Hello everyone! I hope you guys all had a great 4th of July holiday, filled with great food, great friends and family, and even better fireworks!
Before we get even further into July, where I will be releasing many different articles, rankings and podcasts with the rest of the Razzball team, I want to take a quick look at quite possibly one of my favorite fantasy football teams this year – the Chicago Bears.
Even though my heart lies with the Patriots, I do have to say, I have a bit of a soft spot for the Bears. I always like to see them do well, especially because as I was growing up in the past 18 years, they were always the lovable losers against the Packers. But this year, I believe things will be different. I think this year is shaping up to be a great one for the Bears. In fact, I think they could finish second in this division (ahead of the Packers but behind the Vikings), make it to the playoffs as a Wild Card team, and be one of the most productive fantasy offenses in the NFL this year.
So let’s get into it!
What I Like About Matt Nagy
Over the offseason, the Bears ended up firing John Fox after the last 3 seasons under his regime, bringing in the former Offensive Coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Nagy. They did, however, elect to keep their defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, as he’ll retain his duties for the 2018 season.
Nagy’s history is one of the biggest reasons why I am excited about this Chicago team. Nagy comes from Kansas City, where he was the OC for the past 2 seasons, and the Quarterbacks Coach from 2013-2015. While he was the Chiefs OC, his offense gained some pretty big attention for their use of the RPO offense (Run-Pass Option), which some argued was the reason why they were so successful last season. Nagy didn’t invent the offensive scheme, but he utilized it very effectively. Nagy and Andy Reid weren’t the only coaches in the NFL to use the RPO last season, as Jacksonville, Green Bay, and more importantly, Philadelphia, all found success using the system.
The Eagles were by far made the system incredibly popular, as it was arguably the biggest reason why they won the Super Bowl last season after some high-powered offensive performances against New England, Minnesota, and Atlanta in the playoffs. At the forefront of it though, was Doug Pederson, as he was hailed as an offensive genius. But this wasn’t the first time Pederson had used the RPO. In fact, he was able to use it to an extent while he was the Offensive Coordinator of the Chiefs, from 2013-2015.
And who was his Quarterbacks Coach? Matt Nagy.
I don’t want to give off the impression that I think that the Bears are going to be this year’s Philadelphia Eagles. But Nagy will use some of the same RPO and offensive tactics that Andy Reid and Doug Pederson have used in the past, and found success with.
With an influx of receiving talent in this offense from last year, and with Nagy’s methods, this should be one of the better offenses in the NFL this year, and definitely the most improved offense from last year.
What I Like About Mitch Trubisky
Speaking of last year, the 2017 season was one to forget for Mitch Trubisky.
In 2017, John Fox saw the offenses ran in Jacksonville and Tennessee, and said “Alright, let’s do what they’re doing”, but to an even extremer extent. When taking a look at Situational Run:Pass ratios, it’s clear to see how run-heavy the Bears really were in 2017. Chicago only passed the ball 55% of the time, which was the 7th-fewest in the NFL. They also ran the ball 45% of the time, which was the 7th-most in the NFL. These playcalling tendencies were very inefficient for the offense as a whole, as the Bears finished 30th in total offense, 29th in total scoring, and dead last in passing attempts and total passing yardage.
Because the Bears were so reluctant to let Trubisky throw wildly, he wasn’t very efficient throughout the season. However, the one spot that should give us hope about Trubisky is the fact that he was pretty decent on his deeper passes, and in fact, pretty similar to the deep passing metrics of one Alex Smith; who was pretty efficient in Nagy’s system last year.
But the reason why I think Trubisky should be good this year isn’t just because of Nagy and the new system. Unlike last year, where Trubisky’s weapons were mostly Dontrelle Inman, Josh Bellamy and Kendall Wright, Trubisky will now have a better weapons with the offseason additions of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, rookie Anthony Miller, and Trey Burton. I’ll be touching on these players more in-depth below, but Trubisky will get a ton of help this year.
The defense is still pretty could, and should help the offense stay competitive late into games this year, and with Nagy’s new system, the training wheels should be coming off of Trubisky, and he should do quite well this year in the NFL, and hopefully, in fantasy as well.
What I Like About Jordan Howard
I believe that the consensus in the fantasy football community, of both writers and players, is that the worst players to own in fantasy are those that are boom-or-bust. In 2017, this perfectly described Jordan Howard. Although Howard finished as the 10th-best back in fantasy last year, he was wildly inconsistent. In 16 weeks, Howard finished as a top-12 RB five times, a top-24 RB eight times, and outside of the top 36 six times. What’s more confusing about Howard’s performances last season was the fact that the Bears, like I mentioned earlier, was one of the most run-heavy teams in the entire league. So what happened?
I believe Howard’s struggles in 2017 come down to two factors: poor offensive line play, and Howard’s lackluster abilities in the passing game.
First off, the Bears O-Line last season didn’t do any of the running backs any favors. They ranked towards the bottom of the league in almost all O-line metrics per Football Outsiders, and failed to create open spaces for both Howard and Tarik Cohen. But in addition to that issue, the fact that Howard wasn’t very effective out of the backfield on passing downs also contributed to his struggles.
Even with the issues last season, Howard is still a good runner. Say what you want about him in 2017, but in 2016, Howard finished with an astounding 5.2 yards per carry. The reason why I like Howard in 2018 (especially in standard leagues), is the fact that this offense should be a better unit as a whole. Like I mentioned earlier, Trubisky should be allowed to throw the ball very freely, there are some nice weapons in the offense, and the defense should be better. I see a lot of positive game scripts coming Chicago’s way, and that should help Howard.
Currently, the 3rd-year running back has an ADP in the middle-to-late 2nd round, which I think is a nice range for someone who would start out their draft by going with Antonio Brown and then Howard, or Howard as an RB2 behind DJ-Zeke-Bell-Gurley and a WR1 found in the late second, with Howard as a RB2. Obviously I’d prefer Howard as an RB2, and I think he should be an RB2 in most casual leagues.
What I Like About Tarik Cohen
Tarik Cohen came from the depths of the Bermuda Triangle last season to have a very good first week of the NFL season last year, as he put up 113 all-purpose yards and caught 1 TD against the Falcons at home. However, he kinda fell out of favor with John Fox and the rest of the coaching staff, as they didn’t utilize them the way that they should have (or the way that everyone on NFL Twitter thought they should have), as Cohen finished as the RB36.
Cohen is a short, elusive, speedy threat, and Nagy has a history of working with those players from his time in Kansas City with names like Tyreek Hill, Albert Wilson, and De’Anthony Thomas. If he is able to have an even bigger role in the passing game from last year, as we know it’s not likely to go to Howard, Cohen will be a very intriguing late-round PPR option.
What I Like About Allen Robinson
I’ve talked about Robinson extensively, so I will just summarize and link to my other posts about him, but simply put, ARob might be one of my favorite WR2 targets.
People forget that Robinson is still only 24 years old, and while he has had his struggles and injuries in the past, he is still only a few years removed from when he torched up the league for close to 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. He may never repeat those numbers, but he’s still the clear-cut #1 WR in Chicago, and should pay off his 5th-round price tag very easily. I will gladly take ARob as my 2nd or 3rd wideout, especially in PPR leagues.
What I Like About Trey Burton
The Tight End position this year is one of the most top-heavy fantasy positions that I’ve seen in a little while. If you aren’t grabbing a Top-3 or 4 TE in the first 6 rounds or so, you’re going to have to wait to the later stages of the draft, and if you do, Burton should be your guy.
In 2017, when he played in Philadelphia (under Doug Pederson, so this Bear’s offense shouldn’t be too tough to learn), Burton finished the season with a total of 23 catches for 248 yards and 5 TD’s. Nothing too special, but the thing that really stands out for me when looking at Burton’s numbers from last year, were his totals when Zach Ertz didn’t play. During the two weeks in which Ertz was injured, Week 9 and Week 14, Burton finished as the TE7 and TE1 in fantasy. It’s clear that if Ertz wasn’t in the picture, Burton would have a pretty big role in the offense.
When looking at the offenses of Pederson and Nagy in the past, it’s clear how big of a role Tight Ends have in their respective offenses. Maybe the successes of Travis Kelce were mostly due to Alex Smith’s ability to target his TE’s, but I don’t think we should overlook how important the position was in their offenses in year’s past.
Burton currently has an ADP in the 9th round, but I could see him going a lot later in casual drafts. If you’re not going after Gronk, Kelce, or Ertz, and want to wait a few more rounds, Burton is the perfect pick, and should do wonders in this offense.
What I Like About the Bears D/ST
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the Bears D/ST because I don’t believe a lot of people put too much thought into drafting team defenses, but if you can’t get the elite D/ST’s like the Jaguars, Vikings, Rams or Chargers, the Bears should be a very solid pick. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio was good enough under John Fox to keep his job under the new HC regime, which speaks volumes for how the organization views their defense. Thanks in part to their 3-4 defensive scheme that tallied the 7th-most sacks in the league last season, the Bears defense quietly finished as a Top-10 unit in fantasy, and if they keep up their current blitzing schemes, this defense should be a tough one to score on. Factor in an improved offense that should keep the D-unit rested and playing in the lead, I think the Chicago defense should be a force to reckon with in 2018.
Alright guys, that is my time for today, so thanks for reading! Keep your eyes peeled for the next few days as we should be rolling out some good pods previewing more NFL divisions, in addition to my first post in the “Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts”, where I’ll be taking a look at the QB position. And as always, if you have a question or comment, don’t hesitate to leave one below!
You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @razzball_zach.