Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the regular season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.
Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”
I feel the need to preface this article by letting you know I’m a Chicago Bears fan. At times, this makes me biased, and other times I feel like I have more insight. I was completely wrong about the 2016 Chicago Bears. With the free agent signings and draft classes, I thought they would hover around .500 in 2016 with an outside shot of the playoffs. Four starting quarterbacks later, Chicago only won three games. But don’t let that fool you into thinking they don’t have some bright spots for your dynasty rosters.
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During his two previous regimes, Fox has an average increase of wins of 4.5 in his second year with a team. However, Chicago decreased by three in 2016 and some thought Fox was on the hot seat. He signed a four-year contract and ownership didn’t want to pay the last two years of his deal for free, especially because they were paying for free years of Marc Trestman from when he was head coach of the Bears. If Fox and company cannot improve this team by a good margin in 2017, then he may be asked to leave and ownership would be on the hook for only one year of his deal. Despite 2017 being a crucial year for Fox, he is bringing back his coordinators.
Questions arose when Loggains was retained as Chicago’s offensive coordinator for 2017. He abandoned the run despite it being a strength, and his offense wasn’t run through star receiver Alshon Jeffery. I’m willing to give Loggains some slack considering he was down to his fourth string quarterback by the end of the season, Kevin White missed most of the year, starting center Hroniss Grasu was lost in training camp, and other injuries racked up. While every team endures hardship, expecting success from a third or fourth string is too much. Loggains is young (36) and has a quarterback coaching background. Therefore, he may have an integral part in grooming Chicago’s quarterback of the future.
1059 passing yards 59.1% 4 TD 5 INT
2016 was a forgetful season for Cutler as he only played in five games and suffered two serious injuries causing him to miss multiple games. His numbers were fairly pedestrian as well. Cutler did set a milestone in 2016 many probably expected much earlier in his career. He threw more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four). His interception percentage has actually been worse in two other seasons, but Cutler has improved over his career.
But wait! Before you classify me as a “Cutler homer” as Izzy Elkaffas has done, read two critical articles I have written based on film study about Jay Cutler. You can read one on DLF and the other on Matt Waldman’s RSP. I like to think of myself as one of the most informed people regarding Cutler because I get to see him often. Cutler had one of his second-lowest interception percentages of his career in 2015. In fact, he only threw more than one interception in one game that whole season – not what you expected, right? Cutler had two of his four highest touchdown percentage seasons in 2013 and 2014. His top two completion percentage seasons were in 2014 and 2015. Cutler also had two of his three highest yards per attempt seasons in 2015 and 2016.
In the end, Cutler is an average to bottom half NFL starting quarterback. If you expect more when you watch him, you’ll be disappointed. If you expect him to be terrible, you’ll be disappointed as well. He has a great arm, but flaws to his game. I would now classify him as injury prone, as he’s only started all 16 games three times in his 11-year career.
The Bears will likely move on from Cutler his off-season as it would only cost 3 million to release him. He turns 34 in April, and has likely run his course in Chicago as they’re rebuilding. I fully expect him to be a starting quarterback for another franchise in the future if he fully recovers from the shoulder injury.
1445 passing yards 67% 6 TD 0 INT
After watching Hoyer start six games in 2016, I coined him as “captain check down”. His overall numbers look solid because he passed for over 300 yards in four straight games, however 56% of his passing yards came from when Chicago was trailing, and so did 67% of his touchdowns. 65% of Hoyer’s passing yardage came from passes traveling ten yards or less. 88% of his passing yardage traveled less than 20 yards down the field – defenses didn’t really fear Hoyer stretching the field vertically in 2016. He’s 32 years old and a free agent. I don’t see him threatening for a starting job in the NFL, but could still be a good backup.
1611 passing yards 59.7% 8 TD 14 INT
The Matt Barkley story gave hope for a small part of the season. After all, Chicago signed him to the practice squad on September fourth and he produced solidly given the lack of experience in the system and time with the starters. Some discussed Barkley as potentially coming back to compete for the starting job in 2017. However, he fell apart the last few games of the season, throwing ten interceptions. I saw his confidence grow and he showed flashes of his college glory, but he will go into 2017 as a backup and it might not be in Chicago as he’s also a free agent.
252 carries for 1313 yards 6 TDs, 29 receptions on 50 targets for 298 yards 1 TD
What an incredible story Howard has. He loses his father at the age of 12 and goes to college at University of Alabama-Birmingham. He runs for 1587 yards as a sophomore, but the football program gets shut down and he transfers to Indiana. There, he only plays in nine games due to injury, but runs for 1213 yards. Due to a pedestrian to poor combine, Howard falls to the fifth round of the NFL Draft. He doesn’t play in week one and is only used sparingly the next two weeks until Jeremy Langford gets injured. His first start comes in week four, and he never relinquishes the role.
Howard was second in the NFL in rushing yardage, and ran for over 100 yards in seven different games. He accomplished this feat on a three-win bears team and after only 12 carries through the beginning three games of the season. It was simply incredible. Howard was even second in the NFL in yards per attempt at 5.2 as well (among the top 22 rushers).
On the field, he is an incredibly strong runner with great determination, but the most underrated trait is his vision. He does a fantastic job of pressing a hole, reading the defense, and cutting back if the opportunity presents itself. This is what allowed him to have ten runs of 20+ yards in 2016, tied for third in the NFL (and ahead of Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson to name a few).
The future is extremely bright for Howard. Most don’t realize that Chicago secretly has one of the top interior offensive lines in the NFL, but the combination of Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long was only together for four of Jordan Howard’s games in 2016. Add in the fact that he only had six rushing touchdowns and it’s easy to see Howard’s numbers could actually improve in 2017 by a solid margin. He’s only 22 years old and should be highly valued in dynasty leagues.
62 carries for 200 yards 4 TDs, 19 receptions on 27 targets for 142 yards 0 TD
The door was left wide open after Langford suffered a high ankle sprain in week three against Dallas. He was only averaging 3.7 yards per carry before suffering the injury, and won’t get the main rushing role back. He’s best used as a change of pace back and Chicago trusted him enough in the passing game to send 27 targets his way in limited duty. Honestly, this is the best way to use Langford due to his skillset. He has good burst and speed in space, but has trouble with power, balance, and change of direction between the tackles. Using him in limited fashion will keep him fresh and if they design plays for him in space, Langford still has an outside shot of being fantasy relevant with his second contract or if an injury occurs. Expectations for him should be much lower now.
32 carries for 126 yards 0 TD, 5 receptions on 7 targets for 55 yards 0 TD
I’m impressed with Ka’Deem Carey. He’s a tough runner who gets more yards than he should based on his athletic profile and size because of his determination. I’m afraid he will never get much of a fantasy opportunity in Chicago because of the emergence of Howard, and he likely won’t get much of a chance anywhere else.
52 receptions on 94 targets for 821 yards 2 TDs
2016 will be a year to forget for Alshon Jeffery. I still have nightmares about Jeffery streaking open against the Colts on a fourth and eight, down six points, in the fourth quarter. Brian Hoyer dropped back, Jeffery smoked the cornerback off the line of scrimmage, and the safety moved to the middle of the field. Hoyer let the pass fly, and the Bears were on their way to a win. Except he threw the football into triple coverage to Cameron Meredith. The pass fell incomplete, and the Bears lost another close game.
Jeffery saw seven or less targets each game through week five and then was suspended for four games for performance enhancing drugs. Jeffery was limited to only two touchdowns, which is the lowest in his five year NFL career. The thing that concerns me the most is his lack of usage. Was it Brian Hoyer not preferring Jeffery? The offensive coordinator not scheming plays to Jeffery? Or was Alshon not open and his skills have diminished? Everything I saw on the field in 2016 tells me he can still be a dominant receiver and fantasy football asset. However, changing quarterbacks three times probably didn’t help his situation.
Many people are wondering if Alshon will be back in Chicago, because he’s an unrestricted free agent. The Bears franchise-tagged him in 2016 and it didn’t go as they had planned. They can’t tag him again, right? The Chicago Bears lack talent on their team overall. Letting players of Jeffery’s caliber gone wouldn’t be a good idea. Furthermore, Chicago will have over 80 million dollars in cap space if they release Eddie Royal, Cutler, and don’t re-sign Jeffery. What are they going to do with that money? If they brought Cutler and Jeffery back at 15 million a piece, they would still have 50 million to spend! I don’t see how Chicago can let him go.
66 receptions on 97 targets for 888 yards 4 TDs
Meredith is another great story. He played quarterback to start college before transitioning to wide receiver. He wasn’t drafted, and only played sparingly his rookie year. But Meredith certainly broke out in his second season in 2016. I was completely shocked at how much I liked him in games and on tape. He looks like he could develop into a WR2 for fantasy football and a WR1 for an NFL team.
While his overall numbers may not look amazing, take into account that Brian Hoyer prefered Meredith to Jeffery during his starts. After Hoyer was lost for the season in week seven, the targets were down for four weeks as Barkley was getting caught up to speed. But late in the season, Meredith had eight or more targets in four of the last six games. If you take nothing else from this article, let it be this – acquire Meredith. He’s a solid route runner who works back to the football while it’s in the air and consistently shows the ability to high point, track and use strong hands to bring in contested receptions. At times, Meredith looks like Jeffery out there. He is someone I’m looking to acquire in all of my leagues, and you should as well.
19 receptions on 36 targets for 187 yards 0 TD
Many dynasty owners are tired of Kevin White, and I understand. You spent a lot of capital to either draft or trade for him. He suffered a severe high ankle sprain and fractured fibula in week four this season and a stress fracture caused him to miss his rookie season. I saw an athletic player who has the ability to be a fantasy football producer, but he was pressing in 2016 to make plays and it hurt his overall game. White was emotional and you could tell he wants to be good. This gives me hope for the future, however Meredith’s emergence and Jeffery’s future make this a muddled mess.
33 receptions on 43 targets for 369 yards 2 TDs
Another year, and another injury-riddled season for Royal. He actually showed some resemblance to his former glory at times early in the season. He carries a five million dollar price tag in 2017 and he won’t be back in Chicago.
19 receptions on 38 targets for 282 yards 1 TD
It felt like every target thrown Bellamy’s way had a 50% chance of him dropping it. Therefore, I started to loathe him as the season wore on and when footballs were thrown his way. Just when I lose hope, he would make a decent play. He’s not worth having on dynasty rosters.
22 receptions on 36 targets for 249 yards 2 TDs
Thompson was better than Bellamy in that he flashed a little bit at times. But he turns 28 next month and isn’t worth holding in dynasty.
47 receptions on 64 targets for 486 yards 4 TDs
Another year and another injury for Zach Miller. This guy cannot simply catch a break (yes the pun is intended and I feel bad, but I like to laugh) with all of the injuries in his NFL career. Miller broke his foot and missed the last six games of the 2016 season. Considering the turnover at quarterback, he was consistent from a production standpoint accounting for over 31 yards in nine consecutive games, with three games over 73 yards receiving. Miller remains an athletic talent, but turns 33 next season and I imagine he gets solid competition brought in this off-season.
16 receptions on 20 targets for 124 yards 1 TD
Brown was signed by the Bears in late October, yet found a way to get on the field and flash some ability. He showed me enough to keep him lumped into the lotto ticket category for the starting job next year in Chicago, if they don’t bring anyone else in.
4 receptions on 6 targets for 41 yards 0 TD
He has a great athletic profile for a tight end (4.73 40, 4.2 short shuttle, 6.9 3 cone, 35.5 vertical, and a 10’1” broad jump) but didn’t get a lot of opportunity in 2016 as a rookie. He is one to stash in deep leagues.
3 receptions on 10 targets for 15 yards 0 TD
Paulsen isn’t good at football from a fantasy perspective. How about I save time typing and you save time reading? (Swipe left.)
1 reception on 1 target for 6 yards 0 TD
Pruitt suffered an MCL injury early in the season and was released from the Vikings. Chicago added him late in the season and he could have a chance due to the lack of talent at the position.
Nick can be found on Twitter at @_NickWhalen