Fantasy Outlook: Chicago Bears
Every NFL off-season there’s always a few teams that go through a complete offensive overhaul. Every time a team does, major fantasy implications follow closely behind. This off-season, one of those teams was the Chicago Bears. In this article, I will break down the fantasy outlook in Chicago and how it can impact your team.
Last season the Bears provided fantasy owners with very little to get excited about. This year, the Bears aimed to revamp their entire team. After firing Head Coach John Fox, the Bears made perhaps their most important move of the offseason: hiring Matt Nagy. Nagy looks to inject some much-needed juice into the Bears offense. Something he did well for Kansas City last year.
After a shaky first season from QB Mitch Trubisky, the Bears added some much-needed talent on the offensive side of the ball. In the first of many great moves, the Bears added Allen Robinson to a three-year contract in free agency. Not to get complacent, the Bears also added speedy WR Taylor Gabriel from Atlanta and drafted Anthony Miller in the second round of the 2018 draft. A trio of great moves that drastically change the offense. The Bears also added TE Trey Burton from Philadelphia to help bolster the passing game even more.
The backfield remains as one of the only consistent in the Bears offense this season. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen look to handle the majority of the workload out the backfield in what was the only fantasy bright spot for the Bears last season.
With a new head coach in town and a plethora of talent added to the offense, should fantasy owners get excited about the Bears this season? Let’s dive into some data and get some answers.
Fantasy Outlook: Chicago Bears
Quarterback- Mitch Trubisky
In the 2017 Draft, the Bears made a major move to snag their franchise QB Mitch Trubisky. After trading a treasure chest of picks to the 49ers, it was clear that the Bears had found their guy. Unfortunately, fantasy owners won’t be talking about his rookie season as a high point of their 2017 seasons.
As we can see in the Weekly Points chart above, Trubisky’s week to week fantasy production was very unimpressive. After taking the starting position, Trubisky produced nowhere near the points average for a QB1 until week 10. He averaged just 11.05 fantasy points in 4 Point TD leagues. The chart also shows that Trubisky didn’t amass 20 fantasy points until week 14. It’s no surprise that both statistics reflect his 182 passing yard average in that span. Although the data is alarming, it may be wise to pump the breaks on a verdict for Trubisky’s 2018 campaign before digging deeper into his efficiency as a passer.
The heat map above shows that not all of Trubisky’s passing stats were bad. the chart shows that Trubisky was very efficient in all areas at a short distance but preferred the right side of the field. His completion percentage at short range which is largely due to John Fox’s vanilla “dink and dunk” offensive system. We can also see that Trubisky rarely threw down the field. When he did, his completion percentage was very poor. the poor deep ball efficiency isn’t all Trubisky’s fault though. The lack of downfield efficiency is heavily due to the lack of deep threat receiver talent for the Bears last year.
It’s no secret that Trubisky was in a system that was meant for a game manager. But is that who he really is? He flashed the ability to be more than that last season. Unfortunately, it was far less often than fantasy owners would have liked. one thing is for certain, under new head coach Matt Nagy the future is bright. An influx of talent should help Trubisky elevate his game. however, it may not be enough for him to be worth a roster spot outside of Superflex, two QB, or deeper leagues.
Running back- Jordan Howard & Tarik Cohen
The Bears backfield was one of the only bright spots for the Bears last season. Jordan Howard had a monster 2016 season as he totaled 1313 yards and six touchdowns for 230 fantasy points. For fantasy owners, it looked like he held the reigns to the backfield for the upcoming season. But things changed a bit after 2017 fourth round pick Tarik Cohen decided to drop 113 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in week one. A performance that earned Cohen some much-deserved playing time.
Although Howard did post another nice stat line last season (1122 yards/9 touchdowns), it was clear that the Bears were moving towards a running back tandem. In what was the focal point for the Bears offense last season, both Howard and Cohen shouldered the load and are expected to do so again this year. The only question remains is will Cohen continue to eat into Howard’s production in the upcoming season? Or will Howard have another season amassing 1000 yards and hold of the talented second-year back? Let’s take a look.
Last season, Jordan Howard was clearly the preferred ball carrier as he had far more rushing attempts than Cohen. Howard had 276 to Cohens 87. The chart above shows Howards rush attempts and Yards Per Carry (YPC) by zone. We can see he fared best on the left side of the line where he had his best YPC and most attempts. however, he clearly struggled near the center and right side of the Offensive Line.
It may be shocking to see how much Howard struggled away from the left side of the line. But he averaged 4.1 YPC and nearly .8 fantasy points per attempt last season. How? well, per Next Gen Stats Howard saw eight plus men in the box on a whopping 43.12% of his attempts.
The high level of volume and YPC coupled with the eight-plus in the box percentage actually show that Howard did very well despite the circumstances. With new talent added to the passing game, it’s likely that things open up for Howard in the run game.
Tarik Cohen came in and immediately carved out a role for himself. After his week one performance last season, it was clear he would be vital to the passing game. The chart above shows is a heat map of Cohen’s targets. As expected for most running backs, he was most used and effective at short range. His reception percentage, however, was far above the average in short yardage situations.
Cohen totaled 53 receptions on 71 targets for 353 yards as well as rushing 87 times for 370 yards. he totaled 3 touchdowns all season long as well. his fantasy impact was rarely felt but he passed the eye test for many owners to roster him last season. It’s likely that John Fox’s vanilla defense likely also hindered Cohen from ever seeing over 35% of the snap share for the Bears. This season with Nagy could being Cohen to another level if he’s used correctly.
Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen have great skillsets. If both used properly they can have some great fantasy impacts for teams. It’s likely that Howard retains his role as the workhorse of the backfield. Word out of camp has been he’s been working on his ball catching skills. if so, that could effect Cohens value down the stretch. But let’s not be hasty. Cohen was clearly the better pass-catching back. Owners will look for both guys to be consistent this season as both had a volatile week to week production. Howard’s ADP right now is 2.08 as the RB13 in PPR formats. if he improves as a pass catcher he could very well exceed that. Cohen holds an ADP of 7.03 as the RB33. If he can build on last seasons success, he will be a steal at his draft price.
Wide Receivers- Allen Robinson & Anthony Miller
Perhaps the most intriguing part of this new Bears offense is the receivers core. After a year in which we saw Cameron Meredith and Kendall Wright split targets, we have now seen a complete overhaul at the position. The Bears were aggressive in free agency and locked up Allen Robinson and then snagged Taylor Gabriel from the Falcons. If that weren’t enough, they drafted Anthony Miller with the 19th pick in the second round of the draft this year. All of a sudden this Bears look loaded at receiver. But are they? On the surface, all seems to be well. But there are still some questions to be answered.
2015 was an insane year for Allen Robinson. His sophomore campaign was one that still echoes in the fantasy world to this day. With an 80/1400/14 stat line, there was no doubt that Robinson had become an elite receiver in the NFL. Then 2016 happened. Robinson saw a major regression in every statistical way leaving owners to wonder if his 2015 campaign was a fluke. Matters only got worse in 2017 as Robinson tore his ACL in week one. so what should we make of his meteoric rise and fall?
The chart above shows Robinson’s yearly fantasy finishes since entering the league in 2014. We know his low finish last season was due to his ACL tear so let’s focus on 2015-2016. We can see from the chart that the fall off from 2015 to 2016 was extremely drastic. Robinson went from finishing as the WR6 to the WR25 in fantasy on just seven fewer receptions. We can correlate the drop off in production with Blake Bortles having a down year in 2016 but such a massive drop off is still very alarming.
Factor in that Allen Robinson is coming off a knee injury a year later and the outcome for him is slightly unpredictable. if Robinson can capture some of the magic he had in 2015, he may be a welcome surprise this fantasy season. He’s currently holding an ADP of WR25 in the 5th round of redraft drafts. He has the talent to exceed that. But until he shows he hasn’t lost a step, owners would be wise to temper expectations.
— NFL (@NFL) August 19, 2018
One guy that has been making some waves in training camp and preseason is Anthony Miller. Coming out of the draft Miller was touted as a polished route runner who lacked a prototypical wide receiver stature. Despite his frame, he logged back to back massive seasons at Memphis. He topped 1400 yards in both 2016 and 2017 and totaled 32 touchdowns in that span.
Miller comes into the Bears looking to assume the WR2 role behind Allen Robinson. From all the buzz coming out of the Bears camp in the past few weeks, that seems like its more than possible. Miller has impressed with some amazing catches in practice and has been said to be a lock for the starting slot receiver role. Its worth mentioning that behind Robinson, Miller will be fighting with Taylor Gabriel and Kevin White for targets. Although most of Miller’s value comes in dynasty leagues, he boasts some extreme upside value in the later rounds of your draft.
Tight end- Trey Burton
After the devastating injury to Zach Miller last season the Bears were left with a hole at the Tight end position. The Bears were aggressive in their pursuit of a tight end in free agency and snagged Trey Burton. A move that quickly became a fantasy owner favorite. Most of Burtons production has been capped by Zach Ertz in Philadelphia but that won’t be the case with the Bears.
Burton is walking into the starting TE1 position with little to no resistance. So far he has handled that role just fine. Burton made most of his opportunities count in the red zone last year. Five of his 23 receptions came in the red zone on which all five of his touchdowns came. His role was limited to Red Zone looks as Ertz handled most of the TE1 responsibilities in Philadelphia.
It is anticipated that Burton with a sizeable target share of the Bears offense, he will be a valuable fantasy asset for owners. He will look to improve on his Red Zone efficiency as well as expand his role as a viable option for Trubisky inside the 20’s. Burton is being drafted as the TE6 in the sixth round of redraft leagues. A slightly hefty price for a TE who has a lot to prove this season. Regardless of little production in the past, Burton is a great option for owners who choose to wait on drafting a TE.