August is just around the corner, and just a stone’s throw from that is September – football season – it’s practically here! Those who want to get a jump on their Fantasy Football dominance this season had best start early – especially if you are in my league – I’m looking at you “Breaston Show.” We all heard you call Tom Brady, Tom Bradley – you’re not fooling anyone.
If Fantasy owners, such as my friend there, have any hope of regaining their manhood this season, a good place to start is to find the players on each team in which to target – and maybe more importantly – the players to stay away from this year.
Let’s take a look at all of the Fantasy Football options owners will be targeting from the Chicago Bears in 2012.
Quarterback: Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler could definitely find his way onto my Fantasy Sleeper list next month. Cutler has long been a guy who could put up stats, but looking at his set of receivers, you are always left wondering how in the world he ever gets more than 100 yards passing in a game.
Well, all that is behind him now as the Bears’ front office has finally seen fit to give Cutler an actual target at receiver. Brandon Marshall rejoins Cutler after they spent three seasons together in Denver. What should have Bears fans, and Fantasy players alike, all excited about Cutler and Marshall reteaming is, in their final season as Bronco teammates, Cutler threw for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns with No. 15 on the outside of the formation.
But the good news does not stop their for Cutler’s Fantasy prospects. Even better than the Brandon Marshall news is the fact the Bears got rid of offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Nothing against Martz, he did create the offense for the St. Louis Rams’ “greatest show on turf” in 1999, but with the Bears, this “offensive genius” kept calling plays which did not fit his personnel – yeah, because seven-step drops with a terrible offensive line and receiver who can’t get open makes a lot of sense.
Expect Cutler to spend less time face-down in the dirt, and more time connecting with Brandon Marshall over the middle.
Can’t miss sleeper. After the obvious names are all off the board, target Jay Cutler immediately. Taking Matthew Stafford late helped me win my Fantasy league last season, and you can guarantee I will be doing the same with Jay Cutler this year.
Running Back: Matt Forte
All Matt Forte did last season was account for nearly 50 percent of the Chicago Bears’ total offensive production – that is, before a knee injury ended his season. Forte is currently embroiled in a contract battle with the Bears’ top brass and will most likely miss some, if not all, of the Bears’ training camp – that is not a good Fantasy sign – we all remember how well that worked for Chris Johnson.
A lot of Forte’s value comes from his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. While he is solid in the running game, he did only produce four 100+ yard games last season, and we can’t forget the statistical turd he dropped in Week 3 when he only gained 2 yards on the ground.
With Brandon Marshall joining the Bears, I wonder how many of Forte’s previous passing catching opportunities will go to their new star wideout. We also need to consider the many times Jay Cutler was forced to run for his life and found Forte as an outlet. But if the addition of Brandon Marshall makes Cutler have less of those moment, will Forte’s receiving numbers drop?
Another aspect working against Forte’s Fantasy value is the Chicago Bears adding Michael Bush from the Oakland Raiders this off-season. While Forte will still get the brunt of the carries, Bush will certainly cut into his rushing attempts. But where Forte’s value really goes down in on the goal line; Michael Bush will take over those duties completely, making it almost certain Forte’s easy touchdown chances will be limited this season.
Don’t reach. Forte is likely to be a top five or seven running back on the pre-draft boards, but I would not trust him as a first or second round pick this season.
Running Back: Michael Bush
As handcuffs go, Michael Bush has been one of the shiniest sets over the last couple of seasons. While backing up the often injured Darren McFadden, Bush got plenty of his own chances. In 2011, Michael Bush rushed for 977 yards and 7 touchdowns. One season earlier, Bush added 8 touchdowns to his Fantasy owner’s stat sheet.
But now Michael Bush is coming to the Chicago Bears to backup the recently injured Matt Forte. With the Bears’ star running back coming off a pretty serious knee injury, Michael Bush should be extremely important insurance for owner’s of Forte. Moreover, Matt Forte’s contract negotiations means he could miss training camp. If that happens then Michael Bush becomes that much more valuable – particularly at the start of the season when Forte may not be in his best football conditioning.
A wise late round pickup. One way or another, Michael Bush will get plently of touchdown opportunities when the Bears are goal-to-go. However, another injury to Forte, or a contract holdout could make Bush even more of a Fantasy lock. Think a faster Mike Tolbert who may get 12 to 15 carries a game.
Wide Receiver: Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall is coming off of his fifth straight 1,000+ yard season. During his last two seasons, Brandon Marshall put up these numbers despite having Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen and Matt Moore throwing him the ball – yikes!
Now, Marshall is reunited and it feels so good as he returns to the familiar rocket right-arm of Jay Cutler. In his last season with Cutler in Denver, Marshall caught 104 balls for 1,265 yards and 6 touchdowns. Cutler and Marshall connected on 102 receptions the year before that as well, so needless to say, Jay Cutler should be looking Marshall’s way a lot in 2012.
He will be a top five Fantasy wide receiver. The only wideout I would list above Brandon Marshall this season is Calvin Johnson.
Wide Receiver: Earl Bennett/Alshon Jeffery
The Chicago Bear’s other wide receiving options should see a boost from the presence of Brandon Marshall. While he is sure to see double teams every single Sunday, Bennett and Jeffery will be left on an island and could possibly see some big numbers as a result.
Bennett was already one of Cutler’s favorite targets, as the two go all the way back to their days together at Vanderbilt, but now they have also added rookie Alshon Jeffery to the mix. While it is too early to tell which one will step up as the clear No. 2 option to Marshall, each one has a good chance for Fantasy value.
Keep an eye on these two. The big wide receiver pickup last season was Laurent Robinson from Dallas, this year it could very well be Earl Bennett or Alshon Jeffery.
Tight End: Kellen Davis
The Chicago Bears did have a threatening tight end option named Greg Olsen, but for some reason they let him go and are now left with no real target worth mentioning. Kellen Davis amassed just 206 yards receiving on 35 receptions last season. Depending on how the Chicago Bears’ new goal line offense looks, Davis could be a player who sneaks in and grabs seven to ten TDs, but right now the Bears’ tight ends are not were the teams’ Fantasy value lies.
No real value here. Of the 15 or so tight ends who will be taken in most leagues’ drafts, Kellen Davis will likely not be one of them. Players can jump up and surprise you, so track the progress of Davis, but going in, he is not a real option to consider drafting.