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Who the hell will they draft 2008: Tulane RB Matt Forté

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His forte is to run yo ass over.

So far in our Who the hell will they draft 2008 series, we've profiled 3 offensive linemen, 3 defensive ends, 1 defensive tackle, 1 tight end, 1 wide receiver, and 1 running back. With the draft 4 weeks away, that gives us plenty of time to round out the positions of need with several quality players who fit what the Colts are looking for. Since we've spent so much time profiling linemen on both sides of the ball, I thought it time to go back to one of the "skill" positions; in particular runningback.

We profiled Chris Johnson several weeks ago, and still thinks he will fall to the Colts in the second round. I'm not so sure. If he does, it is likely because another team (like Philly) thought more highly of Tulane's Matt Forté. Forte is a name that has popped up on several Colts mock drafts, and the more you look at him the more likely he could get picked with Indy's second round pick.

Yep, that's right. It's very possible Forté will get picked late in the second round by the Colts, despite Indy's need for pass rushers and WRs.

Before you blow a gasket and scream, "WE NEED PRESSURE ON THE QB, NOT ANOTHER FRIGGIN' RB! POLIAN, DO SOMETHING!" hear me out and listen to reason. Despite all the praise Tony Dungy heaps on Kenton Keith, we all know the guy simply didn't get it done last year. Tossing the ball to K2 is like throwing a racket ball at a trampoline. The ball ricochets all over the place, and eventually gets intercepted.

RBs in the modern NFL have got to catch the ball. Running well is simply not enough anymore, which is why a guy like Matt Forté is considered "one of the hottest names in the 2008 NFL Draft class." Forté was a solid contributor during his first few years at Tulane, but it was his senior year when he absolutely exploded onto the scene and went out of his mind. Forté scored an astounding 23 rushing TDs in 2007 and averaged nearly 6 yards a carry. At one point during the college season, he ran for over 200 yards in five straight games. Allow me a moment to say "HOLY F*&KING SH*T! THAT'S ONE HELLUVA BACK!"

We all know that adding a compliment to Joseph Addai is important for Indy's offense to thrive. The 2006 offense was money in the red zones, scoring more TDs there than anyone else. Last year, the Colts offense left a lot of TDs out there, opting for FGs far too often than we are used to. Injuries are part of the reason, but another part was not having another RB option to punch the ball in the endzone and catch TDs out of the backfield. Much like Chris Johnson, drafting Forté would add a totally new dimension to the Colts offense. Unlike Chris Johnson, the new dimension would be something other than speed.

Matt Forté is a big man, and unlike RBs like Reggie Bush he actively looks to make contact. And, when he does make contact, he hurts the tackler more so than the tackler hurts him. Forté is 6'2 and 217 pounds, but unlike other tall RBs who run too high, Forté has a low center of gravity. He has powerful legs and gets down low when running the football:

A strong back who can run through arm tackles and weak defenders. Drive runner who keeps his legs churning through a tackle. Gets low and squares up to deliver a blow. Is not a high runner, will win the leverage battle.
Far too many tall backs run too high, opening them up to injury and fumbles when small LBers like Gary Brackett whack them. Forté is a different back. A big back with strong legs able to get low is a nightmare for LBers and safeties. Add to this Forte's excellent ball skills:
Ball Protection: Has had no issues with ball control. Has strong hands and squeezes the ball well. Covers up in traffic and switches arms well.
Automatically, Tony Dungy loves him. The fastest way to get yourself cut in Indy is to fumble the football. So, to re-cap quickly, Forté is a strong runner who gets low, looks for contact, and never fumbles. We can also add that he is a strong and willing blocker. In fact, he can lead block!
Pass Blocking: A willing and strong blocker. Some have noted he could play fullback due to his ability to drive block and look for contact. An aggressive blocker. Great motor.
Where as someone like Chris Johnson would add speed and elusiveness to the Colts offense, a guy like Forté would add power and toughness. Backs in Indy's offense have to block well, and Forté's ability to pass block, and his willingness to run block, would add a new dimension to Indy's offense. With Forté, you could have both him and Addai on the field at the same time, and use Addai as a receiver split out on certain downs. Forte can also catch the ball out of the backfield, though he was not used much as a receiver in college.

The negatives I read about Forté are mixed. NFL Draft Countdown lists his negatives as:

Lacks great timed speed and quickness...Needs to get stronger...A 'tweener who may not have a true pro position...Is not explosive or a big play threat...Won't be a traditional lead blocker...Not real elusive...Has some durability / health concerns.
However, New Era Scouting seems to refute these negatives:
Speed: Has deceptive speed, but is not a sprinter. Will likely time in the high 4.4 area. Can outrun defenders to the edge and get away from linebackers.

Toughness / Durability: Has played through many carries and bumps. Doesn't sit out many plays. Is a strong and durable runner. Only one injury during his career.

The one injury referenced was a season-ending injury his junior year. Once again, he followed-up that year by scoring 23 friggin' rushing TDs! So, I'm a little confused by NFL Draft Countdown's "durability concerns." The final element of Matt Forté's profile is his personality. We've already read that his motor is non-stop. Forte's is also known as a gym rat, consistently working out and getting his body strong. His leadership skills are also worth mentioning, but they are not the phony ra-ra kind of leadership we are used to seeing:
Forte (FOR-tay): Adj. Loud -- used as a direction in music. K, so Matt Forté's soft-spoken manner and humble nature don't jibe with that definition of his surname. But the Tulane tailback's performance on the field is certainly making noise.
Forté is known as a soft-spoken, high-character guy who, if he played at USC or LSU, would have won the Heisman trophy this past year. Indeed, when you scour the Internet and read articles about Forté, it is very rare you read anything negative about the guy. He is a proto-typical Colts running back, able to do it all and take pride in doing it.

I know the Colts have other needs, but I would not be surprised (or disappointed) if Matt Forté were taken with Indy's first pick in the draft.

For more insight into Matt Forté, check out this Tulane sports blog: Wave Sports.