greene, Rashard Mendenhall, and Ryan Grant. The third tier was Cedric Benson, Ryan Matthews, Joseph Addai, Knowshon Moreno, Jamaal Charles, Pierre Thomas, Beanie Wells and Ronnie Brown.... I won't get into 4th and 5th tier, but the link is just above.
So what happened? I didn't see Forte anywhere (6th tier, 900 or less TOTAL yards? Really?)...
I think those predictions were way off and very different from my expectations (I actually retained Matt Forte at a 2nd round value in 1 of my leagues), but there were a ton of surprises. Easy as it is to say "Where was Forte", none of us knew about the upcoming Arian Foster (who was 3rd-4th on the depth chart entering the season despite a strong finish to 2009).
In our CBS league, our top 10 read: Arian Foster, Rashard Mendenhall, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Peyton Hillis, Chris Johnson, Michael Turner, and LeSean McCoy. Unlike when we looked at QBs, 6 of these weren't listed as 1st tier, and yet here they were, #1 running backs. So what happened?
1) Arian Foster. He was the RB who could hold onto the ball and hit a hole. It was that simple, and that complex, all at the same time. With Steve Slaton's fumbles, the hole opened, and to put it bluntly, no one else on the roster had the speed and 1 cut move to take advantage. Houston had an awesome passing attack with A. Johnson and Schaub...Foster just stepped up and exploited an opportunity. With that said, he has the talent to stay in the top 20 going into 2011 at the very least. He will not be a one year wonder, but I don't think he is top 10 next year. Call me synical.
2) Mendenhall and Charles: Both simply outplaying the predicted success, but honestly not by that much. Both got more touches than expected, and it helped propel them, but everyone knew they'd be top 25 backs anyway.
3) Peyton Hillis is a beast of a man. I think that sums it up. Power running is dead in the NFL? Watch this guy run the ball, and you will change your mind. He is the back right now in the NFL that will brutalize his way to the goalline and score. He is a power runner who doesn't need to be evasive. It might not last, though. Teams know what to expect, and the Browns don't offer a lot of other weapons to take focus off of Hillis. He wore down later in the year: He had 1 game over 60 yards in the last 5 weeks of the season. I don't see replicated 2011 success.
4) LeSean McCoy: He is fast, and a little tougher than people thought. Vick and the deep passing game is a great compliment, but McCoy picked up where Westbrook left off, and frankly, I saw it coming. He isn't a goal line back and needs help, but he is a good receiver, with elusive running skills, paired with an elusive QB and some great downfield receivers. No one can afford to crowd the line against McCoy, not with Jackson and Maclin streaking down the seams. McCoy is going to have a drop off because his physicality isn't quite there, but his speed will keep him in the top 20.
5) Matt Forte...Exactly what I thought, and wanted. I proved the "thought" by investing in him as a keeper, and the wanted is as a Bears fan, but frankly, this wasn't that hard to see, and I am surprised how few people saw it coming. A system that asks backs to run in the open field and catch passes, for a running back that already has a record of getting 50+ catches a year, who is best in the open field as a runner? It was a perfect fit. Forte and Martz are a perfect pairing. Forte had his touches drastically reduced, and expanded his stats, and set career bests...He is a top 10 RB, and will remain so. 50+ catches, 1000+ yards rushing...Get used to those two stats.
2011? I'd take Peterson, C. Johnson, MJD, Matt Forte, J. Charles, Ray Rice,Turner, Mendenhall, Steven Jackson, and Darren McFadden are my early picks for top 10 next year. Lets see how that shakes out, and it doesn't mean i'd use a first round pick on Jackson or McFadden right now, but that's my current feel.
Things still to come: A Year in Review: 2010 (5 part series), Post-Draft Fantasy Update, Fantasy Football Team Reports (8 part series, by division)