Fantasy Beat – Bears Preseason
Mike Clay has taken to the airwaves to host a Pro Football Focus fantasy football show on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio (10 a.m. ET weekdays – Sirius 210 & XM 87). In addition to his strategy and insight, Clay has had the opportunity to bring in beat writers around the nation to provide an insider fantasy spin on the teams they cover.
On Thursday, he spoke with Jeremy Stoltz of BearReport.com. Stoltz warned to not be too concerned about Matt Forte’s workload, he gave us a heads up on when we can expect rookie Kevin White to get involved, and more. You can find Stoltz on Twitter @BearReport.
A Trestman-Less Forte
In 2014, Forte saw more nickel defenses but his yards per carry dropped. That’s a red flag that has fantasy owners concerned. Forte also loses offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who peppered him with a league-leading 118 targets in 2014. Are these concerns justified?
“I think they are justified to an extent,” Stoltz said. “I don’t think he’s going to catch 102 passes this year. The offense will be more balanced, I think they can run the ball more effectively than they did under Trestman. They drafted [Michigan State RB] Jeremy Langford in the fourth round, and he’s a guy I have been very high on in training camp so far. Matt Forte is still a stud – probably one of the most physically fit guys in the NFL. I don’t see that big of a drop off.”
Forte has finished No. 1 in the NFL in snaps among running backs each of the last two seasons, but he could see that number drop in 2015 even if his rushing attempts increase. Forte has struggled in pass protection, and the Bears added Jacquizz Rodgers this offseason, who is one of the better pass-protecting backs in the NFL.
New Blood At RB
Forte has missed just one game over the last three seasons, but he has also averaged 341 touches per season over that span. If he were to go down, who would replace him as the lead back?
“It would be a competition between Ka’Deem Carey and Langford, and I think you’ve got to go with Langford,” Stoltz said. “I think he would get the first shot to carry the load.”
When Will White’s Time Come?
After trading Brandon Marshall and drafting West Virginia WR Kevin White in the first round, there are expectations that the rookie will emerge as a featured weapon in the offense right away. However, White is currently missing valuable training camp practice time after missing all of the Bears’ spring practices. How long until White emerges at the No. 2?
“I think it will happen, but he hasn’t practiced in seven months,” Stoltz said. “That’s an issue for a player who is a project. Long term he is going to be an outstanding No. 2 and possibly a No. 1 in 2016. Right now, I’m very concerned. If it does happen this season, my guess is it probably doesn’t happen until the second half.”
Cutler’s Trust Goes A Long Way
Hype has been building around free agent acquisition Eddie Royal. As a rookie with the Denver Broncos in 2008, Royal caught 91 passes with Jay Cutler as his quarterback. Now they are reunited in Chicago, and Royal’s arrow is pointing up. Is the Royal hype for real?
“Jay Cutler loves Eddie Royal in practice,” Stoltz said. “He’s generating buzz for a good reason. He looks quick, big, and I’ve just been overwhelmed by how good he’s looked. He has Cutler’s trust and that goes a long way. Cutler likes to throw to certain guys. I don’t think Royal is going to get phased out of the offense at any point.”
Only two other wide receivers in the NFL – Randall Cobb and Jordan Matthews – ran more routes in the slot than Royal in 2014. He played on over two-thirds of the Chargers’ snaps in 10-of-16 games last season. If the Bears adopt a more balanced approach in 2015, it will be difficult for Royal to match these numbers if he is only the Bears’ slot receiver.
90 Catches Is Not Happening Again
In the Bears’ pass-happy offense last season, Martellus Bennett led the NFL with 125 targets and he turned them into 90 receptions. Will we see a repeat this season?
“He’s been pretty dominant so far in camp, but I don’t think the Bears are going to be as pass-happy as they were under Marc Trestman,” Stoltz said. “He can still be a major weapon, but 90 catches is unrealistic. His touchdown numbers might rise, but I don’t think we’re going to see 90 catches this season.”
WR1 Status Here We Come
Alshon Jeffery had the second-most end zone targets in 2014. With Marshall out of the picture, will the added defensive attention hold Jeffery back, or is he ready to breakout as a true No. 1 receiver?
“Absolutely,” Stoltz said. “Jeffery is unstoppable right now in training camp. He hasn’t taken a step back. He knows it’s his job to be the No. 1 now, and he’s ready to do it. He could match the numbers he put up two years ago – 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns.”
A Sleeping Vulture?
“If Daniel Thomas makes this roster, he could be a weapon in goal-line and short-yardage situations,” Stoltz said. “He has run with power in training camp. He runs harder than anybody here in training camp.”
Thomas is probably still a long shot to make the roster, based on everything we’ve seen from him in his career, but this is just another potential red flag for Forte that we should keep an eye on.
Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy and he covers the NFC East beat for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL. You can also add him to your network on Google+ to find all of his past material.