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Dynasty Capsule: Chicago Bears

As part of the premium content package, we’re unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL all Spring and Summer. This year, we also have a follow-up to every team capsule, with more detail on one of our favorite pieces – the dynasty sleeper. We continue our alphabetical journey through the NFL with the Chicago Bears.

Quarterbacks

Jay Cutler

Now fully recovered from a broken thumb that forced an early exit from his 2011 campaign, Cutler looks to return to form with a new look receiving corps.  It’s obvious the Bears were looking to rekindle the old chemistry with the addition of both the enigmatic Brandon Marshall along with Cutler’s quarterback coach while in Denver, Jeremy Bates.  Both should pay immediate dividends for a quarterback who has obviously been struggling with chemistry in every phase of the offense.

Prior to his injury, Cutler was on pace for 3,500 passing yards and touchdown production in the low twenties.  These numbers don’t leap off the page, but do provide a stable QB2 ranking.  Perhaps the biggest area of concern for Cutler and the Bears will be the performance of their relatively porous offensive line.  As he continues to reiterate openly to anyone willing to listen, concerns remain about his front five and it’s well understood that if they don’t perform markedly better in 2012, it won’t much matter what additional offensive weapons have been provided.   While Cutler is as tough as they come in the pocket and after the big hit, he can only take so much pounding before he suffers an additional injury or his rating declines due to the mental impact of constant hits.  Cutler is also a moody quarterback that tends to ‘check out’ when frustrated.

Jason Campbell

After bouncing to his third team this past off-season, Campbell finds himself in a clear backup role as a Bear on a one-year deal.  The 30 year old quarterback is not likely to have any fantasy impact, even should he see time due to injury to Cutler.  Campbell has, at times, had noteworthy fantasy performances, but they have been far too sporadic and inconsistent to provide for anything more than a true “hope and a prayer” occasional start.  Campbell should only be owned by those with deep rosters who already own Jay Cutler.  Even with those circumstances in play, you’ll likely have better handcuff choices to take advantage of.

Josh McCown

Like fellow veteran Jason Campbell, Josh McCown too finds himself back in Chicago on a one year deal.  McCown did provide the Bears with a worthy effort in three weeks running to close out the 2011 season, but there simply isn’t any fantasy impact to be garnered here, even in an emergency.

Running Backs

Matt Forte

Forte owners continue to hold their collective breath in hopes that a deal can be struck that will find him back in camp in short order.  As it stands, both sides appear to have dug in and this situation could get more ugly and even more lengthy.  In a recent story on this situation written on DLF, we aren’t expecting a quick resolution.  Forte has millions to lose by not signing his tag, but the Bears have prepared for this possibility through the acquisition of Michael Bush who, not surprisingly, is garnering praise with every run or reception thus far in camp.

Before succumbing to a sprained knee during week 12 of the 2011 season, Forte was on pace for a personal best in both rushing and receiving yardage.  In PPR formats, he was a typically a very high second round choice and deservedly so.  Fast forward to 2012 and it won’t be long until two things begin taking place:  1)  Forte’s fantasy value will begin to erode and 2)  Concerns about conditioning and game-shape will start appearing.  Fantasy owners don’t like risky situations in early rounds of a start-up draft and until Forte signs, he will be just that.  However, he will also make for an intriguing risk-reward selection as his slide in the second round continues.

Speaking on the topic of his conditioning, no fantasy coach should have significant concerns unless a holdout lasts well into preseason.  In Forte’s case, as he has a franchise tag offer waiting to be signed, he must do so by July 16th or risk not playing at all.  After this date, no new contracts can be forged until the 2012 season comes to a conclusion.  Don’t expect the Bears to offer an extension.  For Forte, it’s a one year deal or it’s the couch on Sundays.

If and when Forte does sign on the dotted line and gets into camp, he’ll be back in the top ten within his position once again.  Currently, he sits at the RB8 in DLF’s consensus rankings.  At 26 years of age, we see no great reason to downgrade his value just yet.  Note that with the offseason acquisition of Michael Bush, Forte’s touches are certain to be reduced to some degree.

Michael Bush

The Bears knew exactly what they were doing when they signed the extremely capable Bush.  The 241 pound bulldozer of a back brings not only an effective downhill running style, but also has notably soft hands out of the backfield, providing a dual threat that could provide the every-down component needed should Forte’s holdout continue into the season.  Recently turning 28 years old (6/16/84), Bush will likely finish out his career in Chicago and should have a role regardless of Forte’s status.

If starter Matt Forte’s contract does extend into the regular season, Bush becomes a high profile back who could flirt with the top ten in production within his position.  In PPR leagues, Bush’s value is further increased due to his ability to bring in multiple receptions per game.

An acquisition of Bush in your fantasy draft is a risky proposition and he’s best taken as a handcuff for Forte owners, but his production upside due to injury or holdout is as good as they come.

Kahlil Bell

Bell filled in admirably when called upon following Forte’s knee sprain. In Bell’s final three games, he managed to produce 55 carries for 240 yards in addition to 14 receptions, 109 yards and one touchdown.  For you home gamers, that’s over a 4.3 yards per carry average and, despite scoring no touchdowns on the ground, was enough to provide real promise for the future.  Sadly, at least for Bell and his owners, the Bears secured the services of Michael Bush to carry the load should Forte’s contract situation lead him to hold out, which has ultimately transpired.  Bell now returns to a full backup role and may be largely off of fantasy radars altogether if and when Forte eventually returns.  Third on the depth chart, Bell likely won’t have any fantasy value in 2012, but with a contract due to expire in  early 2013 and being only 25 years of age, he provides nice upside for a patient owner.

At 5’11” and 219 pounds, Kahlil Bell has shown plenty enough to land a new contract early next year and vie for a starting role in the right situation.

Wide Receivers

Brandon Marshall

If there was ever a character enigma in the NFL, Brandon Marshall is fit to be its poster child.  What can’t be questioned is Marshall’s ability to be productive when the lights come on.  With over 1,000 yards in his last five years and 32 touchdowns during that span, Marshall has the talent to be a low end WR1 in any fantasy offense.  His inconsistency makes for a safer WR2 player, but 2012 may have  a surprise in store.  Marshall’s finest years came while still in Denver receiving passes from Jay Cutler.  In his last year in Denver, Marshall managed to score ten touchdowns and his third straight 100 reception season.  What followed was a quick exit out of Denver in 2010, when he was shipped to Miami where he saw his touchdown total immediately take a hit with just three the following year.

Now reunited in Chicago with Cutler, Marshall’s allure is returning if not at least until the season begins.  We fully expect this change of scenery will greatly benefit both Cutler and Marshall and reward both existing and would-be Marshall owners with a return to low-end WR1 production.

…. as long as he doesn’t get stabbed again.

Devin Hester

The fantasy community is tired of waiting.  Hester is, again, said to be having a phenomenal camp and everyone in camp is buzzing about the possibilities.

With 2011 marking his third year of declining receptions and receiving yards, Hester’s best value is on special teams, where he’s able to use his dynamic speed-agility combination to chew up return yardage.  With the addition of both Brandon Marshall and the rookie Alshon Jeffery, Hester’s value will continue to fall, even in return yardage leagues.  Hester remains a perennial upside sleeper target  but we can’t suggest that status any longer.  We’ll believe it when we see it.

Earl Bennett

Much like Hester above, Bennett has teased fantasy coaches with the possibilities since being reunited with his college quarterback, Jay Cutler.  But in each year from 2009, Bennett’s receptions and fantasy productivity have continued to drop, as have his games played due to injury.  Bennett is said to be experiencing a great camp thus far in 2012, but camp performance doesn’t equate to fantasy productivity.  With more receiving choices vying for attention in Chicago, Bennett will have to be content with a fantasy sleeper tag once again.  But, again like Hester, we won’t be applying that tag to him here.

We’d select Bennett ahead of Hester in most cases, but it’s a 50/50 proposition as to who will have the best year.  Caveat Emptor.

Alshon Jeffery

Currently twelfth on our rookie consensus rankings, Alshon Jeffery brings some further level of excitement and mystery to the receiving corps.   With great size and superb hands, Jeffery is as acrobatic as they come out of college.  Speed is a concern and Jeffery doesn’t play fast on tape.  Furthermore, for a receiver of his size, he is not a physical talent and is frequently jammed at the line of scrimmage or pushed off his route.  Some have questioned his work ethic, but he’ll get a fresh start in Chicago with a fresh set of expectations.  His fantasy outlook for 2012 is underwhelming, but in time, Jeffery has much of what is needed to be a physically imposing receiving threat in the NFL.

Johnny Knox

The most important thing here is that Knox is recovering well from his brutal and scary back injury.  He’s acknowledged that his 2012 season is in doubt, but that he will be carrying on with his football career and training hard to return.  He’s off the fantasy radar for now and we’ll revisit him in 2013.

Dane Sanzenbacher

A Wes Welker type of player without the skill or dynamic, Sanzenbacher is likely to find himself waived in camp.  He’ll be in a battle with Devin Thomas for the last roster spot, but he shouldn’t be on your radar.

Devin Thomas

His size and speed will likely be enough for him to beat out the above-mentioned Sanzenbacher for the last receiver spot, but he shouldn’t register any fantasy consideration.

Tight Ends

Kellen Davis

We focused on Davis in our sleeper selection for the Bears.

Evan Rodriguez

An undersized fourth round selection with good speed (4.57), Rodriguez isn’t a good bet to see significant time in the offense in his first year or register any significant fantasy production.  In a movement across the NFL looking for smaller, faster tight ends, Rodriguez was selected in that mold and could see some time in two tight end sets.  He’ll be a deep rookie selection and is a long shot to to produce.

Matt Spaeth

Nothing to see here as Spaeth is specifically an in-line blocking tight end.

Jeff Haverlack
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