|By Shawn Childs, Thursday, August 19, 2021|
Chicago Bears Outlook
After a breakthrough season in 2018 (12-4), Chicago slipped to 8-8 in each of the past two years. Despite scoring 92 more points in 2020, the Bears still ranked poorly in scoring (372 – 22nd). In addition, they have not had a top 20 finish in offense yards since 2016.
Chicago brought in Matt Nagy to be the head coach after a successful 2017 season as the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs. Nagy had 10 seasons of NFL experience working under Andy Reid. He went 28-20 over his three years as a head coach with two appearances in the playoffs.
Bill Lazor took over as the offensive coordinator in 2020 after spending the previous season as an analyst for Penn State. He has four other seasons of experience with the same job in Miami and Cincinnati. His NFL career started in 2003 while coaching in the league for 14 years.
The Bears' defense faded to 14th in points allowed (370) and 11th in yards allowed while being less opportunistic in the turnover department.
Chuck Pagano retired in the offseason, prompting Chicago to upgrade Sean Desai from safeties coach to defensive coordinator. He has been in the Bears' coaching tree since 2018.
Chicago brought in Andy Dalton to provide experience at the quarterback position.
Dalton went 4-5 in relief of Dak Prescott, but he gained only 6.5 yards per pass attempt. Over 10 seasons in the NFL, he had a 74-66-2 record with no wins in four chances in the postseason.
The Bears moved on from Trubisky after drafting him second overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. His career started with a 4-8 record in his rookie season. Over his last 38 starts, he went 25-13 while tossing 57 touchdowns with 30 interceptions. He ran for 1,057 yards and eight touchdowns on 190 carries over four seasons of action.
Their offensive line lost G Kyle Long. He retired from football in 2020 after battling a hip injury. The Chiefs added him for bench depth while understanding his pedigree (first-round draft selection in 2013).
They added T Elijah Wilkinson for bench depth. Over the past three seasons, he made 19 starts, with most of his playing time coming at right tackle. His game offers risk in both run and pass blocking.
On defense, the Bears signed CB Desmond Trufant while DT Brent Urban and DT Roy Robertson-Harris found new homes.
Trufant is a former first-round pick (2013), but injuries led to poor play, and many missed games over the past two seasons. Receivers beat him for an increased number of touchdowns over the previous four seasons.
Over four seasons with the Bears, Robertson-Harris only had 75 combined tackles and 7.5 sacks. His best help will come in run support while heading to the sidelines on most passing downs.
Urban projects as a rotational run defender who will head to the sidelines on passing downs.
The only other addition was WR Damiere Byrd. His opportunity increased over the last two seasons for the Cardinals (32/359/1) and Patriots (47/604/1). He'll compete for the WR4 role in Chicago in 2021.
The Bears were happy to snatch up QB Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. 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 protect the 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.
The next two selections in the second and fifth rounds went to improving the offensive line – T Teven Jenkins and G Larry Borom.
Jenkins should hit the ground running in his first year in the pros. His hands paired with his power and feel in run blocking set the tone for a rangy player with an attitude. Jenkins brings vision, but he may struggle at times with speedy pass rushers with the ability to keep him at a distance.
Borom has experience at tackle, but his game projects better at guard in the NFL. He plays with power while having a limited range. Borom has a break-the-door down style that plays well in a quicker hitting run game. Bull rushers should stall after contact, but speed outside his reach will be an issue.
With three picks in the sixth round, the Bears invested in RB Khalil Herbert, WR Dazz Newsome, and CB Thomas Graham.
Herbert has early-down potential who 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, taking a couple of steps to reach peak speed. His pass protection is below par with minimal early value in the passing game.
Newsome brings a playmaking, open-field running style, which points to him upgrading the Bears' return game. His route running needs plenty of work, but Newcome has the change of direction quickness to improve in this area. Chicago may run a play or two for him a game to see what he can do with the ball in his hands.
Graham lacks the foundation skill set to match receivers in pass routes, and his makeup speed leaves him vulnerable when losing a step in his coverage assignment. He has a safety feel while lacking the size (5'10" and 190 lbs.) to play the position.
The Bears took a flier on DT Khyiris Tonga in the seventh round. He has a bully feel when given an edge in strength. His game plays well against the run while earning any passing rush with power. Tonga needs to up his game when facing top-tier blocking who can match him in strength.
Chicago bumped up to 25th in rushing yards (1,647) with 12 rushing touchdowns and eight runs over 20 yards. Their ball carriers gained 4.2 yards per rush.
The Bears improved to 22nd in passing yards (3,925 yards) with 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Their offensive line allowed 36 sacks with a league-low three completions over 40 yards.
LT Teven Jenkins
The Bears need Jenkins to slide into the starting lineup and play at a high level in his rookie season. His run blocking should be an asset out of the gate with some work to do in pass protection.
LG James Daniels
Daniels missed 11 games in his third season with the Bears after suffering a pectoral injury in Week 5. His run blocking is trending higher with a reasonable floor in passing blocking. Chicago drafted him in the second round in 2018.
C Cody Whitehair
Whitehair has been one of the better run-blocking centers after getting drafted in the second round in 2016. Whitehair played left tackle in college while his natural position is at guard. He will give up some pressure on the quarterback while also having a pair of seasons where he ranked highly in this area.
RG Larry Borom
Borom is the second rookie player that Chicago needs to make a push for a starting job in 2021. A switch to guard should lead to a higher ceiling. His run blocking will be his strength early in his career.
RT Germain Ifedi
Ifedi spent 2020 starting at right guard and right tackle. His run blocking appears to be slightly better on the interior of the line while never being an asset in his career. His pass protection looked improved in his first year in Chicago, but Ifedi does allow too many sacks, and defenders can beat him to the spot off the snap.
This offensive line has a lot of moving parts with a risk/reward feel in 2021. The Bears look better positioned to improve in run blocking than in pass protection. Overall, I rank this group in the bottom third of the league.
Chicago ran the ball 39 percent of the time last year while ranking eighth in passing attempts (596). Unfortunately, they gained only 6.4 yards per pass play, leading to a 24th place finish in passing yards (3,913).
QB Justin Fields - Sleeper (undervalued)
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. Ohio State hasn't produced a winning NFL starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era, which may be a strike against his ceiling.Fantasy Outlook: Heading into training camp, the Bears will take the high road on Fields starting in Week 1. His competition has a low ceiling with dull results over the past few seasons. Fields needs time to develop, but he knows how to win games with the tools to be much better than a game manager. Fields should prove to be the best quarterback in Chicago over the summer, putting him on a path to start all 17 games while delivering 4,250 combined yards with just over league average production in touchdowns. Fantasy owners price him as a low-end backup fantasy quarterback in the early draft season in mid-June.
QB Andy Dalton - Not Draft Worthy
The Cowboys gave Dalton the keys to their passing game in Week 6 due to an injury to Dak Prescott. He finished with 266 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions before getting knocked out of the next game with a concussion.
After missing two games, Dalton made seven starts with only one successful outing (377/3) while turning in dull results in his six other matchups (203/3, 215/1, 285/2, 185/2, 209/2, and 244/0). He gained only 6.9 yards per pass attempt compared to 8.4 by Prescott over his first four games.
Dalton has a career 74-77-2 record in the NFL, but only 24-40-1 over the past five years. In his last four seasons, he has a short completion rate (61.1) while gaining only 6.7 yards per pass attempt.
Fantasy Outlook: His best days in 2021 will be cashing his paycheck. Dalton has a low ceiling, which points to a clipboard job for the Bears this season.
Other Options: Nick Foles
RB David Montgomery - Solid/Safe Pick
Chicago lost Tarik Cohen in Week 3, which was part of the reason for the Bears throwing fewer balls (84 targets – 147 in 2019 and 127 in 2018) to their running backs. Their backs finished with a rebound in yards per catch (8.2). In the run game, Chicago showed more bounce in their chances (334/1,442/11).
Montgomery started the year with minimal running room (3.6 yards per rush) over nine games while failing to rush for over 90 yards in any matchup. His best showing over this span came in Week 2 (127 combined yards with one touchdown and three catches).
After missing Week 10 with a concussion, Montgomery strung together six straight impressive games (824 combined yards with eight touchdowns and 24 catches) while averaging 23.3 touches per game. He scored over 20.00 fantasy points in each matchup, pushing him to fourth in running back scoring (265.80 fantasy points) in PPR leagues.
Over his hot run, Montgomery averaged 5.2 yards per rush and 9.4 yards per catch.
Fantasy Outlook: Despite his success, fantasy owners won't fight for Montgomery in fantasy drafts in 2021. His early ADP (36) prices him as the 19th running back drafted, pointing to a buying opportunity. The return of Tarik Cohen does lower his ceiling, but Montgomery deserves the bulk of the running back chances in 2021. His next step should be 325 touches for 1,650 combined yards with a dozen scores and over 60 catches.
RB Damien Williams - Deep-league Only
In 2019, Williams ended up being a bust, highlighted by his bad start to the year (215 combined yards with three touchdowns and 15 catches over six games). Over this span, he missed a pair of games while gaining only 2.1 yards per rush.
After flashing in Week 9 (12/125/1) and Week 10 (109 combined yards with five catches), Williams missed three more games with a rib injury.
He looked much better over his final five games, including the playoffs (536 combined yards with nine TDs and 18 catches).
Williams opted out of 2020 with Covid concerns.Fantasy Outlook: The Bears brought in Williams for early-down insurance. Over two seasons with the Chiefs, he gained 127 combined yards with 11 touchdowns and 53 catches.
RB Tarik Cohen - Quality Backup
A quality pass catcher, Cohen has averaged 90 targets annually playing in two full season with Matt Nagy but was limited to just three games a year ago with a torn ACL. As dependable as Cohen has been in the passing game, his recovery has been slowed and the fifth-year back has been placed on the PUP list as training camp opened.
Fantasy Outlook: Cohen is one of the better change-of-pace PPR backs in the league but is looking like a risky investment due to the slow recoverty. If he's able to suit up for 17 games, Cohen is an excellent value and source of receptions.
RB Khalil Herbert - Dynasty Only
Over five seasons at Virginia Tech, Herbert finished with 3,214 combined yards with 23 touchdowns and 34 catches. His highlight year came in 2020 (1,361 combined yards with nine scores and 10 catches). Definitely flashed well in his first pre-season action. Good deep league dynasty stash, especially for Montgomery owners.
Other Options: Ryan Nall, Artavis Pierce, CJ Marable
WR Javon Wims - Not Draft Worthy
His size (6'3' and 215 lbs.) and hands should make him a viable threat at the goal line on fade routes. Wims has the wheels and pass-catching skill set to win jump balls in the deep passing game. His route running isn't where it needs to be with questions in his release against press coverage.
Over the last two seasons, Wims caught 24 of his 51 targets for 234 yards and two touchdowns
WR Riley Ridley - Not Draft Worthy
His route running, hands, and physical style grade well, but he can't overcome some of his shortfalls in quickness and overall speed. The Bears would like him to develop into a possession-type WR with limited value after the catch.
Ridley caught only 10 passes for 108 yards in his two years with Bears, which came after a minimal career at Georgia (70/1026/13) over the seasons.
Other Options: Dazz Newsome, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Lacy
WR Allen Robinson - Solid/Safe Pick
The wide receiver opportunity for the Bears improved for the second straight season. They finished 242 catches for 2,639 yards and 13 touchdowns on 364 targets. Their wideouts accounted for 67 percent of Chicago's passing yards and about 62 percent of their completions.
Robinson finished eighth (254.90 fantasy points) and ninth (262.90 fantasy points) in scoring in PPR leagues over the past two seasons. Chicago looked his way 305 times over this span, leading to 200 catches for 2,397 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He gained over 100 yards in four contests (10/123/1, 7/101/1, 9/123/1, and 10/103). Robinson had a floor of six catches in 11 of his 17 games played. His catch rate (65.6) has been strong over the past two years. Twenty-two over his 102 catches in 2020 gained over 20 yards (one in each contest except Week 2).
Fantasy Outlook: In the 2021 draft season, Robinson has an ADP of 36 as the 12th wide receiver drafted. His path points to another 100-plus catches for 1,300 yards and mid-level touchdowns.
WR Darnell Mooney - Sleeper (undervalued)
In his rookie season, Mooney caught 61 of his 98 targets for 631 yards and four touchdowns. The Bears kept him close to the line of scrimmage, which led to only 10.3 yards per catch. He gained fewer than 50 yards in 13 of his games while failing to reach the 100-yard mark in any week. His best two showings came in Week 8 (5/69/1) and Week 17 (11/93).
Mooney sat out the playoff game with an ankle issue.
The Bears selected Mooney with their third pick in the fifth round. He came into the league with a deep speed skill set while having questions about his value over the short areas of the field. Mooney is an undersized receiver (5'11" and 180 lbs.) with the wheels to run faster than 4.40 in the 40-yard dash.Fantasy Outlook: When Justin Fields starts at quarterback, Mooney should be more relevant in catches over 20 yards. His ADP (133) makes him an early WR5 in PPR leagues after finishing 50th in wide receiver scoring (152.10 fantasy points) in PPR formats in 2020. His natural progression should be 75 catches for 900-plus yards with a bump in scoring. Mooney needs the Bears' offensive line to improve so Chicago can take more shots downfield.
WR Damiere Byrd - Low Potential
After seeing minimal playing time for three seasons, Byrd worked his way into more playing time in 2019 (32/359/1) and 2020 (47/604/1) with the Cardinals and Patriots. His best value last year came in three contests (6/72, 5/65, and 6/132/1). Byrd finished with 10 catches of 20 yards or more in New England.Fantasy Outlook: With Chicago, he projects to be their WR3 after the club parted ways with Anthony Miller, who was traded to Houston.
TE Cole Kmet - Sleeper (undervalued)
The tight end position for Chicago was much more active in 2020. They set a three-year high in catches (80), receiving yards (738), touchdowns (9), and targets (129). The only negative came for a low total in yards per catch (9.2).
Kmet had some flaws coming out of college. His release, fight off pressed blocks, and initial quickness invites some questions with his three-down value. When given a free run to the second level of the defense, his game looks much better. Kmet will be a vertical threat with the speed (4.7 40-yard dash) to hit on long plays down the seam.
Kmet had minimal chances over his first two years (2/14 and 15/162) at Notre Dame. His game pushed to an attractive NFL level over ten games (43/515/6) in 2019 despite missing the last two contests with a broken collarbone.
The Bears will look to get him in space with motion before the snap to help gain an earlier edge in pass patterns. Kmet will invite more scoring upside on delays or misdirection plays at the goal line when overlooked as a scoring threat.
I expect him to get stronger and add more bulk, which will increase his value in both run and pass blocking. As of now, Kmet shows some foundation skills to have success as a blocker. He needs more fire in his fight while adding a sense of urgency off the snap while developing the foresight to anticipate where to locate his first target on the move when blocking.
In his rookie season, Kmet caught 28 of his 44 targets for 243 yards and two scores. His best two showings came in Week 13 (5/37/1) and Week 17 (7/41). Chicago used him close to the line of scrimmage in 2020 (8.7 yards per catch).
Fantasy Outlook: Kmet comes off the board at pick 155 in mid-June in the 12-team high-stakes market. He finished last year with starting snaps over the final six games, pointing to a much better opportunity this season. Player to watch, but easy to overprice – 45/450/4 is a good starting point with Jimmy Graham still on the roster.
TE Jimmy Graham - Over the Hill (decreased production)
At age 33, Graham finished as the 13th highest scoring tight end (143.60 fantasy points) in PPR leagues, thanks to his eight touchdowns. Chicago gave him five targets or fewer in 11 games, with eight of those outings coming over the final eight weeks. Graham gained over 35 yards receiving in three matchups (6/60/2, 6/55/1, and 4/69/2).
Fantasy Outlook: The Bears made the switch to Cole Kmet as their starting over the second half of 2020. Graham will still be a threat at the goal line, but his fantasy window is almost shut. He falls into the bye-week cover category this year.
Other Options: J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted, Scooter Harrington
PK Cairo Santos - Low Potential
Santos started his career with three successful years with the Chiefs. He made 84.3 percent of his 102 field goals while going 7-for-12 from 50 yards or more.
Over the next three seasons, he struggled to find a kicking job (22-for-32 in field goals), which started with a bad groin injury in 2017.
The Bears saw enough of his leg in 2020 (30-for-32 in field goals and one miss on 37 extra points) to sign Santos to a five-year extension in the offseason for $16 million. He has been a 50 percent kicker from 50 yards or more in his career.
Fantasy Outlook: Santos finished as a top 10 kicker in 2020 (146.80 fantasy points), but he ranks 23rd in the early draft season. I'd like to see more success from long range. Santos will offer matchup value this year with more upside if Chicago gets productive quarterback play.
Chicago - Bye Week Fill-in
The Bears slipped to 16th in rushing yards allowed (1,814) with 11 touchdowns and nine runs over 20 yards. Opponents rushed for 4.1 yards per carry.
Chicago lost a couple of notches in passing yards allowed (3,705 – 12th) with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Their defense finished with 35 sacks. They allowed 50 catches over 20 yards.
DE Akiem Hicks
Hicks lost the bounce in his game in 2020. His run defense regressed, which came after a high level of success over the previous four seasons. He applied pressure on the quarterback, but Hicks managed only 3.5 sacks.
DT Bilal Nichols
Over his third season, Nichols set a career-high in tackles (40) and sacks (5). Most of his growth came in the pass rush, but Nichols rebounded from a poor season defending the run.
DT Eddie Goldman
After playing at a high level vs. the run in 2018, Goldman regressed to the league average the following season. He offers minimal value in the pass rush (12.5 sacks over 67 career games), with most of his playing time coming on early downs. Goldman opted out of last season.
LB Khalil Mack
Entering 2019, Mack has 49 sacks over his last 62 games played. Over the past two seasons, he offered less value rushing the quarterback (17.5 sacks in 32 contests) while chipping in with 97 tackles. Over his previous three years, Mack delivered 14 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and 11 defended passes. He remains one of the top run defenders in the league, with improved tackling in 2020.
LB Roquan Smith
Smith delivered on his first-round value over his first 44 games in the NFL after Chicago drafted him eighth overall in 2018. Over three seasons of action, he posted 361 tackles, 11 sacks, four interceptions, and 14 defended passes. Despite a high level of production, Smith continues to fall short of expectations in run support.
The Bears didn't find a legendary power linebacker, but they did land an athletic speed player with great vision and anticipation. Smith should offer value in all facets of the game, but he will lose momentum if offensive linemen disrupt his free run at the ball carrier.
LB Danny Trevathan
Over his last 41 games, Trevathan delivered 285 tackles, four sacks, 12 defended passes, and one interception. He has a long career of adding value to the run defense, but Trevathan struggled in this area last year.
LB Robert Quinn
In his first season with the Bears, Quinn ended up being a disappointment, leading to only 20 tackles and two sacks. From 2017 to 2019, he had 26.5 sacks and 104 tackles over 45 games. Unfortunately, most of his playing time will come on passing down due to below-par value in run support.
CB Desmond Trufant
Trufant missed 17 games over the past two seasons due to toe and hamstring issues. He played well in coverage in his first two seasons in the NFL in 2013 and 2014 (131 tackles, 33 defended passes, and five interceptions), but injuries have led to a demise in his skill set.
CB Jaylon Johnson
Johnson has playmaking skills while showing the ability to work as a press corner. His speed (4.5 40-yard dash), quickness, and vision add to his coverage area. He gets in trouble at times when trying to cheat by looking at the quarterback's eyes. I expect his game to be more reliable as the field shortens. Johnson also gains value when asked to play multiple coverages.
In his rookie season, Johnson made 44 tackles and 15 defended passes. He allowed damage in big plays and scoring while not being an asset in run support.
S Eddie Jackson
Jackson set a career-high in tackles (82) last year, but he failed to intercept a pass after securing 10 balls over his first 46 games. His run defense has been steady for the past three years. Quarterbacks beat him for a few long plays last year with a much higher completion rate.
S Tashaun Gipson
Over the last four seasons, Gibson has 10 interceptions and 29 defended passes while averaging just under 59 tackles. His run defense and pass coverage improved in his first year with the Bears.
Chicago can't push higher in the defensive rankings without putting more pressure on the quarterback. They have two top linebackers, and the safety position should be an asset. I'm concerned with one cornerback slot in the starting lineup. Khalil Mack drives the sack bus, but he needs help from the other side of the field. The Bears' defense fits the backup role in 2021 with potential upside.