Matt Forte and Ryan Mathews both had the best seasons of their careers in 2013, as Marc Trestman’s offense was a good fit for Forte’s all-around skills and Mathews played all 16 games for the first time. Forte will be among the first handful of running backs drafted this year, while Mathews is not quite that highly-ranked. All things considered, which guy is the better option for fantasy football owners this year?
The Case For Matt Forte
Forte has been a productive dual threat throughout his career, but he set career-highs in rushing yards (1,339), rushing touchdowns (nine), receptions (74) and receiving yards (594) last year. His 12 total touchdowns tied the career-high he set as a rookie in 2008, and was more touchdowns than he had scored in the previous two seasons combined (10; eight rushing and two receiving).
Forte was also very consistent in 2013, with at least 90 combined yards in 14 games, five 100-yard rushing games and 13 games with at least four catches. Chicago drafted Ka’Deem Carey in May, but I don’t see him as a serious threat to Forte’s playing time and touches.
The Case For Ryan Mathews
Mathews was a bit up-and-down through a big part of last season, but he averaged 118.3 yards per game over the final four games. Not coincidentally, four his six 20-plus carry games for the season came over that stretch.
Mathews had five rushing touchdowns over the final eight games of 2013, as his role around the goal line expanded (three one-yard touchdowns). Via Pro Football Focus, Mathews was first in standard scoring and second in PPR scoring in fantasy points per snap among running backs (0.40 and 0.46 respectively) last year.
Forte will be a first-round pick in all league formats, and he’s worth considering with a top-five pick in standard scoring leagues or a top-3 pick in PPR leagues. He is entering his age-29 season, with close to 1,900 touches in his career, which serves as a red flag that will only be bigger this time next year. Mathews has to prove he can stay healthy for a full season again, but the Chargers appear to be committed to him as their feature back as he enters a contract year.
I’m going with Forte here. He belongs among the elite fantasy running backs for at least one more year, and as a clear workhorse that doesn’t leave the field on third down he’s worth using a high pick on with how rare those kind of backs are. Mathews is a RB2 with RB1 upside, but his injury history adds risk that I can’t forget about and his role as a pass catcher will continue to be minimized by the presence of Danny Woodhead.