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Fantasy Forecast: 2021 Chicago Bears

A detailed look at the Chicago Offensive skill groups. @ReflipeWThenuz breaks down which players you want and why.

Heading into the 2021 season, the Chicago Bears are a seesaw team. I could easily see the team heading back to the playoffs with some of the upgrades they’ve made to the offensive line and quarterback positions in particular. I could also see them flounder and begin an overhaul process with some of the team’s aging stars. The recipient of last year’s first-ever NFC number seven seed, the Bears offer some nice short and long-term fantasy assets for your dynasty squads. Let us take a look at some of the players and how they should fit into your rosters.

QUARTERBACKS

Image courtesy of nflanalaysis.com

ANDY DALTON

If you were to look up the term placeholder in the dictionary, you might now see a picture of the Red Rifle staring back at you. In 2021, Dalton will serve as the early season starter and mentor for incoming first-round pick Justin Fields. The former Cincinnati & Dallas QB brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team. With both the Head Coach and GM on short leashes in the Windy City, you can expect the team to play the vet early as they try to reach the playoffs again. 

As I mentioned above, Dalton is a very experienced QB. Over the course of his 10-year career, he has experienced the entirety of the NFL QB experience. Coming into the NFL as a second-round pick of the Bengals in 2011, Dalton was tasked with bringing hope back to a beleaguered franchise. The team was reeling from the broken relationship with former no.1 overall pick Carson Palmer who was holding out. Dalton came in and immediately took over the reins of the team. Leading them to a 9-7 record and Wild Card berth in the playoffs. Despite his loss in the playoffs, Dalton set several significant career marks, including being the first non-first-round pick to start all 16 games at QB. That season he began a run of quality play that lasted almost a decade in the Queen City. You can see his numbers below. 

Originally brought in as the unquestioned starter, his fortunes changed when the team traded up to no.11 to select Justin Fields. His job will now entail helping mentor the youngster and start the team out on the right foot to begin the season. This is a situation not dissimilar to the one Ryan Fitzpatrick found himself in last year with Miami. The team will surely attempt to protect their rookie as they develop and prepare him to take the team on his shoulders. In the meantime, Dalton will be given a chance to either make his case for a job next season or play out his swan song as an NFL starter. Last year he showed that he could still sling the ball around the field and playing some quality football. While certainly not as good as he once was, you can see from the play below that he still has the arm strength and touch to deliver the deep ball. He will never have the athletic ability of Fields, but in the right situation, he can be successful in the NFL.  

Now please, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating going out and trading for Dalton in your dynasty leagues. However, you can do far worse than having him on the back end of your bench. In Superflex leagues, he is a valuable handcuff, especially for Fields owners. Fortunately for anyone interested, Dalton is dirt cheap. I just selected him in the 23rd round of a startup where I also own Justin Fields. The range of outcomes for Dalton in 2021 is pretty wide. It’s possible he doesn’t even begin the year as the starter. However, at his current price point, he isn’t a bad dart throw, and as I stated before, he is a nice handcuff for Fields owners.  

Image courtesy of bearswire.usatoday.com

JUSTIN FIELDS

This is the guy you really want on your dynasty teams. The Chicago Bears are a team that has never had a true “Franchise QB.” When you look at the pantheon of Bears QBs, you don’t come away very impressed. Jay Cutler owns most of the records despite never throwing for over 4,000 yards or 30 TDs in a single season. He broke records that were set by Sid Luckman back in the 1940s! The Bears have also only had two single ProBowl years by a QB – Jim McMahon in 1985 and Mitchell Trubisky in 2018. Justin Fields will seek to reverse the fortunes of the only NFL franchise without a 4,000-yard passer.

Coming out of Ohio State, Justin Fields possesses one of the most dynamic athletic profiles we have ever seen in a QB. You can count the number of QBs who have run faster 40 times on one hand. Fields is truly a freakish athlete, as you can see in his athletic profile below. 

The only measurement that you could point to as a cause for concern would be his hand size. He does not have the biggest hands and will be playing in cold-weather games in Chicago’s notoriously windy outdoor stadium at Soldier Field. Nonetheless, this issue did not seem to be a hindrance at nearby Ohio State, where Fields played his college ball. As a matter of fact, as you can see from his numbers below, he was extremely cautious with the ball in his hands. 

While he does not come to the NFL with gaudy rushing stats like Lamar Jackson, Taysom Hill, or Mike Vick, he is certainly a 5 tool athlete, so to speak. There is not an area of the game that Fields does not succeed at. He is fast, has a big arm, is cautious with the ball, hits the gym as hard as anyone, and is a remarkable information processor. Despite the outrageous amount of flack he drew during the draft process, I personally believe Fields offers as much upside as anyone in the class, Lawrence included. During last season’s College Football playoffs, Fields played one of the best college football games I’ve ever witnessed by a QB. He absolutely shredded the Clemson Tigers. I know that watching a highlight reel can be somewhat misleading, but the pure raw talent this kid possesses was on full display in that game, as you can see below. 

After watching those highlights, it’s hard not to like Fields as a prospect. However, that’s not to suggest there are no questions about him at the next level. I personally believe Fields will be a stud in the NFL and for your dynasty squads. The coaching staff and front office may choose to bring him along slowly; that is certainly a possibility. However, we are talking about dynasty fantasy football. Long-term, Fields will be a cornerstone of your teams wherever you can get your hands on him. I myself see a more physically talented Russell Wilson who, despite his obvious physical gifts, always has his eyes downfield looking to make that big play. Please do yourself a favor and get your hands on him wherever you can. For a full breakdown of the new Bears franchise QB, check out our very own Zack Zander’s breakdown here.

RUNNING BACKS

Image courtesy of bearswire.usatoday.com

DAVID MONTGOMERY

Quite possibly the most disrespected RB in dynasty fantasy football, Montgomery has been an absolute stud since his days at Iowa State. A deceptively elusive runner, Montgomery owns the record for forced missed tackles in college, according to PFF, as you can see below. 

Following a standout college career, Montgomery was selected in the third round by Chicago. The Bears believed in the player enough to trade up to land their guy. In his first season as the lead ball-carrier in Chicago, Montgomery had an up and down year. Many in the dynasty community turned their backs on him and deemed him a bust due to a low ypc and the difficulty of picking his holes. What people seemed to have overlooked was the generally poor play of the offensive line as a whole. The entire Bears rushing attack saw a drastic drop in efficiency in 2019. You can look at the numbers of fellow RB Tarik Cohen for evidence of this. His ypc dropped by over a full yard from 4.5 to 3.3. Before 2019, Cohen’s lowest career ypc was 4.3. 

Heading into the 2020 season, Montgomery was an excellent buy-low candidate. While he began the season slowly following a switch in play-calling and an injury to Cohen, Montgomery exploded down the stretch. Over the back half of the season, he was a league winner for many of his owners. The offensive line picked up their play, and Monty was back to his old elusive self forcing gobs of missed tackles, as you can see below.

Despite his late-season resurgence, many are once again writing off the Iowa State product. Last season, he finished as the overall RB4 in PPR leagues. His numbers went up across the board. He was much more efficient with the touches he got. You can see from his numbers below, in particular, his YPC went up by a significant margin. 

Now I can already hear the detractors suggesting that his touches will go down by a sizable margin in 2021. Indeed, Tarik Cohen is back, and the team has bolstered their other supporting RBs. However, there is also very little doubt that the team improved drastically when they fed their starting RB the ball. You will note that his carries only went up by single digits from his first to the second season and while up a good bit, his catches only went up by 29. Despite the perception, this is not an astronomical jump in touches from one year to the next. I would also argue that Cohen is the only RB to represent a threat to Montgomery’s touches.

Montgomery should be an RB1 candidate for the next couple of seasons with the Bears. The addition of a QB who is a threat in the running game will hold defenders’ attention in the read-option game. Fields should also help the Bears get a couple more attempts in the Redzone moving forward. So while Monty may lose a couple of catches a game with the return of Tarik Cohen, he should make up for those points with a legitimate double-digit TD outlook. Just look at the plays below and explain to me why people have such an ax to grind against this young man who has set college records and proved to be highly efficient in his early run in the NFL. He has just enough speed and is an absolute Bear to bring down in the running game, pun intended. Combined with his passing game chops as a receiver and blocker, you have an RB capable of contributing on all 3 downs. Take advantage of people’s shortsighted views and get your hands on David Montgomery wherever you can. 

Image courtesy of bearswire.usatoday.com

TARIK COHEN

The forgotten man in the Chicago backfield, Cohen is absolutely one of the finest receiving backs in the NFL. The former HBCU MVP has been a dynamic playmaker for the Bears since being selected in the fourth round out of North Carolina A&T. As the graduate of two HBCUs (Delaware State & Morgan State), I have a special place in my heart for the diminutive dynamo. He is a waterbug out on the field. However, that is not to suggest he cannot run between the tackles. He is a capable playmaker in every area of his position. 

Cohen has been an extremely reliable producer when on the field. In the three seasons he played without major injuries, he finished as the PPR RB 25, 11, & 26. He has been a reliable ppr flex play catching no fewer than 53 passes with two seasons of 70+ reception in those seasons. You can see his career numbers below.

The best part about Cohen, much like Montgomery, is his price. People seem to have forgotten just how dynamic he is with the ball in his hands. Cohen is currently coming off the board as the RB42 in the latest Dynasty Nerds PPR rankings! That is an extreme value. He is ranked behind far inferior players such as Kenneth Gainwell. Even with the breakout of David Montgomery last season, I expect Cohen to return to his high-end flex appeal. Few, if any, players have the natural skill set Cohen brings to the table. The video below is a reminder of how talented of a pass catcher Tarik is.

Another nice aspect of Cohen is his contract. The Chicago Bears front office believes in this talented young ball carrier. In an age where RB’s are used up and discarded after their rookie deal, Ryan Pace and the front office brass gave Cohen a three-year 17 million dollar contract. Few players offer the upside Cohen does at his price point. I am currently in the middle of a 12 team ppr devy startup draft, and I managed to snag Tarik in the 16th round. At that price, it’s a can’t miss investment.

Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com

THE REST OF THE RB ROOM

The Chicago Bears have a couple of interesting depth options. Damien Williams, the former Super Bowl hero of the Kansas City Chiefs, has been a multi-year tease. Few players have received as much love for so little production as Damien Williams. The former UFA has been on multiple teams in the league, and outside of his late-season and playoff run with the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs, he has been very forgettable. In fact, Montgomery’s 2020 numbers alone nearly equal Williams’ entire career production. He has flashed in short stints but has repeatedly dealt with injury and inconsistency. He does have familiarity with the system due to the carryover between Andy Reid and Matt Nagy. I do not believe he presents a threat to either of the top two options on the depth chart. However, I do believe he is the primary handcuff to both players.

Behind Williams, the Bears also brought aboard the intriguing sixth-round rookie Kalil Herbert. The former Virginia Tech standout will be the long-term backup and developmental option on the team. He will likely make his bones on special teams early in his career, but depending on how Montgomery turns out over the next couple of seasons, he could be an interesting end of bench stash.  

WIDE RECEIVERS

Image courtesy of bearswire.usatoday.com

ALLEN ROBINSON

The true Alpha number one in the clubhouse. Robinson is one of the best WR’s in the NFL. He is one of only two players to finish as a top-10 PPR WR in each of the last two seasons, the other being DeAndre Hopkins. Robinson is a true enigma; he has enjoyed a tremendous amount of career success despite dealing with lackluster QB play all the way back to his college days at Penn State. You can see his impressive numbers below.

Even though he has enjoyed this success, he is ranked as the PPR WR17 in the latest Dynasty Nerds rankings. Curiously this low ranking is despite his relatively young age. You would expect a player angling for his 3rd NFL contract to be 30 years old or better. With Robinson, this is not the case. Heading into the season, he will be a spry 28 years old, just two years older than Terry McLaurin. From his numerous highlight-reel catches below, you can see below that he has a LOT left in the tank heading into 2021.

Robinson is a target hog. In four out of his six healthy seasons in the league, he has garnered 150 targets or more. That is an astonishingly high target share. Those numbers come on two different teams and have come in each of the last two seasons. Robinson has garnered this massive target share while also proving one of, if not the most, reliable WRs in the league. Last season, he had exactly one dropped pass on 151 targets. That is an elite-level stat based on any metric. 

Dalton and Fields will represent the best pair of signal-callers ARob has played with since High School. He is consistent, talented, and hungry for a new contract. Allen Robinson is in for a massive season in 2021 for the Chicago Bears. Do yourself a favor and grab this talented pass catcher. He will give you WR1 production for WR2 prices. 

Image courtesy of bearswire.usatoday.com

DARNELL MOONEY

The speedster turned out to be a revelation last season. Coming into Chicago as a fifth-round pick out of Tulane, not much was initially expected from Mooney. He was stuck behind Robinson and former second-round pick Anthony Miller. Mooney quickly made a name for himself, routinely displaying amazing hands to go along with his elite-level speed. He showed his level of commitment to his craft when he purchased his very own JUGS machine with his first paycheck.

Mooney quickly climbed the depth chart and assumed the number two spot. His elite-level speed provided a different skill set than any of his teammates. Last season that skill set was unfortunately not effectively maximized. We saw multiple occasions where Mooney streaked past defenders only to throw inaccurate deep balls by Nick Foles and Trubisky. You can see a couple of examples below.

This issue may be a thing of the past with the uber accurate Justin Fields in the fold. PFF graded Fields as the most accurate passer of the PFF College Era. If he possesses the cheat codes to unlock Mooney, the Bears could potentially put up a pair of 1,000 yard receivers for the first time since Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey worked in tandem with Jay Cutler. Mooney is slowly creeping up draft boards but is still an excellent value at his WR61. That is a fantastic value on a young up-and-coming player. Depending on what happens with Robinson following his coming 2021 franchise tag season, Mooney could even find himself as the number one WR for Fields moving forward. Grab that value while it still exists. Mooney will surely improve on his rookie season numbers which you can find below.

Image courtesy of bearswire.usatoday.com

ANTHONY MILLER

The latest in an increasingly long line of draft misses at the WR position by GM Ryan Pace; Miller has been a constant tease for Bears fans since being drafted in the second round. Pace was so enamored with the former Memphis Tiger that he traded back into the second round in order to get Miller. He has been a frustrating mix of brilliant & bonehead. Miller has the knack for making the spectacular one-handed grab then dropping the short crossing route on 3rd and 4. You can see his career numbers below.

Coming out of college, Miller was compared to none other than Odell Beckham Jr. He put up extremely gaudy numbers at Memphis, punctuated by a couple of big-time plays. One such play was considered by many as the catch of the year for the 2016 College football season. When you see the highlight below, you will see where the OBJ comps came from.

Miller has also been a regular on the injury report. During his first two seasons with the team, he repeatedly dealt with a separated shoulder. To his credit, he came back into games multiple times after dislocating his shoulder. His guts do, however, turn into maddening examples of foolishness. No incident highlights this predisposition more than his 2020 playoff ejection. The entire team was warned against engaging with Saints defender CJ Gardner-Johnson prior to the game. Despite this warning, Miller inexplicably punched his opponent in the helmet and was kicked out of a playoff game where the team entered shorthanded. Mooney missed the game due to injury.

Following his ejection, the team reportedly attempted to trade their mercurial WR. This was either bluster, or the team could not garner an offer worth parting with their former second-round pick. Heading into his fourth season with the Bears, Anthony Miller seems to be on his last legs with the squad. He could either rally and save his career, falter and wash out of Chicago, or be traded at any point in the offseason. One thing is certain, he has intriguing talent and is a nice stash for the end of your benches. From the play below this year, you can see that he is still making plays in camp and has the talent to make an impact. 

Image courtesy of bearswire.usatoday.com

DAZZ NEWSOME

The Chicago Bears drafted Newsome as a potential replacement for Anthony Miller in the slot. The former Tarheel was one of several talented slot players in this draft. The glut of slot WRs caused Dazz to slip in the NFL draft all the way to the sixth round. During his time at North Carolina, he repeatedly made plays against ACC defenders, as shown in his stats below. 

Dazz enjoyed a breakout junior year before seeing his numbers decline in his senior campaign. He possesses some very nice skills that make him perfect for the slot role in the NFL. He has very nice long speed to go along with quick twitch skills that make him tough for nickelback’s to contend with. With the lack of a true combine, this season’s information is hard to gauge. For instance, one scout timed Newsome at 4.59 in the 40 while another reportedly clocked him at 4.38. With such a wide range of numbers this season, the tape has been king. 

When watching his film, you see a player who has plenty of speed, including a second gear to take plays to the house at any given moment. He also has vice grips for hands. During one game against Duke, he made one of the best strong hands catches you will ever see on any level. You can see some of his UNC highlights, including that crazy catch, below.

As I hinted earlier when speaking of Mooney, we do not know what the future holds for the Bears WR room. Robinson is currently on the franchise tag, and Miller is in the last year of his rookie deal. Newsome also has the benefit of being in the same draft class as future franchise QB Fields. He may well grow into a significant role with the Chicago Bears moving forward. As with Miller, I believe Newsome is a nice end-of-the-bench stash and a perfect taxi squad player for teams with deeper rosters.  

Image courtesy of bearswire.usatoday.com

THE REST OF THE WR ROOM

Outside the top four options, the Bears are searching for some quality depth. Riley Ridley stands out as a player that was originally thought to have some potential. To date, he has been a disappointment, barely registering 100 total yards in his first two seasons combined. The team has also made an effort to bolster their speed by bringing on track star Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd. Other players such as Javon Wims round out the depth chart, but in reality, none of these players are worthy of any but the deepest of dynasty rosters.

TIGHT ENDS

Image courtesy of bearswire.usatoday.com

JIMMY GRAHAM

Technically the ghost of Graham still sits atop the Bears depth chart. He is the turd in the punchbowl of the Chicago offense from a dynasty perspective. The likely future Hall of Fame TE has seen his prime come and go in the NFL. However, the Bears’ coaching staff and front office seem committed to bringing back the aged superstar. So much so that they chose to cut their top corner Kyle Fuller instead. In fact, the team ate nine million dollars in dead money, cutting Fuller to save eleven million dollars. They could have cut Graham and saved seven million with only a three million dollar cap hit. 

One thing Graham has done throughout his career has been to catch TD passes. That was no different during his first season with the Bears in 2020. Despite his diminished skill set, he is still a towering presence in the passing game and a legitimate threat to body up smaller defenders. He provides very little after the catch, but smaller defenders still have difficulty keeping the ball away from the former college basketball star. You can see his career numbers below. 

2021 will be the swan song for the former Miami Hurricane. Head Coach Matt Nagy seems to have a role for the legendary TE still. Graham is not a preferred option for your dynasty squads. However, he comes dirt cheap and is always a threat to put up a TD. You could do far worse with a backup TE; as you can see from his final catch of 2020, he can still go up and get the ball in the endzone. 

Image courtesy of bearswire.usatoday.com

COLE KMET

This is unquestionably the TE you want to invest in on the Chicago roster. The Bears went into last season knowing the TE position needed a complete overhaul. GM Ryan Pace attempted a two-pronged strategy. First, he added an accomplished veteran in Graham. Then he bolstered the position further by looking towards the future and selecting the first TE in the NFL draft. Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet was that player. He displayed a nice overall skillset at the combine, putting up respectable numbers across the board, as you can see below.

Kmet is a fantastic athlete. He comes to the NFL after being a two-sport star in college. However, unlike many at the TE position, basketball was not his second sport of choice. Cole was actually an accomplished baseball player. In a strange twist of fate, Kmet was almost drafted by the Chicago White Sox. He actually chose to turn down their offer opting to instead go to college. Due to an arm injury, the former pitcher decided to dedicate himself to football fully and blossomed, despite missing a couple of games with a broken collarbone. 

Growing up in nearby Indiana, Kmet actually grew up a Bears fan. He and his family were visibly ecstatic when he was selected in the second round by his childhood team. Kmet came in during his rookie season and attached himself to Graham. He formed a great relationship with Jimmy and attempted to learn all that he could from the former All-Pro. In an interview after the 2020 season Graham said that he believes Kmet is “going to be a beast”.

Last season started slow for Kmet. He had a minimal impact on the offense during the first half of the season. However, down the stretch, he began to take over the top spot in the offense. His snap share and consequently his production saw a spike on the back half of the schedule, as you can see below.

Cole Kmet is a nice high upside TE2 heading into the 2021 season. He has the opportunity to grow with the young QB moving into the next few seasons. In his playoff victory over Clemson last season, Fields showed that he is not opposed to targeting the TE position. As always, be patient when it comes to young TE’s. It generally takes three to four years for players to develop and breakout. The number of players that come in and immediately shine is few and far between. Now is the perfect time to grab Kmet and watch him develop on your bench or taxi squad. 

Final Thoughts

The Chicago Bears are a tightrope team walking both sides of the line. They could either make it to the playoffs again and save the jobs of their coach and GM. However, they could also falter and decide that now is a good time to remake an aging roster of high-priced veterans. In my opinion, this tightrope is the reason that Allen Robinson has not been locked up long term to this point. No matter which route the team takes, there are a number of high upside young players on this team’s offense. Hopefully, for our sake in dynasty, Matt Nagy can turn things around and develop a dynamic offense. One thing is for sure, the addition of Justin Fields will make this an exciting team to watch at some point this season. 

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