Tulane University running back Matt Forte, a senior, is a player in this year's NFL Draft whose stock is rising fast. A four-year player at, Forte put together three modest seasons on the college level before exploding onto the scene with a monster senior season in 2007. Last season, Forte rushed for 2,127 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. Showing versatility, he also gathered in 32 receptions for 282 receiving yards.
From the time he was a high school player at Slidell High School in Slidell, La., Forte has often been overlooked. He has had to show mettle and prove his ability to many skeptics. Forte settled on Tulane when there was little interest from the major colleges. At Tulane, Forte became a star. He started for three years and holds several Green Wave all-time records, including rushing touchdowns (39), rushing yards per game (99.2) and total touchdowns (44).
Forte's incredible rise in 2007 led to his selection for the Senior Bowl, where he was the Most Valuable Player. In the Senior Bowl, Forte led all rushers with 59 yards (on only eight carries) and caught four passes for 38 receiving yards. This has helped to dispel the criticism that Forte's achievements in 2007 should be downgraded because he played in Conference USA, which to some meant he faced lesser competition most weeks.
At the NFL Scouting Combine Forte performed well. His 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash was strong for a back of his size. He led in the 60-yard shuffle with a time of 11.49.
At 6-foot-1 3/8, 217 pounds, Forte is a big back. He can move the pile and can pound out the hard yards between the tackles.
Forte is quick off the ball and can hit the hole before it closes. He is quicker than he appears, as evidenced by his 4.46 time at the recent combine.
Forte has the potential to be an every-down running back in the NFL due his ability to catch the ball and his respectable blocking. In 2007, at Tulane, he caught 32 passes for 282 receiving yards. He has developed a reputation as a back willing to take on larger men to protect the quarterback. Where Forte may excel the most is his can-do attitude. He has been an overachiever at all levels.
As a runner, Forte is best between the tackles. He uses grit, determination, a fair amount of quickness and his size to churn out the five-yard carries up the middle, which are so important to NFL offenses. He also has enough speed to get outside for gains when he needs to, though some question his ability to outrun defenders over long distances.
An issue that troubles some evaluators is the fact that, playing at Tulane, Forte played in the obscure and weak Conference USA, where the competition may not have been as tough as that faced by running backs at some of the larger schools.
There is also the issue of recent stardom. Though a three-year starter and a four-year player at Tulane, only in his senior year did his production exceed 1,000 yards rushing. His monster 2,127 yards rushing in 2007 is nearly as much as the previous three years combined.
Injury issues also should be considered. In 2006, Forte's season ended prematurely with torn ligament injuries in his left knee (meniscus and posterior cruciate ligament). The 2007 season, the Senior Bowl performance and his efforts at the NFL Scouting Combine seem to show that Forte made a full recovery, but there still is a small nagging doubt that he can take the greater punishment of an NFL season if he has to carry a full workload.
While Forte is a powerful runner, he is far form overpowering. He has speed, but maybe not enough to take very many runs to the house if he breaks into the open. Finally, many believe Forte lacks the pure athleticism of an elite running back.
Expected Draft Placement
Clearly, Forte's draft stock is rising. He is not one of the upper-echelon running backs in the 2008 NFL Draft, but he rates well enough on most lists to merit a selection in the draft. He likely will not be among the first four or five running backs selected, but will probably be drafted somewhere in the late second round to the end of the third.
Teams that might have an interest in selecting Forte include the Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cardinals might select Forte because he is often considered a younger version of star running back Edgerrin James, who is getting long in the tooth. Detroit needs a powerful back after losing T.J. Duckett (Seattle Seahawks) to free agency. Pittsburgh could also use a tough inside runner. Chicago may be out of the equation if they feel that Forte doesn't offer anything different than what Cedric Benson currently brings to the backfield.
Jack Douglas is an attorney and a freelance writer who has been playing fantasy football and baseball since 1991. He has played in many different leagues using different rules and has captured several championships. He has been a KFFL Contributor since 2000