Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
While this ranking may seem surprising, the only running backs who had more rushes for an equal or higher yards-per-carry average on this list are Adrian Peterson, who led the league in everything last season, Chris Ivory, Jonathan Stewart, who played on a run-first 15-1 team, and Darren McFadden, who played behind the best offensive line we’ve seen in a decade-plus in Dallas.
Forte has been playing forever, as he was drafted out of Northern Illinois in 2008, when current draft picks were in middle school, but his smooth, slippery style of play has yet to dwindle. The Chicago Bears didn’t want to bet on Forte’s next contract, but the New York Jets didn’t hesitate to give him a three-year, $12 million deal.
His speed has never been blazing, but it has been consistent. The Jets hope that stays constant, as they gave him $9 million in promised money, which in terms of percentage of total money on a contract ranks only behind Arizona’s Chris Johnson for a veteran contract, per Spotrac. Forte looks like the same player, and an NFL front office is banking on him to still be that in 2018.
More of a runner than a plower, Forte has never been great in this area. For the most part, he’s league-average for a consistent starter.
He falls forward more times than not, churning his legs, but he’s not what you would consider powerful for an NFL running back. Since 2009, he’s had more than six rushing touchdowns in only one season. Do not expect him to be a goal-line specialist in New York.
If Forte wants to, there’s a good chance he could stick around in the NFL for a long time just as a slot receiver. In Chicago, the team wasn’t afraid to split him outside in empty looks, forcing defenses to either put a linebacker on an inside slot receiver or split him far out in space on Forte. His ability to influence defenses into poor matchups is key to his game.
For about every four carries he gets, Forte catches a ball, and his 19 receiving touchdowns in his career, in both constricted space and on screens, prove his worth in this area. He’s a natural pass-catcher, which is why it wouldn’t be shocking to see him become a James Jones-like receiver late in his career.
He’s nothing to write home about here, but he’s good enough to note it. Within the structure of a play, he’ll readjust for an offensive lineman’s mistake on concepts such as inside zone. With Forte’s lack of elite speed, though, there just are certain plays he’s never going to make, no matter if he does or doesn’t see the hole developing.
In his career, Forte has fumbled on 0.79 percent of his combined touches, and in the last three seasons, he has fumbled on 0.60 percent of his combined touches.
With no truly special traits, Forte is simply a consistent, quality running back. He’s what you imagine if you think of a baseline runner in the NFL but amplified a couple of notches.
He doesn’t have great speed, but he’ll dip around defenders with effort that’s not matched often by his peers. He doesn’t have tremendous power, but he’s able to catch touchdowns in goal-line situations just as often as he’s running between the tackles for a paydirt dive.
There’s no Achilles’ heel to his game, but for all of his small flaws, Forte has a counter punch to neutralize them. Going into his ninth year, his first with the Jets, he’s riding into the proverbial twilight of his career while still in his prime.