2022 Chicago Bears Team Outlook
With high-stakes fantasy football legend Shawn Childs anchoring Sports Illustrated's fantasy coverage, we decided to give our take on Shawn's Team Outlooks. While we won't always agree, Shawn's pedigree speaks for itself. Shawn has been a high-stakes Fantasy Football legend since 2004 when he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). Childs has competed and won six-figures in all different formats – auctions, draft championships, main events, and high-dollar leagues. We dare you to find an expert who knows the NFL player pool better than Shawn Childs -- it can't be done!
The Chicago Bears bring in their fourth coaching staff over the past decade. The first question is whether Justin Fields is a franchise quarterback. RB David Montgomery struggled to make big plays last year, but was his regression a team issue or his lack of explosiveness? Their wide receiving corps doesn't look like an edge on paper, and the Bears need TE Cole Kmet to make a step forward in his third season.
With a running back quarterback added to the Bears' offense, Chicago ran the ball 46.7% of the time. Their overall offense lacks star power while trending toward the bottom of the league in scoring.
The rushing production for the Bears' backs improved in back-to-back seasons with repeated success in scoring (11 touchdowns). They finished with 2,018 combined yards with 12 scores and 73 catches. Their running backs gained short yards per rush (4.0) and per catch (6.9).
The wide receiver output in 2021 came at three-year lows in catches (176), receiving yards (2,269), targets (306), and touchdowns (9). The only positive was a step up in yards per catch (12.89). Chicago needs to rebuild their offense and receiving structure, pointing to weak stats across the board again this season.
The Bears' tight ends received 25% of the team's completions last season while also seeing an improvement in their yards per catch (10.4). They finished with three-year highs in catches (83) and receiving yards (862), with some value in scoring over the past two seasons (15 touchdowns).
Chicago brought in Matt Eberflus to take over as their head coach. Over the last four seasons, he worked as the defensive coordinator for the Colts. Eberflus has been in the NFL since 2009, with most of his experience coming with the Cowboys (seven years).
The offense now lies in the hands of Luke Getsy. He earned his way up the coaching ranks in Green Bay as their quarterback's coach and passing game coordinator from 2019 to 2021. He has seven seasons of NFL coaching experience, all coming with the Packers.
The Bears slipped to 27th in points scored (311) and 24th in yards allowed. They've had a bottom-tier offense eight times over the past nine seasons.
Alan Williams gets his second chance in the NFL to run a defense (his first came with the Vikings in 2012 and 2013). He worked under Matt Eberflus in Indianapolis as their defensive backs coach for three seasons. Williams has been coaching in the NFL since 2001.
Over the past five years, Chicago ranked in the top 11 in the NFL in yards allowed each season. Despite finishing sixth in yards allowed in 2021, the Bears fell to 22nd points allowed (407), a third straight year of regression.
Chicago lost three players off their defensive line (DT Justin Jones, DE Akiem Hicks, and DE Bilal Nichols) to free agency. WR Allen Robinson signed with the Rams, and G James Daniels landed on the Steelers. The top players added were DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, G Lucas Patrick, WR Byron Pringle, and QB Nick Foles.
The Bears didn't have a first-round draft pick in 2022. They invested in CB Kyler Gordon and S Jaquan Brisker with their two selections in the second round. Improving the depth and upside of their offensive line led to four players added in the late rounds (T Braxton Jones – 5.25, G Zach Thomas – 6.7, C Doug Kramer – 6.29, and G Ja'Tyre Carter – 7.5). Chicago took a swing on two offensive players (WR Velus Jones – 3.7 and RB Trestan Ebner – 6.25). They also drafted two more defensive players (DE Dominique Robinson – 5.31 and CB Elijah Hicks – 7.33). Their final selection went to the kicking game (P Trenton Gill – 7.34).
Chicago jumped to 14th in rushing yards (2,018) with 14 rushing touchdowns and 13 runs over 20 yards. Their ball carriers gained 4.2 yards per rush.
The Bears dipped to 25th in passing yards (3,635 yards) with only 16 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Their offensive line allowed 58 sacks with 40 completions over 20 yards.
This offensive line doesn't have one proven player, and all positions except left tackle appear to be in transition. LT Teven Jenkins missed 11 games in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round in 2021. In his limited playing time, he struggled in all areas. As a result, the Bears have one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
The Bears fell to 24th in rushing yards allowed (2,127) with 14 touchdowns and 12 runs over 20 yards. Opponents rushed for 4.4 yards per carry.
Surprisingly, Chicago improved to third in passing yards allowed (3,257) despite allowing 7.6 yards per pass attempt (28th) with 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Their defense finished with 49 sacks while giving up 48 catches over 20 yards.
Their defensive line will struggle to get to the quarterback while offering risk against the run. I can't see DE Robert Quinn repeating his value in the pass rush (18.5 sacks). LB Roquan Smith will get plenty of tackles, but the lack of supporting cast around him drags his ability to make impact plays. When adding a weak pass rush, the Bears' secondary doesn't have the talent to rank highly in any areas in 2022. As a result, I don't see any reason to roster this defense in fantasy leagues.
QB Justin Fields, CHI - Gamble (high risk)
In his rookie season, Fields went 2-8 with more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7). His completion rate (58.9) and yards per pass attempt (6.9) showed weakness, but he ran the ball well (72/420/2). Over his first six starts, Fields passed for over 210 yards in one matchup (291/1) while delivering only five combined scores. He missed time last in the season with an ankle issue and Covid-19.
Fields played for one of the best football programs in the NCAA in 2019 and 2020, and he did them proud by going 20-2 despite failing to win a national championship. He passed for 5,373 yards with 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Fields finished his college career with 260 rushes for 1,133 yards and 19 touchdowns.
He has been a great player in high school and college. However, Ohio State hasn't produced a winning NFL starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era, which may be a strike against his ceiling.
Despite some impressive stats, Fields does come with knocks from some NFL scouts. He needs to improve his pre-snap reads when facing the blitz, plus show more quickness in his release under duress. His strengths come from his toughness and playmaking ability while having the base to the break pocket after getting hit. Fields takes what the defense gives him as a runner, which gains value at the goal line.
His arm has the strength to make all the NFL throws. Fields plays well when asked to throw on the run. Reading defenses is the most significant area of growth needed.
Fantasy outlook: Fields is the 17th-ranked quarterback in the National Fantasy Football Championship. I don't respect his pass-catching talent, plus his ceiling scoring looks relatively low. With 17 starts, 4,000 combined yards would be a lot to ask, and he won't beat the league average in touchdowns. Fields is a game manager who needs more time to develop.
Other Options: Trevor Siemian, Nathan Peterman
RB David Montgomery, CHI - Solid/Safe Pick
A year after setting career-highs in all areas in 2020 (1,508 combined yards with 10 touchdowns and 54 catches on 301 touches), Montgomery averaged 20.5 touches last year with regression in his yards per rush (3.8) and per catch (7.2). He gained over 20 yards on five of his 267 chances. Over his first four games, he gained over 100 yards rushing in two contests (16/108/1 and 23/106/2) before missing four games with a left knee injury. His value rushing the ball (156/540/4 – 3.5 yards per carry) declined when Montgomery returned over his final nine games. On the positive side, the Bears did get him more chances in the passing game (36/252 on 42 targets).
Fantasy outlook: I am concerned that Montgomery has a lingering ACL issue that may need surgery down the road. In mid-June, he has an ADP of 41 in the FFWC as the 19th running back selected. Chicago should give him a third-down opportunity with close to 20 touches per game. Montgomery has an upside of 1,500 yards with eight to 10 touchdowns and 50 catches.
RB Darrynton Evans, CHI - Not Draft Worthy
In 2018 in college, he worked more as a change of pace back (179/1187/7), leading to 6.6 yards per rush and minimal chances in the passing game (12/87/1). In 2019, Evans developed into a lead runner with value on three downs (1,678 combined yards with 23 touchdowns and 21 catches on 276 touches). His best game came in Week 2 against Charlotte (19/234/3).
Evans attacks quickly after the snap with the idea of making big plays. His movements in space will threaten every level of the defense. He'll break tackles with the moves and quickness to beat defenders to the hole. Evans needs to improve as an inside runner. I expect him to hold his own in pass protection while having the upside feel in the passing game.
A hamstring injury cost Evans 11 games in his rookie season. He finished with only 81 combined yards with a touchdown and two catches on 16 touches. Last season, the Titans only gave him four touches with 18 yards and two catches.
Fantasy outlook: Evans brings plus speed and change of pace value. This season, he'll compete for a bench role on the Bears. His first step is staying healthy. He may have fallen behind Trestan Ebner for RB3 duties, so at this point, Evans should not be drafted.
Other options: Trestan Ebner, De'Montre Tuggle
RB Khalil Herbert, CHI - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Herbert has early-down potential and needs rhythm timing to excel through the line of scrimmage. When on the move, he flows to the hole with the vision and acceleration to reach the second level of the defense. Herbert gets in trouble when hitting road blocks due to his gearing and taking a couple of steps to reach peak speed. His pass protection is below par with minimal early value in the passing game.
Over five seasons at Virginia Tech, Herbert finished with 3,214 combined yards with 23 touchdowns and 34 catches. His highlight year was 2020 (1,361 combined yards with nine scores and 10 catches).
With David Montgomery injured over four games, he gained 388 combined yards with one touchdown and nine catches on 87 touches. Unfortunately, he barely touches the ball over his other 12 matchups (141 yards on 30 touches).
Fantasy outlook: Herbert played well enough last year to be the top handcuff at running back this season. His ADP (153) should make him an easy add for anyone drafting David Montgomery. However, his role will be minimal without an injury.
WR Byron Pringle, CHI - Deep-league Only
The Chiefs gave Pringle his best opportunity (60 targets) in 2021, leading to 42 catches for 568 yards and five touchdowns. His best play came from Week 16 to Week 20 (6/75/2, 3/35, 5/56, 5/37/2, and 5/29/1). He only has 67 catches for 898 yards and seven touchdowns on 93 targets in his three seasons with Kansas City. Pringle will start the year at age 28, and he signed a one-year deal worth $4.1 million in mid-March.
Fantasy outlook: Even with growth last year, a fantasy drafter shouldn't expect another year of progression in his stat after signing with Chicago. The change in offenses is a negative, and he really didn't make enough plays with the Chiefs to be considered a viable fantasy starter in 2022.
WR Equanimeous St. Brown, CHI - Not Draft Worthy
Over the last two years in college, St. Brown caught 91 passes for 1,476 yards and 13 touchdowns. His game is built more to use the middle of the field on crossing routes while showing the ability to play out of the slot or on the outside. His stats look boring in college, but he didn't have the best talent throwing him the ball. Brown needs to improve his route running and his in-game motor. His release and strength give him a chance to surprise in the proper role down the road.
Injuries at wide receiver helped St. Brown get meaningful snaps over the last 12 games of 2018 with the Packers. His best success came in Week 5 (3/89) and Week 16 (5/94) while failing to score. He finished with 21 catches for 328 yards on 36 targets.
St. Brown missed all of 2019 with a high ankle sprain while also sitting out nine games in 2020 with knee and concussion issues. Over the last two seasons, he only had 16 catches for 215 yards and one touchdown on 30 targets.
Fantasy outlook: St. Brown offers an edge in size (6'5" and 215 lbs), but he doesn't bring enough to the table to be considered a fantasy player of value.
Other Options: Tajae Sharpe, Dazz Newsome, Dante Pettis