As per last year, I’ll be sharing projections for every team in the NFL. I use past production in specific roles for each team’s scheme to work out realistic production profiles. You can see how accurate I was in 2017 in my IDP Projection Marking series.
The Bears are finally out from underneath the John Fox cloud and their fans can have hope again. I’m excited to see how it comes together for them.
The team have retained Vic Fangio as their defensive coordinator and will likely retain the same defensive principles, so we’ve got more to work with here than we normally do on a team with a new head coach.
Eddie Goldman in entrenched as the team’s nose tackle. He’s a good player and holds up extremely well against double teams but lacks individual statistical production – as many nose tackles do. He’s unstartable in most leagues but he has name recognition so tends to be on rosters more than he should be.
He also represents a significant injury risk, having played just 1,321 snaps across his three seasons in the league. If he stays fit, he’ll beat the numbers here but that’s by no means a given.
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Akiem Hicks has 75 solo tackles and 15.5 sacks across the last two seasons. That is outstanding production for and end in a 3-4 front. Although that is hugely impressive, he has played over 1,800 snaps during that time compared to 1,664 in the previous three. It’s tough to predict any man of his size will manage to stay on the field for 900 snaps. Let alone a man nearing his 30s. He’s probably a sell if you can get top value.
Behind Hicks, it’s a little muddled but Bullard is the current favourite. Regardless, it’s going to be tough for anyone beyond Hicks to be fantasy relevant across the season.
The Bears used a top ten pick on Roquan Smith and the hype associated with him just went through the roof. He’s being selected as the first IDP in many leagues and going in the top 15 picks most of the time. He’s certainly an extremely good prospect but I don’t see elite production – at least not straight away in Vic Fangio’s system. The reality is that the last time Fangio had a linebacker produce more than 85 solo tackles was 2013 in San Francisco with a 25-year-old Navorro Bowman. You can easily argue Smith is the best talent he’s had since then but I advise caution in 2018.
Behind Smith, Danny Trevathan is the clear starter. Trevathan is a trendy name but has averaged 48 solos per season over the last four years. He’s had trouble staying fit (as many LBs do) and there’s no reason to see that changing as he ages.
Nick Kwiatkoski is still hanging around on far too many rosters as people stash him. Stash him for what exactly? He’s proved he’s a replaceable, average talent and is clearly going to struggle for playing time too. There’s little point owning him.
Leonard Floyd has only played 1,119 snaps in his two seasons as a pro. In that time, he has also recorded 12.5 sacks which is an impressive ratio. If he can stay fit then he has the chance to breakout in 2018. Of course, staying fit is no guarantee (especially with his unusual, tall, skinny physique) but he’s a fine acquisition at this stage in leagues where OLBs are effective.
Aaron Lynch is the starter on the other side at this stage. He impressed in his first two seasons in the league with similar production to Leonard Floyd but has only managed to play 378 defensive snaps since 2015. He’s still only 25 years old and will be excellent value if he can get onto the field.
Only five corners had more than Kyle Fuller’s 60 solo tackles in 2017 – two of whom were rookies. And the reason is simple – Kyle Fuller was targeted more than any other player in the NFL last season. He was thrown at 119 times (7.4 per game) which was ten more than any other player in the league with Adoree’ Jackson on 109. Fuller did finally play well but the fact that multiple oppositions all thought it was an excellent idea to heavily target him cannot be ignored. With his pockets freshly lined with cash, Fuller is very much a cornerback target who could outproduce the numbers here.
Prince Amukamara is often a favoured corner in IDP leagues although he’s averaged just 46 solo tackles across the past four seasons (CB4/5 production). This is a result of him having a cool name and being #tall. He has an opportunity to produce as a likely starter but is not that attractive.
The Bears had two major breakthroughs last season at safety for very different reasons. Eddie Jackson made headlines when he recorded two touchdowns of over 75 yards in a single game and Adrian Amos seized the opportunity to start when Quintin Demps was hurt and had a fantastic season.
Of those two, Amos is the clear target. He plays far closer to the line of scrimmage, which explains his better tackle efficiency. Amos recorded a tackle on 10% of his defensive snaps, Jackson just 6.6%. Jackson put up similar tackle numbers but this was a combination of more playing time and being targeted more as a rookie. Amos should be a far better IDP option moving forward. It’s tempting to argue that Jackson could compensate for his deeper position with additional plays on the ball, but it’s a stretch. Amos managed three PDs and an interception whilst Jackson managed six PDs and two picks. Given Jackson played 385 more snaps than Amos, that’s telling.
Roquan Smith. Regardless of the explanation above, Smith is an awesome prospect at the position. He’s right up there with Reuben Foster a year ago as a top talent who could easily become a star. It might take a year for him to become an elite IDP but it’s very possible.
Eddie Jackson. The hype he received last year is out of all proportion to how well he actually played. He was an inefficient tackler who is a naturally deep option. He’s going to struggle to record elite statistics and in IDP if you’re not a top 20 safety, what value do you really have?
Leonard Floyd. Floyd’s issues have been about health, not play. Since 2012, only eight other players have recorded more sacks than Floyd in their first two pro seasons. He needs to show he can stay healthy but if he can do it, Floyd certainly has double-digit sack potential which means elite potential. He’s being valued fairly conservatively and in big-play leagues he’s a major buy right now.
Some things in the NFL just feel right. The Raiders leading the league in penalties. The Bills running the ball. The Packers with a star QB. And the Bears fielding a top defense. It’s such a major part of the legend surrounding the franchise and as a fan of the league, I really want them to be a competitive, hard-nosed team who can dominate low-scoring games. Let’s hope that some of the players they need to step up manage to do so and it happens this season.
Thanks for reading.