2015 Fantasy Football Team Preview: Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears were outright dismal last season (5-11). We didn’t expect their defense to be any good, but when the offense followed suit it made things even worse. In total, they finished 21st by averaging just 327.1 yards per game. This was the culmination of finishing 15th in passing and 27th in rushing. They couldn’t put any points on the board as 19.9 points per game put them 23rd. The biggest reason they couldn’t score was their failure in converting third down opportunities (24th in NFL). It will be interesting to see the new look as Adam Gase is the new offensive coordinator and John Fox replaces Marc Trestman as head coach.
Jay Cutler was not anything like he was in 2013. The 2014 season had coaches and players calling him out for the way he was handling the offense. The interesting aspect is that Cutler threw for a career-high in yards (3,812), touchdowns (28) and completion percentage (66.0), but he also threw his second-most interceptions (18) and led the NFL in turnovers. Cutler will now leave behind a very passer friendly offense with Marc Trestman to a more conservative one in Gase and Fox. Both coaches don’t owe Jay Cutler anything, and if he continues to fall down the slippery slope, look for backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen to take over. Heck, if things really get out of hand for the Bears season, former sixth round selection David Fales may even get a shot.
Matt Forte rules the roost as the primary running back. He is not the primary due to his excellent size and build but rather the way he can catch passes out of the backfield. This counteracts the traditional back John Fox likes to use in his offenses. Fox likes more of the bruising type of backs. The only one on the roster that fits the mold is Ka’Deem Carey. With that said, I don’t believe for an instant that Forte won’t finish in the top five to seven running backs in PPR leagues. Don’t look for another 102 receptions out of Forte, which will drop his total yards and touchdowns down a bit. I would look for him to catch around 65-70 receptions with two touchdowns in the air. Forte running will also decrease as he had 266 carries. Look for around 225 to 250 carries on the season with around 950-1000 yards of rushing offense and three to four scores.
The Bears also drafted Jeremy Langford out of Michigan State. Langford is a Forte clone, but much faster as he ran a 4.4 forty in the combine. They also brought in Jacquizz Rodgers from the Atlanta Falcons in free agency. As I look at it now, Carey is your sleepr for standard leagues while Forte is the PPR president.
The Bears said goodbye to wide receiver Brandon Marshall after the close of the 2014 season and drafted West Virginia’s Kevin White with the seventh overall pick. White is spectacular to watch as he ran a 4.35 at the combine but is rough around the edges. He needs to learn how to run routes. In West Virginia’s offense he was not relied on to run the crisp routes, he usually took a pass underneath and ran the heck out of it. Many scouts believe he is two seasons away from actual solid production.
The number one receiver will now be Alshon Jeffrey who will be entering his fourth season. His first two years he played under the wing of Marshall, so the question becomes: can he be the man without Marshall? With Trestman gone, I don’t see Jeffery reaching the touchdown mark he did in 2014. I also see a decrease in yards, as it will take time for him to adjust to being covered by the opposing team’s number one cornerback. In the slot will be Eddie Royal. Royal won’t do much for fantasy purposes, but he makes the Bears better as a team as they were missing a slot receiver all season.
Martellus Bennett will also miss Marc Trestman. Bennett has been climbing the ladder the last three seasons as he has seen his receptions increase from 55 to 65 to 90 last year. John Fox will put a damper on that and probably decrease his catch rate lower than 80. His touchdowns could finish the same at six. Bennett was a good receiver in the red zone last season as he caught six of ten passes thrown to him. Adam Gase likes to use the tight end; in Denver the tight ends caught a third of the touchdown passes thrown.
The Bears are more like the Cubs when it comes to defense. They were 30th in total defense allowing 377.1 yards per game, 30th in passing defense with 264.4, 17th in rush 112.7 yards allowed and 31st in allowed points (27.6). When it came to being active, though, the Bears did some good things. They were mid pack (T-14th) with interceptions (14) and 16th in sacks with 39.
There may be good news on the horizon. Vic Fangio is Chicago’s new defensive coordinator. He will be switching up the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Rookie Eddie Goldman may have some dynasty value as he mans the DT position, and Jared Allen could have dual positional value as an LB and DL due to the change of system. Pernell McPhee can and will rush from either side of the ball, as well as former Cardinal Sam Acho who will also be active in rushing the passer. The most productive player should be Antrel Rolle. He will be the starting free safety, and look for him to move around and make some tackles. Rolle could finish in the 70+ in the tackle column.
Player to Watch
Cutler. He is either going to outplay his ADP of 19 as per FantasyPros or play himself out of a job. Cutler may not be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but he can put up good enough numbers to keep the Bears afloat. Cutler failing will not only kill his value but any other offensive player on the team as well. This makes it a risky situation for those looking to select any of the Bears offensively.
Forte had 102 receptions last season. Two years prior? 74 and 44. Where will Forte end up this season with a new offensive coordinator and head coach? Gase and Fox like the power backs but are not afraid to use their running back out of the backfield either.