Yesterday we made a stop in Chicago and Dallas with WRs Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant. Today we stick with the same teams looking at the RB position with Matt Forte and DeMarco Murray along with Darren McFadden added to the mix. Coincidentally, each of these teams will have a new Offensive Coordinator in 2012. There are just seven polls to go and this one may make or break your championship mark! Who are you taking?
Before a sprained MCL in early December ended his season as it turned out, Matt Forte had turned into a lower-end Tier 1 elite RB. This was especially true in the yardage department where Forte averaged 134 YPG. Forte averages over 100 total yards per game over his 4-year NFL career. Forte wasn't much of a scorer last year however with just 4 TDs in 11 games. In fact, Forte is one of the game’s worst short-yardage running backs. Over the last two seasons, when the Bears have given Forte the ball when needing one yard to either score the TD or keep the drive alive he has converted just 3 of 15 times, the worst rate in the league for a full-time back. Welcome free agent addition Michael Bush - conversely, Bush has been one of the league's best at converting short-yardage situations. Prior to the MCL injury Forte had last year he hasn't missed a game so durability is likely not an issue. Forte has been a PPR gem averaging 3.7 receptions per game and has topped 50 catches in every season since entering the NFL. The Bears re-signed Forte to a new 4-year deal worth $32M (Bush received a 4-year, $14M contract). Matt Forte and the Bears welcome new OC Mike Tice to the team this season.
Darren McFadden hasn't played a complete NFL season (he misses four games per season on average) but when he's played McFadden has been truly elite these past two seasons. In 2010 McFadden had over 1,600 yards, 47 receptions and a cool 10 TDs in 13 games. After seven games last year he was on pace for nearly 1,800 yards. McFadden has topped 100 yards from scrimmage in 14 of his last 20 games and has scored 15 TDs in his last 20 games, despite having TD-vulture Michael Bush on the team. With the Raiders letting UFA Michael Bush sign with Chicago, McFadden finally has the chance to be a true bellcow running back for the Raiders (although he averaged just under 22 touches per game through Week 6 last year before getting hurt so he was no stranger to a healthy workload). McFadden is coming off a Lisfranc injury although all systems look to be good to go and Oakland didn't add much as reserves this off-season. The Raiders will back-up McFadden with Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson. Darren McFadden and the Raiders welcome new OC Greg Knapp to the team this season (Knapp had been the Raiders' OC in 2007 and 2008). Knapp is switching the team's primary running scheme from a power to a zone-blocking scheme.
DeMarco Murray's impressive rookie season last year ended with a broken ankle but he looked amazing at times displaying a unique blend of speed and power. Murray showed elite explosiveness at the Combine with a 4.37 40-yard dash time (tied for the second best among RBs) plus an amazing 10'10" broad jump (best among RBs) and translated that athleticism to the field last year averaging 5.5 yards per carry as a rookie. Murray left Oklahoma as the most prolific back in school history, owning the school career marks for all-purpose yards (6,626), TDs (64) and receiving yards by a RB (1,572). Like Darren McFadden, there is little doubt as to who is the most talented back on their respective teams, with Dallas having added no new significant RBs this off-season leaving Murray with just Felix Jones to contend with for carries. Also like McFadden, the big concern with Murray is can he stay healthy? Murray broke an ankle last year and he missed time in four of his five seasons at Oklahoma. DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys welcome new OC Bill Callahan to the team this season.
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