Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
From untested rookie, to fantasy Top-5, to "running back by committee" in the span of two years, that's the NFL story of Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.
Even for a sport as tough as professional football and as fickle as fantasy owners are, the highs and lows already experienced by Forte are pretty amazing and rare.
Forte played football at Tulane University, not a "football factory" like USC, Ohio State or Florida. So despite a spectacular senior season with the Green Wave (2,127 yards and 23 touchdowns), he was selected in the second round by the Bears (No.44 overall).
With Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson (NOT that Adrian Peterson) and Garrett Wolfe ahead of him on the depth chart, he wasn't really expected to do much. Then Chicago released Benson following legal troubles and Forte beat out the other three running backs for the starting position.
Despite Benson's absence and Forte looking like the starter throughout preseason, his ADP (Average Draft Position) in 2008 was a mediocre 75.82, making him a seventh-round fantasy pick. It's always hard for fantasy owners to pick a rookie early, particularly a less-heralded one selected by his team in the second round.
Still, those that did go out on the limb for Forte were handsomely rewarded when he ran for 1,238 yards, caught 63 balls for 477 yards and scored eight times.
As the 2009 mock drafts began to arrive, there was Forte's name sitting in the first round. People expected that he would improve on his rookie season and that could put him among the elite running backs in the league.
As the real drafts began to unfold, it turned out that he continued to get support from fantasy owners. His 2009 ADP came in at 4.2, meaning he was either the fourth or fifth player off the board.
Unfortunately, things conspired against Forte last year. The team brought in a talented quarterback in Jay Cutler, who threw the ball more than Kyle Orton had in the previous season (555 vs. 465). And Forte played hurt for much of the year. He admitted after the season that he had sprained an MCL in Week 3 and played despite the injury.
Forte's statistics showed the result of the injury and offensive changes. He carried the ball 258 times for just 929 yards and four scores.
His fantasy value had dropped significantly from the high of the pre-season. It is going to get worse.
Friday afternoon reports have the Bears signing former Minnesota Vikings running back Chester Taylor to a four-year, $12.7 million contract. That can't be good news for Forte owners. At best, Forte will lose much of his third-down and short yardage situations. As big as the contract dollars are, there is also a chance that Taylor could get equal footing when it comes to opportunities to run the ball.
Based on this new information, it's likely that Forte's value has dropped about as quickly as the stock market did at the end of 2008 at the height of the "recession." I can't see Forte being any better than a fourth-or-fifth round pick next season with an ADP around 50-60.