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Will Emmanuel Forbes Turn His Season Around?

The Commanders' first-round rookie CB has struggled early on, but in recent weeks, he has stepped up, and he could be poised for a late-season breakout.

The Washington Commanders first-round pick, Emmanuel Forbes, was one of the most exciting rookies for IDP managers. He had made 14 interceptions in his three years at Mississippi State and returned them for 390 yards and six touchdowns. He had led the SEC in interceptions twice, led the NCAA in interception return yards twice, and set the collegiate record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns since record-keeping began in 1976.

IDP managers who like big plays salivated over Forbes’ potential. Rookie cornerbacks often make an impact from the get-go. In 2022, DaRon Bland, Riq Woolen, and Sauce Gardner all pushed for the league lead in interceptions or pass breakups as rookies. Having spent a mid-first on Forbes, he was expected to start.

But that hasn’t been the case. Forbes has only started four of the Commanders’ first ten games. He has only played 40 or more snaps five times. Without much playing time, Forbes hasn’t been able to make an impact in IDP fantasy football. He has only made 27 combined tackles. He only made more than four tackles in a game once. That was in an overtime loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in which he played 65 snaps and got cooked by A.J. Brown, allowing nine catches for 197 yards but luckily being able to make nine tackles, many of them on completions he allowed.

Averaging 6.4 points per game in Fantasy Pros’ scoring system, Forbes is only the No. 104th-highest scoring defensive back. One thing he does excel at is breaking up passes. He has 10 pass defenses, tied for the eighth-most in the NFL, despite having played fewer coverage snaps than many others on the leaderboard. There’s his good hands showing up, as they did in Week 2 when he picked off Russell Wilson.

Why isn’t Forbes playing better? He’s only 180 pounds, and he is being bullied by bigger wide receivers.

In Weeks 2 through 5, Forbes gave up a completion percentage of over 69% in every game, and he was often being beaten deep. In Week 5 against the Chicago Bears, he allowed three completions on the three passes he defended for 76 yards. Overall, he’s allowing 18.1 yards per reception and a passer rating of 118.2.

That’s the kind of play some expected of Forbes as a rookie. He had been profiled as a “boom-bust” type. He wasn’t even expected to go in round one in many mock drafts. He was graded as a second-rounder by PFF.

Will we ever see the playmaking version of Emmanuel Forbes that we had hoped for? The good news is Forbes has worked his way out of Ron Rivera’s doghouse. He’s been getting more playing time and playing better in pass coverage in the past three weeks.

In Week 9, against a weak New England Patriots receiving core, Forbes played 48 snaps and only allowed two receptions on seven targets for 12 yards.

He started Week 10, but he left early with an ejection that both head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio thought was unjustified. Then, last week against the Giants, he allowed three receptions on five targets and made two pass breakups. In the past three weeks, he has made five pass breakups.

In the past three weeks combined, Forbes has allowed a completion percentage of 41.7%, made five pass defenses, and only allowed 44 yards. He is PFF’s fourth-best graded cornerback in that span. Will he negatively regress when he faces better passing offenses like the Cowboys (Weeks 12 and 18), the Dolphins (Week 13), and the Rams (Week 15)?

He might allow more completions, but that would be expected and not necessarily a knock that would lead to his benching. It would also lead to more tackle opportunities for IDP. He seems to have won back the trust of the Commanders. Emmanuel Forbes could make a late-season run.

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