Fantasy Outlook: Bears Wide Receivers
The Chicago Bears continue to remake their receiving corps. For the second year in a row, the Bears drafted a wideout. In 2018, the overhaul began on March 14th when the Monsters of the Midway signed former Jacksonville Jaguars star receiver Allen Robinson. The front office also signed former Atlanta Falcons swiss army knife Taylor Gabriel later that day.
The deals were for three and four years respectively. This ensured that Matt Nagy would have them around for at least a few seasons. Also in 2018, the Bears traded up into the second round to draft Anthony Miller. The trade cost the Bears their fourth round in 2018 and their second-round pick in 2019.
Fast forward to 2019. The Bears were again in the market for wide receiver depth and selected Riley Ridley in the fourth round. Not one wideout that was on the Chicago Bears in 2017 is still with the team.
In fact, with Kevin White departing for the Arizona Cardinals and Josh Bellamy landing in New York with the Jets, only Robinson, Gabriel and Miller remain from the 2018 season. Talk about a roster shakeup. Let us take a look at what we may expect from the revamped receiver group in 2019 with Matt Nagy at the helm and putting them in a position to succeed.
Allen Robinson (6th-Year Receiver/2018 WR 39/Penn State Nittany Lions)
Allen Robinson broke out in a big way in 2015, his second season in the NFL. The 61st overall pick in the 2014 draft got off to a slow start and had been hampered by injury and poor quarterback play before bouncing back somewhat in 2018 with Mitchell Trubisky at the helm and Matt Nagy calling the shots.
The last three years Matt Nagy was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, he was able to coach WR1 finishes of 15, 23 and 9. Nagy did this with the likes of Jeremy Maclin and Tyreek Hill. Over those three years, the position averaged 104 targets per year. Robinson saw 55 targets playing in just 13 games in 2018. Expect that number to climb for 2019. When Robinson is healthy and heavily targeted, he can produce as evidenced by this chart.
Robinson went over 20 points in six of his 16 games in 2015. A full offseason to get healthy and a more experienced coach and quarterback should lead to big things for the Penn State grad in 2019. Expect him to outperform his current ADP of 75.8 and the 30th receiver off the board in redrafts. Robinson is still just 25 so it may be worth a peek to see if you can buy low on him in your dynasty league as well.
Anthony Miller (2nd-Year Receiver/2018 WR61/Memphis Tigers)
As mentioned above, the Bears traded up to get Anthony Miller so they obviously like him. According to the 150 Facts article from Anthony Staggs, 21% of Anthony Miller’s receptions went for touchdowns last season. This was second to only Mike Williams among wide receivers with 30 plus receptions. Miller managed seven touchdowns on just 54 targets. This is not that surprising given Miller’s market share for touchdowns compared to some of the wideouts drafted ahead of him in 2018.
The Memphis grad certainly made the most of his opportunities. Had Miller not dealt with a nagging shoulder injury most of the year, the sky could have been the limit. The rookie wideout actually had a better point per opportunity ratio than JuJu Smith-Schuster and was not too far behind DeAndre Hopkins.
If the former walk-on can stay healthy and get comfortable with Matt Nagy’s offense, he should shatter his ADP and could flirt with a top-25 WR finish in PPR formats. Miller is currently being drafted in redraft leagues at an ADP of 135.7 and WR52. Target him in your dynasty leagues as well as his owner may be down on him after a so-so rookie campaign that was touchdown dependent.
Taylor Gabriel (6th-Year Receiver/2018 WR41/Abilene Christian Wildcats)
Taylor Gabriel managed 93 targets in 2018, lining up all over the formation in Chicago under rookie coach Matt Nagy. Nagy force fed the small school grad the ball near the line of scrimmage. Therefore, the speedy wideout only managed 7.4 yards per target.
Taylor Gabriel set a career high in receptions (67), yards (688), rushing attempts (9) and rushing yards (61). Gabriel has always performed fairly well with his opportunities. In fact, the versatile wideout has averaged over one point per opportunity his entire career.
Given that the Chicago Bears gave Gabriel a four year deal in 2018 speaks volumes as to the plans that Matt Nagy has for him. The increased usage could be on the horizon for 2019. Especially with only rookie wideout Riley Ridley (covered next) added to the depth chart. Gabriel is currently going undrafted in redraft leagues and at 28 years old is a hard buy in dynasty leagues. Monitor the usage early though and if Nagy continues to target Gabriel heavily in the passing game, make a play for him.
Riley Ridley (Rookie Receiver/2018 NA/Georgia Bulldogs)
Jesse Reeves broke down Riley Ridley for FFS shortly before the NFL draft. The results were not great. A poor combine showing did not help Ridley’s cause. The oft-debated wideout has found himself in Chicago playing for offensive guru Matt Nagy. While somewhat raw, Ridley has the ball skills to possibly contribute right away in a thin receiver corps.
Looking at the numbers from Ridley’s junior year, we see that he posted an impressive 20.9% touchdown rate. The plus-sized wideout could be a red zone threat in the Windy City this year. There were 82 such instances of these targets for the Bears last year. Mitchell Trubisky scattered those looks amongst the wideouts mentioned above along with Tarik Cohen and Trey Burton.
For what it is worth, Ridley has drawn praise from Matt Nagy early on. Keep an eye on the offseason news that comes out of organized team activities and adjust accordingly. The polarizing rookie is currently going undrafted in redraft and rookie drafts (rightfully so). Unless Ridley can separate himself in camp or one of the three other core receivers for the Bears suffer an injury, there is just simply not a path to solid production for him at this point.
The Bears wideouts seem to be a bit undervalued early in the offseason. Matt Nagy is entering his second year as a head coach. In his first year, he was able to coach the Chicago Bears to the 10th ranked scoring offense in the league. One would think Nagy learned a lot from his first year and will adjust accordingly. Another weapon was added in the draft as well to make the offense more potent. David Montgomery was drafted in the third round by the Bears.
The acquisition of Montgomery should open up some things for the passing offense. The three returning wideouts have a chance to be week in and week out contributors for your fantasy squad. Do not make a mistake and overlook all of them on draft day.