Forte's chances for rookie of year

December, 4, 2008
12/04/08
4:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

I got a question during Tuesday's SportsNation chat that merits further discussion.

Forte

Matt of Chicago asked why Chicago tailback Matt Forte isn't getting more discussion as a rookie of the year candidate. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is the favorite for the award and some people are also pushing Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. Denver receiver Eddie Royal and Tennessee tailback Chris Johnson will also get some consideration.

But from this vantage point, it seems fair to consider Ryan and Forte 1-2 in the voting.

It's going to be difficult for Forte to overcome Ryan. Quarterbacks always seem to get the most attention from voters, and Ryan has a 91.2 passer rating -- and a 13-6 touchdown-interception ratio -- for a team that is 8-4 and in better playoff position than the Bears. But the more you look at Forte's steady performance this season, the more you wonder where the Bears would be without him.

You could, in fact, make a reasonable argument that Forte is no less valuable to his team -- and has performed at the same high level relative to his position -- as Ryan.

Forte, who leads the Bears in rushing yards (1,012) and receptions (48), ranks third in the NFL with 1,370 all-purpose yards. (He trails the leader, Washington's Clinton Portis, by 45 yards.) More important, Forte has accounted for the NFL's highest percentage of his team's total yards. That means Forte is carrying his team more than any other non-quarterback in the league.

Take a look at the top five:

Players With Highest Share of Team's Total Yardage
PlayerTeamScrimmage YardsTeam YardsPct.
Matt ForteChicago1,3703,84135.67
Adrian PetersonMinnesota1,4054,10234.25
Clinton PortisWashington1,4154,27933.07
Frank GoreSan Francisco1,2803,92832.59
Chris JohnsonTennessee1,1853,95329.98

If that performance holds up, Forte will finish the season ranked fourth in NFL history for the highest percentage of total yards by a rookie.

And unlike most rookies, Forte has been exceedingly reliable with the ball. He has one lost fumble in 296 offensive touches. Currently, that ranks him second on the NFL's all-time list of most offensive touches with one fumble or less:

Rookies With Most Offensive Touches With One Or No Fumbles Lost
PlayerYearTeamGamesRushesRec.TouchesFumbles
Anthony Thomas2001Chicago14278223000
Matt Forte2008Chicago12248482961
Matt Snell1964N.Y. Jets14215562710
Corey Dillon1997Cincinnati16233272601
Ron Dayne2000N.Y. Giants1622832311

I know some of these statistics can seem obscure and brain-numbing. But collectively, they illustrate a highly efficient, productive and consistent season from a rookie few people were talking about before the season.

Has Forte been as flashy as Ryan? No. Has he led the Bears to as many victories as the Falcons? No. A quarterback always has more control over the outcome of the game than a running back.

At this point, I think Ryan should win the rookie of the year award. But Forte's performance has been no less productive relative to his position, and his assimilation of multiple roles has been no less thorough.

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