Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Bears Fantasy Preview

Monday, June 11, 2018


Bears 2015-2017 Offensive Profile

2015-2017 Pass Attempts Rank: 25th, 22nd, 32nd
2015-2017 Rush Attempts Rank: 6th, 25th, 18th
2015-2017 Play Volume Rank: 18th, 30th, 31st
2015-2017 Yards Per Play Rank: 21st, 5th, 23rd
Unaccounted for Air Yards from 2017 (Rank): 2,197 (5th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2017 (Rank): 4 (30th)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Mitchell Trubisky
RB: Jordan Howard
WR: Allen Robinson
WR: Taylor Gabriel
WR: Anthony Miller
TE: Trey Burton
LT: Charles Leno
LG: James Daniels
C: Cody Whitehair
RG: Kyle Long
RT: Bobby Massie

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Passing Game Outlook

Mitchell Trubisky mercifully replaced overmatched Mike Glennon last Week 5 and was the fantasy QB24 from that point forward. He cleared 200 passing yards in just 3-of-12 starts in an archaic offense that ranked 31st in play volume and dead last in pass attempts. A plus scrambler with 4.67 speed, Trubisky did flash dual-threat potential by ranking 13th among quarterbacks in rushing yards (248). Chicago’s passing game was painfully limited by an abysmal pass-catcher corps, led in receptions by journeyman slot WR Kendall Wright (59) and fourth-round RB Tarik Cohen (53). Chicago’s aggressive offseason provides optimism for Trubisky to take a year-two leap, blueprinted in the 2017 Rams likeness by replacing its stone-age staff (John Fox, Dowell Loggains) with progressive spread-offense proponents Matt Nagy (Chiefs) and Mark Helfrich (Oregon) on top of a supporting-cast overhaul of ex-Jaguars No. 1 WR Allen Robinson, lid-lifter Taylor Gabriel, exciting rookie slot man Anthony Miller, and flexible catch-first TE Trey Burton while returning Cohen and intriguing sophomore in-line TE Adam Shaheen. Warren Sharp noted the Bears draw this year’s fifth-easiest schedule of opposing pass defenses. Trubisky’s job security, weapons, improved coaching, and soft slate make him one of this year’s most compelling late-round QB2s.

The Bears made Allen Robinson the NFL’s tenth-highest-paid receiver after he followed an inefficient 2016 campaign by tearing his left ACL three snaps into Week 1. A 1,400-yard producer the year before, Robinson won’t turn 25 until just before the season. When healthy and at his peak, Robinson is a premier contested-catch winner with dynamic red-zone and big-play ability; the Penn State alum led the NFL in receiving TDs (14) and 20-plus-yard catches (31) in 2015. While WR1 production is within Robinson’s range of potential outcomes, I believe he is better approached as an upside WR2/3 coming off back-to-back disappointing or injury-ruined years in a suddenly deep Bears offense with unproven quarterback play. Free agent wide receivers' track record is sketchy to be kind, and ESPN Chicago noted Robinson barely participated in the Bears' offseason program. I'm fading Robinson at his fourth-/fifth-round price.

Taylor Gabriel signed a four-year, $26 million deal to fill the Bears’ deep-threat “Z” role across from “X” receiver Robinson. A diminutive (5’8/176) 4.4-flat speedster, Gabriel has never averaged more than 4.5 targets per game through four NFL seasons and projects as a low-volume lid popper who runs clear-out routes to create room for others and receives occasional shot-play targets. Gabriel offers mild last-round appeal in best-ball leagues, but his odds of becoming a consistent week-to-week fantasy asset are slim.

 

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The Bears traded this year’s No. 105 pick and next year’s second-rounder to move up for Anthony Miller at No. 51 and will play him in the slot between Robinson and Gabriel. A Sterling Shepard-level talent who drew scattered pre-draft Antonio Brown comparisons, Miller was an otherworldly producer his final two seasons at Memphis, especially dominating on the interior as a sudden-footed route technician with superb short-area quickness (6.65 three-cone time) and unusually large hands (10 5/8”). As Robinson hasn’t actually played well since 2015 and Gabriel isn’t a high-volume receiver, it’s not crazy to call Miller a sleeper to lead Chicago in 2018 targets. Miller has a target-hot skill set, and Trubisky’s go-to guys the past two seasons (Kendall Wright, Ryan Switzer) operated primarily in the slot.

Trey Burton landed a four-year, $32 million contract from the Bears after managing 63 receptions in four seasons behind Zach Ertz in Philadelphia, and catching just four touchdowns in four years at Florida. Nevertheless, Burton produced stat lines of 5/49/1, 2/19/0, 2/41/1, and 5/71/2 in spot starts for Ertz the past two years. Josh Hermsmeyer’s Game Speed study showed Burton ran at a well-above-par pace in both seasons, including improved speed from 2016 to 2017. Burton ran over half of his 2017 routes (52.1%) in the slot, where his playing time figures to increase under spread-oriented Nagy and Helfrich. Even with mere small-sample spot performances on his resume, Burton offers TE1 upside depending on how quickly he absorbs the offense to earn full-time snaps and forms a rapport with Trubisky. Albeit highly impacted by his poor supporting cast, it’s notable that Trubisky posted a 105 passer rating on throws to the middle of the field as a rookie. Trubisky’s rating outside the numbers was a far-worse 71. Burton drew 61.5% of his targets in the middle of the field the past two years in Philly.

Candidates for sub-package playing time in Nagy’s spread passing game include 2017 second-round TE Adam Shaheen, 2015 first-round pick Kevin White, and sixth-year WR Josh Bellamy, whom the Bears tendered in restricted free agency. Whereas repeat leg fractures have ruined White – forcing him to relearn to run and jump – and Bellamy is a replacement-level journeyman, Shaheen offers a legitimate ceiling as a potential in-line complement to H-back/slot TE Burton. Built like Rob Gronkowski at 6-foot-6, 278 with above-par 68th-percentile SPARQ athleticism, Shaheen was out-snapped 59% to 24% by blocking TE Dion Sims as a rookie. Although Sims wouldn’t seem like stiff competition for more-talented Shaheen, the Bears did guarantee $4 million of Sims’ $6 million salary earlier this offseason.

Running Game Outlook

Jordan Howard was the subject of pre-draft trade rumors after his yards-per-carry average dipped from 5.21 as a rookie to 4.07 last year, and his Success Rate from 47% to 42%, which ranked 35th among 47 qualified backs at Football Outsiders. Howard totaled below 80 yards in 11-of-16 games. One obvious hindrance was Howard facing eight-plus defenders in the box on 43.1% of carries, sixth most among backs with at least 150 attempts. Stone-handed Howard also leads all NFL backs in drops (14) over the past two seasons. The Bears can simply no longer play Howard in the passing game, where he is sure to lose snaps to Tarik Cohen and Benny Cunningham. One positive is Nagy and Helfrich’s shotgun-heavy background, which can lighten the box in spread formations. Howard has averaged 6.49 career yards per carry on shotgun runs, but only 4.02 YPC from center. Last year, Fox and Loggains used shotgun at a league-low 50% rate. Howard’s all-around game and consistency aren’t perfect, but he maintains a lofty touchdown ceiling and stranglehold on early-down work in what should be a much-improved offense.

Tarik Cohen flashed game-breaking ability as a fourth-round rookie with over 100 yards from scrimmage in two of his first three games. Thereafter, Fox’s creativity-lacking staff struggled to pinpoint Cohen’s optimal offensive usage. He shined on punt returns and returned kicks, but logged more than eight offensive touches just twice in the final ten games. Nagy has raved about Cohen all offseason, at one point even comparing him to Tyreek Hill. “He runs every route the right way,” the Bears’ new coach said of Cohen. “He catches most balls. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s a player that, for me, you get giddy about.” Nagy's 2017 Chiefs led the NFL in percentage of Run-Pass Option plays (18.1%), and Cohen's college offense at North Carolina A&T specialized in feeding him on RPOs. A highly intriguing RB/WR hybrid for Nagy and Helfrich’s spread attack, Cohen offers underrated middle-round upside in PPR leagues coming off a 53-reception rookie campaign.

2018 Vegas Win Total

The Bears’ Win Total opened at 6.5 with -140 odds to the over. Facing the Packers, Vikings, and Lions twice apiece is far from ideal, although a non-division slate of the AFC East, NFC West, Bucs (home), and Giants (away) is more forgiving. Warren Sharp rated Chicago’s schedule strength at No. 17, albeit second softest in Weeks 1-10. Sharp also rated the Bears’ schedule of opposing defenses fourth easiest, good news for Trubisky’s chances at a sophomore leap. Coaching and skill-player upgrades on offense can’t be overstated, while retaining masterful DC Vic Fangio amid Fox’s departure was a coup. Last year’s Bears went an abysmal 2-6 in one-score games, setting up this year’s club for positive regression. Even at worse odds, I think the over on 6.5 wins is worth buying for this improving team.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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