2016 fantasy football depth charts: Chicago Bears
After an injury-riddled 2015, the Bears have plenty of fantasy-helpful potential for 2016, says Jeff Ratcliffe.
2016 fantasy football depth charts: Chicago Bears
(Editor’s note: As we lead up to the season, Director of PFF Fantasy Jeff Ratcliffe is breaking down each team’s depth chart from a fantasy perspective. Catch up on the work so far here.)
All things considered, the Bears really weren’t that bad last year, given what they had to work with on the offensive side of the ball. John Fox’s squad averaged 344.6 total yards per game, which was up from 327.1 in 2014. Some of the credit for that improvement goes to Adam Gase, who is now the head coach in Miami. With Gase gone, the Bears will turn to former quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to call the plays.
Perennial QB2 Jay Cutler remains solidified as the starting quarterback in Chicago. Cutler threw for just 3,659 and 21 scores in 15 games last season. But to his defense, that was with a patchwork receiver group that at times featured Marc Mariani and Josh Bellamy as the two starters on the outside. However, when you look at Cutler’s entire body of work, very little stands out. He’s only topped 4,000 passing yards once in his career – all the way back in 2008 – and he’s never thrown 30 touchdown passes in a season. While Cutler has some relevance in 2QB leagues and DFS tournaments, his limited fantasy ceiling keeps him on the very fringes of the fantasy radar in one-quarterback formats.
The good news is that Cutler’s weapons look to be a lot better entering this season. Alshon Jeffery is coming off an injury-riddled season in which he played just nine games. But over that span, he saw 92 targets. That average of 10.2 targets per game placed Jeffery among the league’s most heavily targeted receivers. He also ranked behind only Julio Jones and Antonio Brown in fantasy points per opportunity and finished fourth at the position in yards per route run (2.89). While the Bears may not view Jeffery as a “true No. 1 receiver,” fantasy owners should consider him one in 2016. Jeffery figures to continue to see significant targets and projects as a solid WR1 option.
Chicago Bears projected 2016 offense with 2015 grades:
Chicago will look at Kevin White to start opposite Jeffery in two-wide sets. White missed all of his rookie season with a stress fracture in his shin, but he’s a big (6’3, 215) and athletic receiver who ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. There was some question about how White would transition to a pro-style offense, but the good news is that he’s had a year to learn the offense. Still, he’s reportedly looked like a “work in progress” in offseason practices. White is certainly a breakout candidate for 2016, but he’s best viewed as a volatile borderline WR3.
Eddie Royal will round out three-wide sets, with Bellamy and Mariani in backup roles. Royal struggled with knee and ankle injuries last season, but he’s reportedly healthy and gives the Bears a viable option out of the slot. He’s unlikely to surface on the redraft radar, but Royal is a name to consider in PPR DFS contests as a cheap punt option.
With Martellus Bennett now in New England, the Bears will now call on Zach Miller as their primary receiving tight end. Miller was a bit of a revelation last season, as Bennett was nicked up down the stretch and was ultimately placed on injured reserve with a “rib injury.” Miller scored in Week 9, and then burst in the fantasy consciousness the following week with an 87-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Miller tied for fifth among tight ends in fantasy scoring over the last nine weeks of the season. As the top dog now in Chicago, Miller offers sneaky TE2 value as a late-round pick.
For the first time since 2007, the Bears will open a season without Matt Forte as their starting running back. Back then, Cedric Benson was their starter, and this year, Jeremy Langford looks to be the early favorite for lead back duties. However, there have been rumblings out of Chicago that the Bears will use a committee approach at running back.
While that’s not what Langford owners want to hear, it certainly makes a lot of sense given his lackluster 2015 play. Many fantasy players remember Langford’s Red Zone Channel highlights, but he was generally ineffective as a runner last season with just 3.6 yards per carry and the fewest runs of 15-plus yards per carry in the league. He also struggled as a receiver – eight dropped passes – and allowed a pitiful nine QB pressures on just 43 pass blocking snaps.
[Can you get Kevin White as a value draft pick, or has his breakout potential forced him too high in drafts? Check out our PFF Draft Master tool and try a mock draft, complete with offensive line grades, full projections and all the PFF data.]
Remarkably, Langford is still going 19th among running backs in terms of ADP at the time of this writing. At this point, the drafting public hasn’t caught on to the potential committee situation with rookie Jordan Howard going as a late-round selection as the 57th running back off the board. Howard is a big back (6’0, 230) who graded out fourth among draft-eligible backs in this years’ class. Loggains called Howard a “change-of-pace back,” but he has the skillset to be more than that in early-down situations. Fantasy players should keep a close eye on the Bears running back situation in training camp, as Ka’Deem Carey is also in the mix for touches.
There really wasn’t much to get excited about on the defensive side of the ball in Chicago last year, but the Bears took steps to upgrade their personnel in the offseason. Chicago signed veteran linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, and both figure to start and play all three downs on the inside. Both players are in the LB2 conversation, but Trevathan is the more dynamic of the two and offers the higher fantasy ceiling.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.