This is the 17th in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.
It would be hard to find a bigger non-injury fantasy bust last season than Bears RB Matt Forté.
After entering the 2009 campaign as the fourth-ranked running back in the Pro Football Weekly / Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football Guide 2010, Forté didn't come close to performing at the same impressive level he displayed the previous season as a second-round rookie out of Tulane.
After finishing third in the league in yards from scrimmage and scoring 12 touchdowns (eight running, four receiving) in '08, Forte was just another back in '09, managing a mere four TDs (none receiving) and only two 100-yard games (both against the lowly Lions) while looking tentative and indecisive much of the time.
Never one to make excuses, Forté just kept on grinding after a torn left hamstring in an OTA practice got his sophomore season off on the wrong foot. A subsequent sprained MCL on the same leg certainly didn't help matters, as the explosiveness he showed as a rookie was hit-and-mostly-miss.
But by all accounts so far this offseason, Forté has been one of the Bears' biggest hits, routinely flashing his rookie form. Injury-free following surgery on his left knee, his rookie burst appears to have totally returned, as well as his confidence.
There are some observers who have gone as far to suggest that Forté could flirt with Marshall Faulk-like numbers in a lively new Bears offense under the direction of coordinator Mike Martz, Faulk's former head coach with the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams.
While that might be a bit of a stretch, the odds are getting steadily better that Forté will significantly outperform his lowly 26th-place ranking in the PFW/Yahoo 2010 Fantasy Football Guide.
"He is a different player," Bears QB Jay Cutler said in mid-June of Forté. "His second year last year he wasn't the same person he was his first year. Much of it was due to some injuries and stuff. That's fixed, and he's really (been) explosive. He's catching the ball well out of the backfield.
"The system is really going to fit well to his skills."
It should be noted, however, that the Bears' No. 22 will be dealing with a Catch-22 situation in a fantasy context courtesy of new backfield mate Chester Taylor, who did yeoman's work as Adrian Peterson's backup for the Vikings the past three seasons.
On one hand, Taylor should definitely help keep Forté a lot fresher this season, which could reap fantasy dividends over the long haul.
But on the other hand, Taylor's presence will result in a lot fewer touches than Forté had as a rookie, when he joined Edgerrin James as just the second rookie in league history to rush for more than 1,000 yards (a franchise rookie record 1,238) and have more than 60 catches.
Although similar numbers in 2010 are probably not realistic, Forté does figure to very adequately hold down the fort as a first-team fantasy back.
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