2012 Team Outlook: Chicago
Chicago finally signed on the dotted line with Matt Forte just before the deadline for franchise players. I would conisder this a smart move given Forte's performance drives their offense. The next four years will provide Forte some opportunities to continue his role. This coming season he will get some assistance from Michael Bush and that should help keep Forte healthy.
As far as training camp goes, Chicago is trying to find more protection for Jay Cutler and looking for consistency with their squad of safeties. I like Brandon Marshall as a fantasy wide out this season. Yes, Marshall has his issues, but he is reuniting with Jay Cutler and this could prove to be a winning combination.
QB Jay Cutler, CHI - Quality Backup
I still consider Jay Cutler a wild card. Cutler's numbers have not been that great lately. On the flip side, Brandon Marshall is back and Cutler has other weapons. If the running game with Forte and Bush hold production, then the passing game could open up tremendously. I still hold my position that Cutler will not play every game because he will suffer a minor injury. Jason Campbell will be there as security. Cutler had his best season paired with Marshall so I am upgrading my previous prediction to 3,000-3,600 yards for 16-23 TDs. Cutler will also be good for his tranditional double digit interceptions.
QB Jason Campbell, --- - Not Draft Worthy
Campbell is going to serve as Jay Cutler's back-up. With Cutler's propensity for injury, Campbell will likely get a few starts this season. Cutler and Campbell will have plenty of offensive weapons at receiver and a solid running game so either could be effective in Chicago's schemes. Campbell and Cutler's style of play is physical and a new Mike Tice Offensive Line should provide both more protection. Look for Campbell to have decent outings when needed.
RB Matt Forte, NYJ - Stud (low risk)
Forte is now signed to a four-year deal - about $8 million per year. Forte will be a top ten running back this season. Look for Forte to once again lead the Chicago offensive attack and post solid fantasy numbers. I would project over 1,000 rushing yards, 500 reciving yards from 50 plus receptions and 8-10 combined TDs. Forte will be spelled by Michael Bush and maybe Kalhil Bell. Forte will have a better chance staying healthy this season with some solid back-up. Look for the running and passing games to sync this season and Chicago to be effective with Forte on the ground and in passing plays.
RB Lorenzo Booker, --- - Not Draft Worthy
Booker now moves into the number 3 position behind Forte and Bush. He will not see much action this season.
RB Michael Bush, --- - Bye Week Fill-in
Forte was held out of the pre-seasn game against Denver and Bush started. He did not perform well. Watch how he progresses through pre-season before grabbing him as a back-up RB in your draft. My guess is that he will turn things around quickly.
Michael Bush makes the move from Oakland to Chicago this season. What a great move by Chicago. With Forte now signed, he becomes the definite number one back, but Bush is a solid back-up whose speed and power will likely get short yardage and goal line looks. Something tells me that Bush will receive an active dose in the rushing attack allowing Forte more rest. I cannot yet put my finger on Bush's fantasy value or give you some numbers, but conisder him to be a decent flex play given the match-up and maybe a conistent play if he receives a greater role. Either way, I see a combination of Forte and Bush as a positive for the Chicago offense.
The Chicago offensive coaches are touting two 1,000 yard running backs this season. This is huge for Bush and solidifies him on my radar. I think Bush will vulture the goal line touches and scores. He is on one of my fantasy rosters and might make two.
WR Alshon Jeffery, CHI - Quality Backup
Alshon Jeffery is another big wide out with similarities to Brandon Marshall. Cutler is going to have lots of opportunities to allow his big receivers to make plays. Jeffery, Marshall, Hester and Bennett will be quite the wide out squad this season. There will be plenty of experience and hopefully some positive chemistry. Jeffery will have the ability and the opportunity to have a breajout first season as long as he fully recovers from a lower leg injury that has limited him and learns the playbook.
Update 8/26/12: I am upgrading Jeffery to quality backup status and might even consider him a safe pick if he and Jay Cutler continue to connect consitently. The one-two wide out punch of Marshall and Jeffery is going to be tough for opponents this season if Cutler is accurate with his throws.