|By Rob Warner, Friday, September 12, 2014|
QB Jay Cutler - Stud (low risk)
BELIEVE: Jay Cutler signed a seven-year, $127 million contract in January that should keep him in the Windy City for at least three more years (the Bears can cut him in 2017 without paying him the remainder of his contract). The 30-year-old Vanderbilt alum missed five games with an ankle injury, but finished 2013 with five-year highs in passer rating (89), yards per game (238) and completion percentage (63-percent). In head coach Marc Trestman's pass-happy offense, Cutler is a very good QB1 (especially with an elite set of weapons at his disposal). Staying healthy behind a mediocre offensive line will be the major question mark as he has missed 12 games over the last three seasons. Chicago retained all 11 starters from an offense that ranked fifth in passing, eighth in total yards and second in points per game (28) last season. Their offensive line leaves a bit to be desired as Pro Football Focus ranked the unit 19th overall (11th in run blocking and 29th in pass blocking).
Editor's note: Even if you do not like Cutler, there is a lot to like about this offense and his fantasy potential within it. The days of the Bears having a lights-out defense and an underwhelming offense are over. This team is looking to outscore their opponents and burn out the lights in the scoreboard.
UPDATE: Through two preseason games, Cutler's offensive line has been excellent and he has zero interceptions and two touchdowns while completing 16 of 22 passes.
RB Matt Forte - Stud (low risk)
TOP FIVE PICK ACROSS ALL FORMATS: Matt Forte remains a locked and loaded RB1 (especially in PPR leagues) as he topped 70 catches for the first time in his six-year career under first year head coach Marc Trestman. Forte averaged 23 touches per game and had a career-best 1,339 rushing yards on 289 carries (most since his rookie year). The 28-year-old amassed 12 touchdowns and averaged 121 total YPG, helping him finish as the fourth-ranked fantasy RB in standard leagues. Pick him with confidence during the first half of the first round in your league's draft.
RB Ka'Deem Carey - Fantasy Handcuff
DYNASTY STASH: The Bears selected the University of Arizona alum in the fourth round. Over two collegiate seasons, he racked up 3,814 yards and 42 touchdowns. There is some question whether he has the size (5'9, 207) to be a bell cow at the NFL level, but he did handle a heavy workload in college (averaged 26 carries per game in his last two seasons). Carey has upside potential as a fantasy handcuff, but since Forte has missed just five games over his first six seasons, Carey makes for a better target in dynasty leagues.
Editor's note: Carey did his dirty work with the Arizona Wildcats in a spread offense. He won't find the same running lanes at the next level. He possesses average speed and burst so he must continue to develop all aspects of his game.
UPDATE: His role as the #2 back is in jeopardy after a slow start to the preseason (just 59 yards on 23 carries (2.6 YPC) through two games).
WR Alshon Jeffery - Stud (low risk)
BEAST: Alshon Jeffery's sophomore season was one for the ages as he finished with 89 catches for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns (major improvement over his rookie year: 24-367-3). Jeffery fell to the 13th pick of the second round in 2012 amid injury and work ethic concerns. He is currently going one spot ahead of his teammate Brandon Marshall with an 14.79 ADP and ranked as the WR6 (both Bears WRs suited up for the NFC in last season's Pro Bowl).
Editor's note: The former South Carolina Gamecocks receiver is the real deal. With opposing defenses already focused on Matt Forte and Marshall, Jeffery is more or less unstoppable against one-on-one coverages. Could he be a little more consistent? Sure, every receiver runs hot and cold; however, the only reason to fade on him is if you feel he may not quite replicate last season's numbers. A small decline is a reasonable expectation, but a significant drop is very unlikely.
WR Brandon Marshall - Stud (low risk)
Brandon Marshall signed a four-year $39 million extension in May. Over the past two seasons, the 30-year-old has amassed 23 touchdowns while averaging close to 1,400 yards (topped 1,000 yards seven straight years). Marshall has topped 100 catches in five of the last seven seasons and is locked in as a WR1 (should be selected before the end of Round 2).
Editor's note: There are some lingering concerns Marshall could secede some of his production to his red-hot third-year teammate, Alshon Jeffery. There should be plenty of offense to go around in Chicago and it's worth remembering we are talking about an offense guided by Jay Cutler. The Cutler-Marshall duo runs as deep as any QB-to-WR connection in the NFL. Marshall is simply too dominant, to the extent that even a down year would produce WR2 numbers.
WR Marquess Wilson - Not Draft Worthy
SPEEDY SLEEPER: Earl Bennett was released so the No. 3 WR job is Wilson's for the taking. The 2013 rookie (7th round pick) was a non-factor last season (two catches for 13 yards), but he has bulked up from 187 to 207 lbs. (should help him better compete against press coverage). The Washington State alum has serious deep speed (4.45 forty at the combine) and the height (6'3) to be a red zone jump ball specialist similar to the Bears starting duo. Wilson clashed with the coaching staff during his final collegiate season and eventually left the team. In his sophomore year (2011) he was named 2nd team all-conference after hauling in 83 catches for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns. Consider Wilson well worth a flier in dynasty leagues in the Bears pass happy attack (Brandon Marshall's guaranteed money runs out in 2016 which could open the door for Wilson to earn a starting job).
UPDATE: Suffers a broken collarbone and will be out until mid-season. Do not draft unless you are in a dynasty league.
TE Martellus Bennett - Solid/Safe Pick
Martellus Bennett signed a four-year, $20 million contract last offseason and posted a solid 2013 season, finishing with 65 catches for 759 yards and five touchdowns. The Black Unicorn finished as the 11th-best fantasy TE and should be considered a borderline TE1 (he saw the eighth most targets among tight ends during his first season in Chicago). Bennett is a safe option, yet not necessarily blessed with big-time upside.
PK Robbie Gould - Bye Week Fill-in
This 32-year-old Penn State alum signed a four-year, $15 million extension through 2017, including $9 million guaranteed. In 2013, he hit on 26-of-29 field goals and finished as the No. 14 fantasy kicker, just outside the necessary ranking to be a fantasy commodity. Gould has converted at least 83-percent of his field goals since 2005 (missed just one field goal from 50-plus yards in his last three seasons). It's worth noting that he ha attempted less than 30 FGs in each of the past two seasons and weather could be a factor as Chicago's December schedule includes three home games and a trip to Minnesota's outdoor TCF Stadium in Week 17.
Chicago - Solid/Safe Pick
The Bears finished as the eighth best fantasy DST in 2013 after holding the top slot in 2012 when they amassed 10 touchdowns. The loss of Devin Hester (Atlanta) could keep the Bears DST out of the Top 5 heading. Chicago was ravaged by injuries and finished the 2013 season as the worst defense against the run (161 YPG). They did upgrade a pass rush that registered an anemic 31 sacks with the additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young (Julius Peppers signed with Green Bay). Charles Tillman re-signed following a triceps injury and rookie Kyle Fuller was drafted in the first round. The Bears DST could get off to a fast start with games against the shaky QBs of the Bills and Jets in September. For leagues that penalize for points allowed, it is worth noting that they face explosive offenses in the fantasy playoff weeks with games against Dallas, New Orleans, and Detroit in Weeks 14-16 (all of the games are at Soldier Field).