2020 Summer Sleeper: Chicago Bears

Jeff Smith

In our annual 32-part Summer Sleeper series, DLF scribes identify a lightly-touted player on each NFL roster who may be worthy of your consideration. Our subjects all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but each merits a bit of in-depth discussion here in the Premium Content section.

To help everybody along, we are going to be categorizing our sleepers under one of three headings:

Super Deep SleepersPlayers who aren’t roster-worthy in 12-team leagues, but are still worth keeping an eye on.
Deep Sleepers – An end of the roster player who is more often than not on the waiver wire in 12-team leagues.
Sleeper – A likely rostered player who makes for a good trade target. Their startup ADP puts them out of the top-175 or so.

Because we aren’t going to give you the likes of mainstream sleepers, most of these players will undoubtedly fizzle. All we are asking is for you to keep an open mind and perhaps be willing to make room for one of these players on your bench. You never know when the next Adam Thielen is going to spring up. Feel free to add your own thoughts about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own in the comments below.

The Chicago Bears offense took a huge step back in 2019, ranking 29th in total offense, just one season after finishing ninth. The quarterback situation is fluid with Nick Foles being brought in via trade to push a struggling Mitchell Trubisky.

The decline in offensive production resulted in an 8-8 finish and disappointment all around Halas Hall, prompting them to send a fourth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire the aforementioned Foles.

The newly-obtained quarterback has a history with Bears head coach Matt Nagy, as they spent time together in Philadelphia in 2012 and again in Kansas City in 2016.

With change, comes opportunities for new players to get involved in the attack…

Artavis Pierce, RB

Category: Super Deep Sleeper

Pierce is a UDFA to keep an eye on in the Windy City this summer. There is little else on the depth chart behind David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen and Pierce should make the roster, despite training camps being limited this off-season.

An injury to either of the top two backs or another unspectacular start for Montgomery could open the door for the rookie who has some serious upside. Despite never truly owning the backfield due to various injuries while at Oregon State, there were bursts of solid production throughout Pierce’s four-year stint in Corvallis. Former collegiate teammate Ryan Nall is the only other running back listed on the chart and he only saw two carries for eight yards in 2020. Gone is backup Mike Davis.

All told, Pierce averaged 6.1 yards per touch, including a career-high of 8.1 in 2018. That season, Pierce started well before an elbow injury derailed what could have been a coming-out party for the 24-year-old. The first two games saw the versatile back combine for 259 yards rushing on just 22 attempts, adding three touchdowns and another four catches for 47 yards. These stats were not racked up against cupcakes, either. In week one, he torched the Ohio State defense for 168 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries.

An invite to the combine never found its way to the mailbox, but Pierce’s pro day numbers were solid. He ran a 4.47-second 40-yard-dash. This would have placed the running back in a T5 (out of 30 RB) with Cam Akers at the position. His other measurements were solid, not spectacular.

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Data courtesy of beaversedge.com.

His speed was on clear display in the 2018 game against the Buckeyes.

The multifaceted back first made his appearance on DLF when our very own Ken Kelly broke down some potential UDFAs who had a shot to make some noise. In that article, Ken provided a couple of helpful articles breaking it down a bit more. Those can be found here and here.

Both blurbs essentially talk about Pierce’s path to success because of his abilities in the passing game, performing well above average at catching the ball and pass blocking. All told, he snared 74 catches over the four years in college, good for 578 yards (7.8 yards per catch).

There is not a lot of wear and tear on the longshot running back. A look at the full numbers shows just 440 attempts but also shows how efficient he was on a per touch basis.

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Data courtesy of Sports Reference.

Pierce was a three-star recruit out of Auburndale, Florida, and received offers from 13 different schools such as Arizona, Cincinnati, Utah State, and Western Kentucky.

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Image courtesy of Rivals.

At 5’11” and 190 pounds, there have been some loose comparisons to Austin Ekeler. They are similar in stature and neither was drafted in their respective draft classes. Ekeler did go the small school route, playing for NCAA Division II Western Colorado, and put up insane numbers per attempt in his own right.

Pierce currently has no ADP, and is going as deep as RB82 in startup leagues and 18 deep in rookie drafts. That does not mean you should ignore him altogether. If you are in a deep league and looking for an end-of-the-bench stash, he may just be your man.

If I have not done enough to convince you to at least consider Pierce, I’ll leave you with one last clip of highlights to change your mind.



jeff smith