Bilal Powell Supplanted Matt Forte and No One Noticed

by Andrew Persanyi ·

Did you draft Matt Forte? I want to apologize to you. I’m truly sorry that you didn’t realize Forte was the inferior running back in the New York Jets backfield. In Week 2, when Forte rushed for 100 yards and scored three touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills, you were deceived and lied to, and you started to believe he was a fantasy stud. Since then, Forte has been relatively quiet. Unfortunately, it’s time for you to face your worst nightmare, Bilal Powell.

Bilal Powell has actually been more productive than Matt Forte with less touches. Powell’s 156 receiving yards is top-12 among running backs this season, compared to Forte’s 93, which is 31st among running backs. Additionally, Powell is the fifth-most targeted RB in the league with 33 targets, while Forte only has 22. Powell’s 6.2 yards per touch is No. 11 in the league. Forte is far behind, with a much weaker 3.9 yards per touch.

Forte’s Demise

Another contributing factor to Matt Forte‘s volume demise is, of course, his age. Todd Bowles may hesitate to hand extensive touches to the soon-to-be 31 year-old running back, fearing he may break down. It may be in the team’s best interest to preserve Forte if they want him to last through the three-year contract he signed in the off-season. As the season progresses, we should expect the younger, fresher Powell to see an uptick in workload. The Jets coaching staff is already allocating more touches for him, and Bilal Powell‘s opportunity should continue to steadily increase throughout the rest of the season.


Bilal Powell & Matt Forte Snaps Through Week 6

Deteriorating Offense

Speaking of declining Jets, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been struggling mightily. His low yards per attempt (6.46) is tied with Aaron Rodgers for No. 25 out of the 31 qualified quarterbacks so far. More inclined to throw the ball, Fitzpatrick will look to Bilal Powell quite often. It also helps that the Jets are one of the worst teams in scoring defense. Allowing 13.7 first half points per game (eighth-most in the NFL), The Jets are frequently finding themselves down early in games, leading to more pass attempts for Fitzpatrick. The Jets are currently No. 11 in pass attempts per game. Surely, Powell should continue to be a beneficiary of the high volume.


Bilal Powell Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Much like the ongoing opportunity distribution in New York, a very similar situation occurred last season. With the Jets, Chris Ivory averaged 19.4 carries per game in the first half of the season in 2015. From Week 10, when Powell returned from an injury, and beyond, Ivory’s rushing attempts per game took a steep drop to just 13. Meanwhile, Bilal Powell was collecting 7.3 targets per game, which would’ve led all running backs in the NFL if maintained over a full season. We’ve seen coach Bowles redistribute his running back touches in favor of Powell before, and it appears that he is already doing so again this season.


After a forgettable week 6, Bilal Powell ownership percentage remains below the 50-percent threshold across the board: 34-percent on Yahoo, 46-percent on CBS, 43-percent on ESPN. I wouldn’t expect those numbers to jump very much, as many people will want to keep their hands off the Jets offense as a whole.  Indeed, both Powell and Forte slot outside the top-30 running backs on PlayerProfiler’s week 7 player rankings.  It appears that Jay Ajayi is most likely to be the highest-targeted running back on the waiver wire. If Powell flies under the radar in your league, make sure you go and grab him. He’s undoubtedly the better half of this committee.