The future of the Chicago Bears is a relative unknown as Mitch Trubisky enters Year 4. Is there any hope for what was once a promising offense?
When looking at fantasy players – or anything, really – we tend to look at them in isolation. We see something, focus on it and think of it in a vacuum. However, plenty of insight can be gained by looking at a player’s supporting cast and the infrastructure around them. Here at DynastyFootballDigest.com, we’re taking a team-by-team look at impactful fantasy players. In these season previews, you can expect to see:
- Top performer – The player I project to finish the highest at their position on the team.
- Biggest bust potential – Who is most likely to fall short of expectations this season?
- Sleeper to watch – This player, whether a rookie or an unheralded veteran, has a shot to make a splash in 2020.
- Stash for the future – One dart-throw to hold onto for future seasons. Relatively low cost, potentially high reward.
Without further ado, let’s go to the Windy City, where Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky is fighting to save his NFL career.
Top performer – Allen Robinson, WR
Allen Robinson has quietly carved out an impressive career on a pair of teams with suboptimal quarterback play. He was the PPR WR6 in 2015 with Blake Bortles, and he was the WR8 last season with Mitch Trubisky. This stellar season came even with Trubisky’s struggles, thanks to a career-high 98 receptions on 154 targets, another career best.
Trubisky’s completion percentage last year was 63.2, and it was 63.6 when targeting Allen. It might not be enough to save his job, but I think Trubisky looks at least a little better than he did last season. He will be looking to salvage what has been a disappointing NFL career. If we give Allen a 1.4-percent bump in catch rate to account for a more accurate Trubisky, and project a modest decrease in targets, the numbers come out to a WR14 season.
2019 season: 154 targets, 98 receptions, 1,147 yards, 7 touchdowns, 205.9 fantasy points
2020 projection: 128 targets, 83 receptions, 1,059 yards, 8 touchdowns, 195.5 fantasy points
I think these numbers are rather conservative. The Chicago Bears didn’t do too much to address their weapons in the passing game. Yes, they signed Jimmy Graham and spent a second-round pick on Cole Kmet, but outside of Robinson, here are the Bears’ weapons:
- An oft-injured Anthony Miller
- Tedd Ginn Jr., who is primarily a deep threat (average of just 52 targets the past three seasons)
- Running back Tarik Cohen
- Cordarrelle Patterson and Riley Ridley
Robinson is far and away the most impressive pass-catcher on that list. Even if Trubisky has an equally disappointing season, Robinson’s numbers warrant high-end WR2 numbers as a floor, with strong WR1 upside as a ceiling.
Biggest bust potential – David Montgomery, RB
I personally believe Montgomery is due for a solid season, but his range of outcomes is rather wide, landing him in this category. As a rookie out of Iowa State, Montgomery averaged a measly 3.7 yards per carry in his first NFL campaign. Much of that had to do with the Bears’ overall ineptitude offensively. Running backs are largely a product of the environment they’re in, and better offenses lead to more scoring opportunities. Even a slight improvement – the Bears were second-worst in yards per play last season – would make things easier for Montgomery, who was among the worst in NFL’s NextGen “Efficiency” stat in 2019.
The lower the number, the more of a north/south runner the player is, thus the more efficient runner they are. The higher the number, the more unproductive movement the player had on a given run. This can speak to play style, but it also speaks to the offensive line’s inability to create lanes between the tackles, which is made even more difficult when defenses don’t have to respect the passing game. Other running backs who ranked lowly included Le’Veon Bell (3.2 yards per carry) and Todd Gurley (3.8), who also received a high volume of attempts behind poor offensive lines.
But even if Montgomery has a similarly inefficient season, I think there’s a good chance he has respectable RB2 numbers with RB1 upside because of the breadth of touches available. The only backs competing for touches are Cohen, Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce, and Cohen will be involved in the passing game far more than the running game. Even without an impressive statline last season, Montgomery was a borderline RB2.
Giving head coach Matt Nagy the benefit of the doubt, I assume the offense can’t get any worse. If there’s one thing we know about fantasy football, it’s the fact that things seem to regress toward the mean the larger a sample size gets. I personally think the Chicago Bears find themselves somewhere between their 2018 and 2019 season. That would mean a few more wins, meaning more leads, meaning more touches for Montgomery. But if things don’t get better in Chicago, Montgomery could find himself in an ugly place heading into Year 3.
Sleeper to watch – Tarik Cohen, RB
This is primarily for PPR leagues, but I think the Bears should spend more time getting the ball into Cohen’s hands via the air than on the ground. It wasn’t just Montgomery who struggled to run in 2019, Cohen did, too. Sixty-four attempts led to just 213 yards for an average of 3.3 yards per attempt. Ugly stuff. But through the air, Cohen was targeted 104 times. He turned those looks into 79 catches for 456 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers seem underwhelming, but when you look at what he has done in the past with even fewer targets, there’s some serious reason for optimism.
Cohen averaged just 5.8 yards per catch last season, but in 2018, he averaged 10.2 yards on eight fewer catches. That’s nearly double the efficiency. I’m not saying Cohen will return to that, but it’s a little crazy to assume that things won’t even out. That should leave him somewhere between those two extremes. If Cohen bumped up to 7.3 yards per catch, almost a full 3 yards fewer than he had per reception in 2020, his yardage would have jumped from 456 to 576, which would have likely brought another touchdown into the picture. That difference of 18 fantasy points would have been enough to bump Cohen from RB37 to RB28 in half-ppr formats last season.
I don’t have Cohen reaching triple-digit targets again, but I still think he gets about 90. That combined with a slight increase in rushing efficiency can lead to low-end RB2 numbers many weeks. In PPR leagues, I think Cohen is a solid flex play at worst this season. His ADP of RB39 makes him a bargain.
Stash for the future – Cole Kmet, TE
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve seen the Bears don’t have too many weapons to pass to. Yes, they have Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen and Anthony Miller, but only one of those players has solidified himself as a year-in, year-out type of player. Tight ends usually take 2-4 years to become consistent contributors, but Ryan Pace and the Bears must have liked Cole Kmet a lot to use a second-rounder on him, which also happened to be their earliest selection in April’s draft.
The rookie tight end class has been talked down quite a bit, and Kmet is falling to the third round in most rookie drafts – sometimes even into the fourth – because of it. The Chicago Bears have longed for a viable tight end, but they’ve struggled to find the answer. For a little bit, we all thought it was Trey Burton. In 2017 they spent a second-rounder on Adam Shaheen, who was recently traded to the Dolphins for a sixth-round pick. They even brought in washed-up Jimmy Graham on a two-year deal this offseason.
Tight ends are oftentimes a quarterback’s best friend, and there isn’t really anyone on the Chicago Bears who inspires much confidence in the slot or in the short-intermediate areas of the field. I think Kmet can be that guy down the line. It might have looked desperate with the use of their first pick, Chicago thinks so, too.