Why Matt Forte rivals Adrian Peterson

Matt Forte has closed the gap between himself and Adrian Peterson. US Presswire

When looking back at the running backs of the 1970s, one can't help but notice the historical plight of former Minnesota Vikings star Chuck Foreman.

From 1973-77, Foreman was one of only three running backs to gain more than 7,000 yards from scrimmage (O.J. Simpson and Lydell Mitchell being the other two). This achievement led to five straight Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro nomination, but it did not lead to longer-term recognition because of what might be termed the Darrell Evans effect.

According to The New Bill James Baseball Abstract, Evans was the 10th-best third baseman of all time but isn't thought of as an elite player because he had too many of the characteristics that tend to plague underrated players, the most notable of which was, "Specialists and players who do two or three things well are overrated; players who do several things well are underrated."

This tendency helped improve the historical standing of bell cow rushers (e.g. Simpson, Franco Harris) who gained the bulk of their yards on the ground and didn't rely much on pass receiving yards. For proof, consider that aerial production accounted for only 13.4 percent and 11.7 percent, respectively, of Simpson's and Harris' total yards from scrimmage in this time frame. Foreman had 33.8 percent of his overall yards from scrimmage through the air.

We have a similar situation in today's NFL in the case of Matt Forte. His jack-of-all-trades skill set has led to the idea that he isn't an elite running back (he has no Pro Bowl or All-Pro nominations in his career), but a closer look at the numbers shows that he can actually go toe-to-toe with Adrian Peterson for the title of best running back in the NFC North.


Before getting into the specifics (and arguments) of that last statement, consider this: Over the past three years, Forte has gained 4,731 yards from scrimmage.

Only four other running backs have bettered that mark during that time frame: Chris Johnson (5,606), Peterson (5,343), Maurice Jones-Drew (4,795) and Steven Jackson (4,783).