INSIDE THE NUMBERS
During his last two seasons (2007-08) playing with Jay Cutler in Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall averaged 103 catches for 1,295 yards with 13 touchdowns during that span. The two are reunited in the Windy City in 2012 and if they pick up where they left off it could pay huge fantasy dividends. Despite being stuck in Miami the past two seasons, Marshall has still been productive. He had a touchdown and/or 100 yards receiving in eight games on his way to pulling in 81 balls for 1,214 yards in 2011.
The Bears schedule ranks 20th with their opponents posting a .492 winning percentage last season. The first half of the schedule is extremely fantasy friendly with five of their first eight games at home and road games at Green Bay, Dallas, and Jacksonville. The fantasy playoffs look bright too. The Bears are indoors at Minnesota in Week 14, at home to Green Bay in Week 15 and a trip to the desert for a Week 16 showdown with the Cardinals. Owners will get a good chance to watch their Bears’ players in the spotlight with five nationally televised games on tap.
A season-ending injury coupled with the arrival of new faces in the Bears’ backfield may be enough to make owners shy away from Matt Forte. That could prove to be a mistake. Before spraining in his knee in Week 13 he was posting elite-type numbers and stilled tallied nearly 1,500 total yards. In fact, he’s totaled at least 1400 yards during each season of his career. Forte is going to be hard pressed to match those numbers with fewer touches likely and the TD totals have never been great (10 total TD’s over past two seasons). Regardless consider him a low-end RB1 with a bit more upside in PPR formats.
Despite the fact that he is entering training camp as the Bears No. 2 WR on the team’s official depth chart, owners need to shy away from Devin Hester. The four-year project of the speedster at wide receiver has produced some mediocre results. He mustered just five catches over 20 yards and found the end zone just one time in 2011. With offseason additions at the position via free agency and the draft, the competition will be fierce for targets and Hester is just too inconsistent to count on.
In addition to having Marshall rejoin him as a teammate Jay Cutler also gets a boost with the departure of Mike Martz as the team’s offensive coordinator. New offensive coordinator Mike Tice has already removed the seven-step drops that led to Cutler being on his back frequently. His decision making is getting better and there’s never been a question about Cutler’s arm strength. He was on his way to one of his best seasons before suffering a season-ending hand injury in Week 10. He is a great low-end QB1 option that should fall into the mid-rounds on draft night.
With their ability to lock up Forte long term in question, the Bears moved to sign Michael Bush during free agency. Bush excelled filling in for the oft injured Darren McFadden the past two seasons in Oakland, including carrying the ball 256 times for 977 yards a year ago. Over the past two seasons Bush has scored 16 total touchdowns and even if Forte stays healthy, he figures to get a ton of work at the goalline for the Bears in 2012. He’s a great handcuff option for Forte owners and should be viewed as a decent RB3 in deeper leagues.
We know what Hester can provide and it looks like Johnny Knox isn’t going to be a factor with his neck injury which leaves rookie Alshon Jeffrey and veteran Earl Bennett as players to watch this preseason. Both are nice options for late-round picks with high upside. Jeffrey has the tools and the talent, but is raw and could start slow. Bennet, who figures to slide into the slot position, is a former college teammate of Cutler and has obvious chemistry with his signal caller. The two will battle it out for targets all season long.
Kellen Davis was lost in a Mike Martz-ran offense where tight ends are non-existent, finishing with just 18 receptions a year ago. Expect him to see a larger role in the team’s passing game in the season ahead. Amazingly, he led the Bears’ offense in 2011 with five receiving touchdowns. At 6-foot-7, Davis is a huge target and one that the Bears would like to utilize. He’s a sly pick late on draft day or for $1 on auction night. If he goes undrafted it won’t be long before he’s hot waiver wire fodder.
Fantasy Football, NFL