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Why running back Justin Forsett is a top-5 back

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Playing off of Jason Butt's article today about Ravens running back Justin Forsett being worthy of top 5 status, I noticed there was a ton of talk back and forth on whether he is deserving of that praise or not. While there are higher profile names out there and guys that have been more consistent over their careers, we will dive into the numbers a little more with the help of Numberfire.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Playing off of Jason Butt's article today about Ravens running back Justin Forsett being worthy of top 5 status, I noticed there was a ton of talk back and forth on whether he is deserving of that praise or not. While there are higher profile names out there and guys that have been more consistent over their careers, we will dive into the numbers a little more with the help of Numberfire.

First, you have to throw away previous seasons. The NFL is a 'what have you done recently' type of league and this year is the only year to really count in this argument. While Forsett has been a journeyman in the league for a number of years, failing to really stick with a team due to a lot of other circumstances; this year he is putting up numbers like crazy.

Forsett might not have the most rushing yards in the league, which is why you might be skeptical of the assessment. However, looking at his rankings, there is no denying that given his limited use in a multi-back system, he is putting up.

Rushing Category Total NFL Rank
Rushes 113 10th
Yards 609 5th
Yards Per Attempt 5.4 2nd
Yards Per Game 67.7 10th
Touchdowns 3 T-16th

Just Forsett might only be getting the 10th highest total of touches, but his 5.4 yards per carry top all running backs (Russell Wilson is number one, but we don't count quarterbacks). Even though Forsett is only seeing 116 carries, he still ranks as 5th in the NFL for yards on the ground. An impressive feat for sure.

Even more impressive is how well Forsett has done in the receiving game. Often forgotten due to exactly how prolific Ray Rice was within this offense, Forsett is quietly having a great year as an outlet valve for quarterback Joe Flacco.

Receiving Category Total RB Rank
Targets 41 7th
Receptions 31 7th
Yards 202 17th
Yards Per Catch 6.52 41st

*These rankings reflect running backs only, with yards per catch consisting of backs with at least 10 receptions.

The term 'three-down back' is used to talk about a running back that can successfully convert in all three downs, as well as pick up blitzes and block... In other words, a complete running back. While ranking 17th in yards receiving might not be the greatest point to make, one has to consider that the Ravens are currently using 2 runningbacks with Pierce seeing some occasional game time. The more important thing to take from these stats is that Forsett is clearly being used in a variety of spots and is truly a weapon for the Ravens offense, as a rusher, receiver and blocker in passing situations. Forsett is easily defining himself as a three-down back in this offense.

Looking at Forsett's stats, you would probably wonder how he could be labeled as a top 5 running back with so few touchdowns. Again as we've outlined before, the Ravens are using the bigger Taliaferro as a goal line back; therefore scraping off Forsett's work between the 20s.

Numberfire's projections have Forsett finishing the year with 1230 total yards and 6 touchdowns with Taliaferro totalling 626 total yards and 6 touchdowns. If Forsett was the only rusher in Baltimore's backfield, the total of 1856 total yards and 12 touchdowns would assuredly give him top 5 status in this league.

The biggest question now is whether to resign Forsett in the offseason or try to replicate the success with Taliaferro and a rookie running back next season?