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2017 Fantasy Football: Chicago Bears Team Outlook

Senior Fantasy Football Expert Shawn Childs takes an in-depth look at the Chicago Bears heading into the 2017 NFL season!

Chicago Bears

The Bears have missed the playoffs in each of the last six seasons while playing their poorest over the last three years (14-34). Chicago's fade in 2016 was due to the offense, which only produced 279 points scored (28th) despite finishing 15th in the league in offensive yards gained. Much of their struggles came because of the rotation of quarterbacks due to injuries. John Fox returns for his third season as head coach with a career record in the NFL of 128-112 with seven playoff appearances and two Super Bowl losses. In his two seasons with the Bears, Fox has a 9-23 record. Dowell Loggains will run the offense for his second season after being the quarterbacks coach for the Bears in 2015. Loggains ran the Titans’ offense in 2012 and 2013. He has 10 years of coaching experience in the NFL. The Bears’ defense finished about league average in 2015 (14th) and 2016 (15th) in yards allowed while showing more risk in points allowed (399 – 24th in 2016). Vic Fangio returns for his third year as the defense coordinator. He has 16 seasons of experience in the NFL with the same job.

Free Agency

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You must give Chicago credit for flipping much of their roster in the offseason. They added 15 players to the offense and defense while releasing 13 players. Their biggest change came at the QB position with Matt Barkley, Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, and David Fales being released. The Bears signed QB Mike Glennon and QB Mark Sanchez to complete for the starting job.

Chicago decided to let top WR Alshon Jeffery go while bringing a trio of option to help fill the gap – Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz, and Markus Wheaton. RB Benny Cunningham was added to compete for a backup job in the passing game. They flipped a couple of backup TEs – Dion Sims was added while Logan Paulsen was lost.

They made five changes on the offensive line. G Taylor Boggs, T Tom Compton, and T Bradley Sowell were added. However, only Sowell has a chance to earn value playing time despite playing below league average with the Seahawks last season. Chicago released G Ted Larson and T Matt McCants. Larson is at best a neutral player.

The Bears lost CB Brandon Boykin, S Demontre Hurst, DT Cornelius Washington, and DT Will Sutton from the defensive side of the ball. All these players saw minimal playing time in 2016 while offering no upside.

Chicago added four options to their secondary – CB Prince Amukamara, CB B.W. Webb, CB Markus Cooper, and S Quintin Demps. All options had valuable playing time in 2016 with Amukamara being the only option that offers close to league average value.

DT John Jenkins, DT Jaye Howard, and DE Dan Skuta were signed to add to depth to the defensive line.

Draft

With the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears hoped selected their future franchise QB (hopefully) in Mitchell Trubisky. He has a winning combination of speed and quickness plus a feel for the pocket breaking down around him. His vision and reads offer upside but he still needs to know when to throw the ball away when a play isn’t there. Trubisky throws the ball well on the move and would rather throw the rock than run even in open space. Trubisky played his college career out of the shotgun.

Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports

TE Adam Shaheen was drafted in the second round. He went to a small school (Ashland) where he had a clear edge in strength and ability. Shaheen is a three-down TE who still needs to improve his technique in both blocking and route running. He’ll be a massive option (6’6” and 278 lbs.) in the passing game with upside in scoring. His size will create a significant edge in the red zone. Shaheen was the strongest TE at this season’s NFL Combine (24 reps in the bench press).

In the fourth round, Chicago invested in S Eddie Jackson, a playmaker with upside in the return game. Jackson would have been drafted earlier if he didn’t suffer a broken leg in 2016. He doesn’t project as an edge in run support due to some weakness in his tackling. He’s a former CB so his best value will come in coverage. Jackson's game could be exposed in the NFL due to less talent in front of him, something that wasn’t an issue at Alabama. Eddie needs to get stronger while improving his technique in tackling.

With the second pick in the 4th round, the Bears took scat back Tarik Cohen who has elite speed (4.42 in the 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Combine) while lacking size (5’6’ and 179 lbs.). His running style has a Barry Sanders type feel while projecting to be a very good player in the passing game. That upside could be limited if he doesn't improve his ability to handle his responsibilities in pass blocking. Home run type player who need needs space to be a factor at the next level.

G Jordan Morgan was Chicago’s last pick in this year’s draft in the fifth round. He is a former left tackle who played at a small school (Kutztown). His future looks to be at guard where he’ll have some risk in pass protection early in his career. His strength looks to be in run blocking.

Offensive Line

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Chicago ranked 17th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,735) with 10 rushing TDs. Their ball carriers gained 4.6 yards per rush with 13 runs over 20 yards. They had 20 fewer negative runs (32) than rushes over 10 yards (52).

The Bears placed 14th in the league in passing yards (3,969) with 19 TDs and 19 Ints. Their offensive line allowed 28 sacks. Chicago tied for last in the NFL in completions over 40 yards (4).

LT Charles Leno played in the last 32 games for Chicago after getting drafted in the 7th round in 2014. After struggling throughout his first two years in the league, Leno moved closer to league average while still needing an improvement in all areas.

LG Kyle Long only played in eight games in 2016 due to an ankle injury that required surgery. His recovery did not go as planned, leading to a massive loss of weight.

https://twitter.com/Ky1eLong/status/859066132665446406

The last reports put him on path to be ready for the start of this year. He's back up to 310+ pounds with a goal of reaching 325 by Week 1. However, he didn’t have offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. The Bears drafted Long in the first round in 2013. He's been a slight asset over the last three seasons when on the field.

C Cody Whitehair was one of the best centers in the league in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round. He had a high level of success in both run and pass blocking. Whitehair played left tackle in college but his natural position is at guard. 

RG Josh Sitton has been an asset in all areas over his last eight seasons. In 2016, he played at left guard due to his experience at both positions from when he was with the Packers.

RT Bobby Massie has never been a league average player at his position. He peaked in 2014 while fading slightly in each of his last two years. Massie struggled in pass protection last season.

Both starting tackles on this roster have risk so the Bears will do their best to adjust their starting options to protect the QB and improve the run game. The interior of this line has strength while grading well above the league average.

Offensive Schedule

The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).

This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.

2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.

2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.

2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.

The Bears’ rushing offense has about a league average schedule with two favorable games (SF and CLE). They have six games (PIT, GB X 2, CAR, BAL, and PHI) against teams with weakness stopping the run.

Chicago has five games (ATL, NO, CAR, and GB X 2) against teams that struggled against the pass in 2016. They have two tough matchups against the Vikings and a mid-tier game vs. the Eagles.

Offense

Game score led to only 381 rushing attempts (25th) in 2016, which accounted for 40.1 percent of the offensive plays. Their passing attempts came in just above league average.

Quarterbacks

QB Mike Glennon

http://www.scout.com/player/97299-mike-glennon?s=532

In his first two seasons in the NFL, Glennon went 5-13 as the starting QB for Tampa Bay while passing for 4,025 yards, 29 TDs and 15 Ints. This was a favorable start to his career, but Glennon didn’t take a snap in 2015 and saw minimal action in 2016 (10-for-11 for 75 yards and a TD) due to Jameis Winston taking over the starting job for the Bucs. The Bears signed Glennon to a three-year contract in March clearing the path for him to start this season. In 2016, Chicago passed for 4,139 yards with 19 passing TDs. This points to a below league average opportunity, plus the Bears have a ton of question marks at wide receiver and the tight end position. Only a low-value bye week cover with the future of the Bears’ passing game being a phone call away.

QB Mitchell Trubisky

http://www.scout.com/player/152586-mitchell-trubisky?s=532

With one year of starting experience at North Carolina, Trubisky threw for 3,748 yards with 30 TDs and six Ints. He also rushed for 303 yards on 93 carries with five additional TDs. Trubisky comes with a high pedigree from high school, but he failed to win the starting job in college until 2016. He looks to be a very good game manager with the ability to extend drives with his legs if needed. Mitchell will need to do a better job getting the ball out quickly on his drop backs and prove he can handle the show from behind center. His ceiling looks to be high and he could emerge as the starter at some point in 2017.

Other options: Mark Sanchez, Connor Shaw

Running Backs

RB Jordan Howard

http://www.scout.com/player/161420-jordan-howard?s=532

After sitting out in Week 1 and playing just 11 snaps in Week 2, Howard flashed his upside in Week 3 (92 combined yards on 13 touches with four catches). Over his last 13 games of the season, Jordan rushed for 1,246 yards on 240 carries (5.2 yards per carry) with six TDs. He had seven games with over 100 yards rushing. His value was better than expected in the passing game (29/298/1 on 50 targets), but he did have a poor catch rate (58.0 percent). Over the last 13 games of the season, Howard averaged 20.2 touches per game. In 2016, Chicago rushed for 1,711 yards on 360 carries with 10 rushing TDs from the RB position while also catching 55 catches for 509 yards and a TD on 86 targets. His success last year should lead to an 80 percent opportunity in rushing attempts, which projects to 320 at a minimum with only a slight growth in rushing chances by Chicago. I expect over 1,800 combined yards with double digit TDs and a chance at over 40 catches. All of this points to a 280-point back in PPR leagues. The key will be steady production from the QB position.

RB Jeremy Langford

http://www.scout.com/player/131794-jeremy-langford?s=532

After showing some upside at times in 2015 (816 combined yards on 170 touches with seven TDs and 22 catches), Langford was run over by Howard last year leading to only 81 touches for 342 combined yards with four TDs and 19 receptions. His two best games came in Week 1 (63 combined yards with a TD and two catches) and Week 17 (77 combined yards with three catches). Langford gained only 3.2 yards per carry and 7.5 yards per catch. With the Bears adding Benny Cunningham, his role could be even smaller in 2017. Top handcuff to Jordan Howard while possibly offering no value without an injury.

Other options: Benny Cunningham, Ka’Deem Carey, Tarik Cohen

Wide Receiver

WR Cameron Meredith

http://www.scout.com/player/129712-cameron-meredith?s=532

Over two different two-game stretches in 2016 (Week 5 – 9/130/1 and Week 6 – 11/113 plus Week 15 –  9/104 and Week 16 – 9/135/1), Meredith offered impact value while being the best WR on the field for Chicago. In those four games, he saw double-digit targets in each game (12, 15, 13, and 12). Unfortunately for Fantasy owners, he disappeared in in six straight games (1/12, 1/24, 1/50/1, 4/49, and 2/19) starting in Week 7. Over his last 12 games of the season, Meredith had 60 catches for 836 yards and four TDs on 89 targets. In early June, Meredith suffered a sprained thumb shutting him down until training camp. Clear WR1 in this offense, but he needs to prove he can consistently beat top coverage. His path in 2017 points to a floor of 80 catches for 1,000 yards with a handful of TDs.

WR Kevin White

http://www.scout.com/player/172349-kevin-white?s=532

Over his first two years in the NFL, White only produced 19 receptions for 197 yards on 36 targets after being drafted in the first round in 2015. He broke his left leg in early October last season and also suffered an ankle injury. He had an exceptional showing at the 2015 NFL combine when he ran a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash plus he showed plenty of strength when he benched 225 lbs. 23 times to lead all WRs. After being a non-factor for West Virginia in 2013 (35/507/5 in 11 games), White took a huge step forward in 2014 when he caught 109 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 TDs. Over the last few years, we've seen WRs from the Mountaineers with huge catch totals (Tavon Austin - 225 in 2011 and 2012) and Stedman Bailey - 114 in 2012) struggle to make an impact in the NFL. I like the combination of speed and strength, but it takes strong route running ability to make an impact at the next level. Still a gamble to me until he proves he can stay healthy.

WR Markus Wheaton

http://www.scout.com/player/113955-markus-wheaton?s=532

After showing growth in 2014 (53/644/2 on 86 targets) and 2015 (44/749/5 on 79 targets), Wheaton only had four catches for 51 yards and a TD in three games last year. He suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery. He signed a two-year contract for $11 million in March with the Bears, leaving Big Ben and Pittsburgh in the rear view mirror. This season, Wheaton will try to earn his keep in the deep passing game. The key to his opportunity will be the health and growth of Kevin White. I’d start him out with 50 catches for 600+ yards with a couple of TDs.

WR Kendall Wright

http://www.scout.com/player/97340-kendall-wright?s=532

There has been nothing but fade in Wright’s game since 2013 (94/1079/2 on 139 targets). He’s missed 13 games over the last three seasons leading to short results (2014 – 57/715/6, 2015 – 36/408/3, and 2016 – 29/416/3). His decline over the last two years came with a change at QB in Tennessee so a new opportunity may suit him well. Possession type WR who has a lot to prove in 2017.

WR Victor Cruz

http://www.scout.com/player/33799-victor-cruz?s=532

It’s been four seasons since Cruz has been an impactful wide receiver. He missed 10 games in 2014 and all of the 2015 season. Last year he caught 39 of his 72 targets for 586 yards and a TD. After catching 24 passes for 331 yards and a TD on 41 targets, Cruz had one catch or fewer in his next six games. His name may carry some value, but Cruz isn’t the player he once was.

Other options: Josh Bellamy, Daniel Braverman, Rueben Randle, Deonte Thompson, Titus Davis

Tight Ends

TE Zachary Miller

http://www.scout.com/player/130760-zachary-miller?s=532

Over the first 10 games of 2016, Miller had 47 catches for 486 yards and four TDs on 64 targets. He had four steady games (8/78/2, 7/73, 7/88, and 3/61/1). Miller suffered a foot injury which required surgery in late November. His best two years of his career came at age 30 and 31. The Bears drafted their future TE (Adam Shaheen) in the second round so Miller will have a lot more competition for targets in 2017. Zach makes the most sense as a TE2, but I’d prefer to add someone with more upside.

TE Adam Shaheen

http://www.scout.com/player/216444-adam-shaheen?s=532

In his second season at Ashland University, Adam caught 70 passes for 803 yards and 10 TDs. His resume is limited while playing against lower level talent. Shaheen will win many jump balls while showing off his great hands for a tight end. He doesn’t need a big window for success, but his route running still needs some work. His size (6’6” and 278 lbs.) and blocking ability allow him to develop into a three-down player. Shaheen is an upside TE who is expected to have more value over the second half of the 2017 season. He should emerge quickly as a scoring threat even in part-time duty.

Other options: Dion Sims, Ben Braunnecker, Daniel Brown, MyCole Pruitt

Kicker

Connor Barth

http://www.scout.com/player/31223-connor-barth?s=532

Over the last nine seasons, Barth has played in four different cities in the NFL with one lost season due to an injury. His best success came in 2011 when he made 92.9 percent of his kicks. The next year, Connor made six of his nine chances from 50 yards or longer. For his career, he made 84.0 percent of his field goals with fade in 2015 (82.1) and 2016 (78.3). The Bears only gave him 23 chances in 2016 and failed to find the end zone often. Over the last two seasons, Barth made 56 of 58 extra points. Average NFL legs with a chance to produce long field goals (17-for-28), but Chicago has plenty of questions with the upside of their offense.

Defense Schedule

Chicago has five games (BAL, MIN X 2, and DET X 2) that look favorable for their rushing defense. The only matchup against a team with success last year rushing the ball is the 49ers.

The Bears have two poor matchups (ATL and NO) in the passing game plus five other games (PIT, DET X 2, and GB X 2) vs. teams with strength throwing the ball. San Francisco will be the best matchup for their pass defense followed by games against Cleveland and Philadelphia (based on 2016). I expect the Eagles to be much better throwing the ball in 2017.

Defense

Chicago ranked 27th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (1,950) with 18 rushing TDs and 12 runs over 20 yards. They allowed 4.4 yards per carry.

The Bears finished seventh in passing yards allowed (3,598) with 22 passing TDs and eight Ints. Their defense produced 37 sacks.

DT Akiem Hicks had his best season of his career leading to 54 tackles and a career-high seven sacks. The Saints drafted him in the third round in 2012. At the very least, Hicks has been a league average player each season in the league. DT Mitch Unrein is a low value rotational player with no upside rushing the QB. DT Jonathan Bullard was selected in the third round in 2016. He is another defender who offers an edge in quickness. When paired with his feel for the game, Bullard can create a winning move after the snap. His game loses value when blocked and he doesn’t have follow through in the chase leading to him being more of a one-dimensional pass rusher until he improves his technique. Chicago hopes DT Jaye Howard finds his 2015 form when he was with the Chiefs (57 tackles and 5.5 sacks). DT Eddie Goldman struggled in his second season in the league with an ankle injury. The Bears added him in the second round in 2015. Eddie had 4.5 sacks in a part time role in 2015.

LB Jerrell Freeman has over 100 tackles in four of his five seasons in the league despite missing 11 games over the last three seasons. His missed four games in 2016 due to a four-game suspension for failing a drug test for performance enhancing substances. Freeman didn’t record a sack last year. He has been one of the top linebackers in the league over the last two seasons. LB Danny Trevathan struggled with a right knee injury (torn patellar tendon) in his first season with Chicago leading to seven missed games. He projects to be a high-volume tackler with minimal value sacking the QB. LB Lamar Houston missed 14 games as well in 2016 due to a torn ACL, which was his second in three seasons. When healthy, Houston will add value in sacks with some strength against the run. LB Willie Young has 24 sacks over the last three years. He had minor knee surgery in the offseason. LB Leonard Floyd had seven sacks over 12 games in his rookie season after getting drafted in the first round. He missed a couple of games due to a calf injury and two games with neck and concussion issues. Floyd has elite upside as a pass rusher thanks to his electric first step and quickness. His speed works well in run pursuit. His only missing link is the strength needed to win the battles in the heat of combat at the line of scrimmage.

Mike Dinovo/USA TODAY Sports

CB Prince Amukamara isn’t the player he once was with the Giants. He’s missed 13 games over the last three years while offering only a steady skill set with low value in creating turnovers. CB Kyle Fuller made fewer mistakes in his second year in the league after getting drafted in the first round in 2014, but he missed all of the 2016 season with a knee injury. Even with 10 months of recovery, he may not make the opening day roster and the Bears declined to pick up the fifth year of his contract. CB Marcus Cooper should earn the other starting job after playing well in 2016 with the Cardinals. Both of the starting safeties (Quinton Demps and Adrian Amos) grade as assets. Demps has 15 Ints over the last four seasons with improvement in his play over the last two years. 2016 was the best year of his career. Amos has outperformed his draft slot (5th round in 2015) with his best success coming in run support.

The defense has a couple of players with upside, but the roster tends to struggle with injuries. I don’t see one area of strength at any level, but there is enough talent to be competitive when healthy. May surprise in sacks in the right matchup. Only worth a ride in a couple of matchups during the year if playing well. Maybe Tarik Cohen adds value to the return game.


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