As I've completed the NFC West, I'll be moving on to the Chicago Bears (or the Stoolies, whichever you prefer). Over the next few days you'll see the rest of the NFC North forecasted, so make sure you drop off any suggestions in the comments.
The Chicago Bears made one of the boldest offseason moves this year, acquiring rocket-armed QB Jay Cutler. What type of impact will this have on Cutler and the rest of Chicago's fantasy production? Cutler was a fantasy beast in 2008 (3rd amongst QBs), but he had a pretty solid arsenal. In Chicago, he's got some question marks, but also one of the best young TEs in the game. Let's see where the Bears were going on "draft" day.
Chicago's mock draft results:
- Matt Forte RB - Avg. Selection* 3.8; 100% drafted
- Jay Cutler QB - Avg. Selection 74; 100% drafted
- Devin Hester WR - Avg. Selection 99; 100% drafted
- Greg Olsen TE - Avg. Selection 69; 100% drafted
- Chicago Team DEF - Avg. Selection 112; 100% drafted
- Earl Bennett WR - Avg. Selection 120, 13% drafted
* - 100th selection = 10th pick round 10 (10 man); 6th pick round 9 (12 man); 3rd pick round 8 (14 man)
After the jump, I'll let you know what I think of each guy, and provide you with a forecast. Hopefully you Devin Hester believers aren't banking on 1000 yards...
Cutler has a cannon, that's a fact, but what else does he have? The Chicago O-Line should be sturdy enough to give Cutler enough time to find his targets, but how good can Cutler be with the targets he has? Considering Chicago's team has always relied on a rock-solid defense, Cutler will thrive. In Denver, he was tossing the ball every play on a team whose defense was paper thin. I really can't rely on Cutler's 2008 too much, because it was with a team with a completely different philosophy. In Chicago, he won't be relied upon as a gunslinger as much, but not that's not say he won't chuck the rock (Chicago's 2008 team pass attempts: 528; Jay Cutler's: 616). In fewer pass attempts, Cutler's numbers should go down in yardage, and also INTs. Cutler is worth a selection in the 70s; even with his drop-off in yardage. Fantasy Forecast: 3500 pass yards, 25 TDs, 14 INTs
Here's a player we can look at 2008 to get an understanding what his role in 2009 will be: All-Purpose. Forte is hands down a top 5 selection. There's no debate about it. I can sit here and reel off the rookie stats (1715 total yards; 12 Total TDs), but I'll spare you. Forte wore down a bit at the end of 2008, but that can happen to a rookie RB in his debut. With 379 total touches, the Bears weren't afraid to rest the offense on Forte's shoulders and you really can't blame the rookie for wearing (that's a lot of touches). With Jay Cutler now QB, Forte should see plenty of room to run, and have plenty of opportunities to receive. Forte may not even see an increase in touches, but his yardage will rise. Fantasy Forecast: 1900 total yards, 12 total TDs
Olsen is entering critical year 3, and his numbers from his first two seasons, are comparable to our own VD. The difference between Olsen and VD, is that in Olsen's third year, he gets Jay Cutler to throw him passes. We all know what VD went through in 2008 (Martz/JTO). Olsen is ranked as the 5th or 6th best TE heading into 2009, and rightfully so. In 2008, he finished 11th in TE scoring with Orton and Grossman as QB. I expect Olsen to put John Carlson like numbers this season, so it's all about where you want to invest at TE. With Olsen, you'll be investing a higher selection (ADP 69), while Carlson (ADP 104) may be had rounds later in some cases. I would strongly advise considering Olsen, even though his projection is only slightly higher than Carlson. I think Olsen could break out bigger with a QB like Cutler in Chicago. Fantasy Forecast: 800 total yards, 7 TDs
Chicago Team DEF
Surprise, surprise, Chicago's Team DEF finished 7th in scoring in 2008, following 2007's 8th finish. The Bears had just 28 sacks in 2008, but still finished 7th. The reason? 22 Interceptions, 5 Defensive TDs, with 4 blocked kicks (and a safety in a pear tree). Bottom line, Chicago's defense makes plays even if they don't produce sacks (they had 41 in 2007 though, so don't be too worried). Chicago lost one of its take-it-to-the-house guys in Mike Brown, but the team shouldn't struggle in his absence. Brown had been injury plagued for the better part of the his finish in Chicago, despite 15 games played in 2008. The Bears are great defense to land after someone buys high on Baltimore, Philly and Pittsburgh. Fantasy forecast: 34 sacks, 20 INTs, 10 FR, 4 TDs, 5 Blk Kicks
Windy City Sleeper
Bennett is a projected starter this season in Chicago, and stands to benefit most from Jay Cutler. Bennett is more of a traditional receiver than speedster Devin Hester, and should be a reliable target for Chicago. In 2008, Bennett had zero catches in 10 games. The third round Vanderbilt product played with Cutler in 2005, so it will be interesting to see if there's any chemistry left (Bennett had 79 catches, 876 yards and 9 TDs for the Commodores in 2005). You may be able to catch teams blindsided with this late round sleeper, as he only went in 4 of the 30 mock drafts. Spending a draft pick of 120 on Bennett is fairly safe investment. Fantasy Forecast: 1000 total yards, 6 TDs
Ask the Nation
Project Devin Hester's season totals, and let me know if and when you'd draft Devin Hester. Personally, while I like the speed and game-breaking ability of Hester, I don't think he has much value as a fantasy WR. I think Hester's value in the NFL is fare more value than he'll ever have in fantasy football (although he may be a sneaky start in some match-ups). My Forecast: 700 total yards, 5 total TDs
* all fantasy stats are based on 2007-2008 Yahoo! Standard Public league scoring