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Fantasy Opportunity Spotlight: Chicago Bears

A team-by-team analysis of coaches’ tendencies and using them to help create realistic fantasy football projections. @TubaDeus takes a look at the Chicago Bears.

Welcome to the new home of my yearly Fantasy Opportunity series! For those who didn’t see this series on Reddit last year, I try to take a different approach to fantasy projections than your run-of-the-mill analyst. The basis of my process is that the number one indicator of fantasy success is opportunities to touch the ball. Obviously individual player skill can (and will) affect that, but at the end of the day players are at the mercy of playcalling and play design. Therefore, if we want to make accurate projections, we need to look at each coach’s scheme and how they like to spread the ball around.

As a result, this series is very coach-centric. I’ll touch on individual players, but only as they relate to their coaches’ schemes. On a related note, this series will only aim to establish projections on how touches will be split up, not what individual players will be able to accomplish with those touches. That will come later once depth charts settle through training camp. Think of this series more as a basis for realistic expectations.

Make sense? Good. Let’s dive in.

Most of my stats are pulled from Pro Football Reference. Please support them. They are awesome and are my primary source of statistical information.

Chicago Bears

Last Year’s Accuracy
Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Projections1015405 (39.9%)610 (60.1%)40 (6.6%)320 (56.1%)140 (24.6%)95 (16.7%)
2020 Stats1043393 (37.7%)650 (62.3%)36 (5.5%)347 (56.5%)113 (18.4%)136 (22.1%)
For league wide stats, see this spreadsheet.
Coaching Changes

The Bears have made the playoffs two of the last three years. That’s about the only thing keeping head coach Matt Nagy in his seat right now. Chicago has been a QB short of Super Bowl contention for too long, and the supposed offensive guru has done nothing to change that (although at least they finally solved their kicking woes). He hasn’t been kicked to the curb yet, but his seat is getting awfully warm. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s fate appears to be tied to Nagy’s, so he’ll return in 2021 as well (although realistically his control of the offense is minimal). As for the defense, Chuck Pagano announced his retirement following the 2020 season. In his place, the Bears have promoted safeties coach Sean Desai to be the new DC in Chicago.

Chicago Bears would be Super Bowl contenders if Matt Nagy did this
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Coaching History

As the years slip on by, so too does Chicago’s rush rate under Nagy. The Bears ran a very balanced offense in 2018 with a 46.2% rush rate, but they fell to a 38.7% rush rate in 2019 before slipping even further to 37.7% last year. Surely swapping out the mobile Mitchell Trubisky for the statuesque Nick Foles at QB is partially to blame for 2020’s low mark, but the bulk of the blame lies at Nagy’s feet as he seems unwilling to heed his own advice. Shying away from the running game has also sped up Chicago’s offense a bit; they finished middle of the pack in tempo the last two years after being one of the slowest offenses in 2018.

It’s a little more difficult to glean useful information from the positional target shares. Broadly speaking Nagy seems to like leaning on wideouts to the tune of ~55% target share, but his tight end and running back rooms have been a bit beset by injury the last two years. In 2019, the Bears were forced to start their TE4 by the end of season as the rest had found their way to IR, a huge blow to Nagy’s TE-centric scheme. In 2020, premier satellite back Tarik Cohen tore his ACL, effectively vacating 95 targets from 2019. Not surprisingly, their respective position groups suffered massive dips in target shares those years.

However, injuries don’t tell the whole story. The running back group has been relatively consistent in terms of personnel (leading to positional target shares of 25.4% and 25.3% before Cohen’s 2020 injury brought their share crashing down to 18.4%), but the tight end room has been completely turned over since Nagy’s arrival. How much of the tight ends’ target share swings (18.2%-11.9%-22.1%) can be explained by injuries versus upgrading of personnel?

Looking Ahead

At the very least the Bears have been trying to take the injury factor out of the equation. They kept Jimmy Graham for insurance despite his cut-friendly contract, and they brought in former Super Bowl hero Damien Williams to provide insurance for both Cohen and David Montgomery in the backfield. Chicago is making sure they aren’t left without depth should another key player get injured, which means we should not expect positional target share dips like we saw the last two years.

Where the Bears lack depth is at the line on both sides of the ball. The offensive line was already shallow before they released both starting tackles, and most of their defensive line depth was allowed to walk in free agency. They did at least attempt to address the offensive line through the draft. Still, the defensive line now features several veteran players with extensive injury histories and a dearth of quality backups. If the injuries start piling up again, the defense may find itself struggling more than recent years to get off the field, which would lower the number of total plays for the offense.

Could Chicago Bears really pass on Justin Fields?
Kevin Cox/Getty Images

On the flip side, the offense may finally have a shot at producing some longer drives of its own. The aforementioned skill position depth will help ensure that there won’t be holes in the offense, and, oh yeah, and there’s the whole quarterback thing. Andy Dalton is more than likely to start Week 1, but Justin Fields is more than likely to start Week 18. How much of an effect the switch has will depend heavily on when the switch happens. Fields is much like Dak Prescott in that he has the size and speed to punish teams with his legs but prefers to pass when given the chance. As a result, the rush rate of the Bears offense should increase by a bit but shouldn’t shoot up a la Lamar Jackson’s Ravens or Kyler Murray’s Cardinals.

2021 Projections
Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Stats1043393 (37.7%)650 (62.3%)36 (5.5%)347 (56.5%)113 (18.4%)136 (22.1%)
2021 Projections (17 Games)1095435 (39.7%)660 (60.3%)40 (6.1%)317 (51.1%)152 (24.5%)130 (21.0%)

Previous Entry: Carolina Panthers

Next Entry: Cincinnati Bengals

Find this article helpful? You can follow me on Twitter and Reddit as @TubaDeus, though I spend most of my time on Discord.

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