Ever since Lovie Smith took over as coach of the Chicago Bears it has seemed like the Bears were always on every experts sleeper list. A couple of times the Bears have fielded very good football teams and won playoff games. Last year was no exception, until the injury bug caught up with stars Jay Cutler and Matt Forte . Once that happened, it became a lost season in the windy city. Once again hope is in the air in Chicago and expectations are high, even though the Bears reside in the very tough NFC North. We will look at the fantasy players for the Bears and offer up thoughts on the year.
It is no secret that for years the Chicago Bears have desperately needed a true #1 wide receiver. Enter Brandon Marshall . Jay Cutler's best season in the NFL was back in 200 when he was quarterback for the Denver Broncos. That year he threw for 25 touchdowns and over 4,500 yards with 8 games of 300 or more yards. Who was his top wide receiver?? That's right, it was Brandon Marshall. The two seemed to have good chemistry and will now once again form a top-notch combo. The Bears have a new offensive coordinator in Mike Tice who replaces Mike Martz. In the Mike Martz system, Cutler was sacked 75 times in 25 games. That is way too high. Tice has already stated that he will implement a system that allows Cutler to call audibles at the line of scrimmage and also utilize a no-huddle package. Expect the Bears to use the run to set up the pass attack down the field. When Tice was Head Coach in Minnesota, they had a great deal of success with that and I am sure that Tice has not forgotten that formula. Tice also had a tight end when he played and will utilize the tight ends much more than Martz ever did. Expect Cutler to return to the numbers he had in Denver.
MATT FORTE AND MICHAEL BUSH
Will Forte sign his contract?? That is the big question in Chicago. Once again last year Forte showed how much of an offensive force he could be. His duel-threat play in the offense makes him the central figure and definitely one of the leagues most valuable players. Even though he only played in 12 games he still finished 7th in the NFC in rushing and 5th in total yards with 1,487. If he does hold out, the Bears found a security blanket in the off-season with Michael Bush . Bush filled in for the injured Darren McFadden in Oakland last year and finished 7th in total yards in the AFC with 1,395 yards. Now that's what I call a 1-2 punch!! I expect Forte to sign his contract and to start the year as the #1 running back for Chicago and that Bush will spell him and also carry the load on short yardage plays and at the goal line. Forte should be starter status for your rosters and Bush an adequate fill in or flex play.
BRANDON MARSHALL, ALSHON JEFFERY, EARL BENNETT, DEVIN HESTER
There may not have been a happier man on the planet other than Brandon Marshall when he got traded from Miami to Chicago in the off-season. He can now reunite with Jay Cutler, his former quarterback with the Denver Broncos. Marshall and Cutler's best years in the NFL came when ywere teammates together and promises of things to come give all Bears fans reason for hope. It has been a long time since the Bears have had a wide receiver with the skill that Marshall has. His size and strength are very difficult to overcome and he will be trusted and used often from the very beginning. Alshon Jeffery was drafted in the 2nd round of the NFL draft from South Carolina and is very similar to Brandon Marshall. The Bears hope he can recover from a lower-leg injury that forced him to miss minicamp. If Jeffery is slow on picking up the offense, the #2 wide receiver job will be in the hands of Devin Hester . Hester is the fastest of all receivers and would be a likely target on deep passes, but will he be on the field much?? Earl Bennett will be the guy in the slot and he is very trusted by Cutler; they also attended Vanderbilt together. Marshall should be a WR 1-2 on your fantasy teams, with Bennett, Jeffery, and Hester as late selections.
KELLEN DAVIS & EVAN RODRIGUEZ
I have to admit, it feels very odd talking about a tight end being fantasy worthy in Chicago, but that may be the case now that tight end hater Mike Martz is out of town. Kellen Davis will be the starter with rookie tight end Evan Rodriguez from Temple his backup. I don't know what to expect out of these two, but you should keep your eyes on them (remember that new offensive coordinator Mike Tice played tight end during his career).