Ambiguous Backfield Breakdowns: Chicago Bears

Hutchinson Brown

Welcome to the final installment of my series on ambiguous backfields in dynasty fantasy football. Today, I’ll be focusing on the Chicago Bears.

Khalil Herbert

The fantasy football community finally has a chance to see Herbert to do something special in the NFL. After doing very little in the first four years of his college career, he put up over 1,100 rushing yards on 154 attempts, nearly eight yards a carry, and was able to sneak into the end of the draft. The Chicago Bears selected him 217th overall.

Since then, he has excelled in flashes for the putrid Bears offense. This year, with David Montgomery joining the Lions, he has a big opportunity ahead. The question must arise: Is he worth the selection in dynasty drafts?

Dynasty ADPword image 1446045 1

Herbert’s dynasty value has gone up, but he’s still considered a risky pick. However, I believe he’s worth the gamble. He has proven through the off-season that he is the leader of this backfield. At the same time, his new competition has shown they can make an impact, and along with Justin Fields and his running capabilities that may be enough to keep him out of fantasy football greatness. His cost bakes that all in though and then gives you a discount, he is worth the risk at his dynasty ADP.

Future Outlook

Some individuals may argue that Herbert is undeserving of a starting role and not worth your attention. However, I disagree with that notion based on his performance. He is 5’9″ and weighs 215 pounds, which is sufficient for handling a significant workload as a running back in the league. Specifically last season, he averaged 5.7 yards per carry overall on the season and had four games with 14 or more opportunities. In those games, he finished as the RB1, the RB15, the RB18, and the RB26. Even against stringent defenses like New England and Dallas, he shined. In the times he has gotten the opportunity, he has simply crushed it.

Although the Bears added Roschon Johnson in the fourth round of the draft and an aging veteran in D’Onta Foreman, they could have strengthened their running back position further if they had doubts about Herbert. With the most cap space in the NFL this off-season and a lot of high-value draft capital, they had the opportunity to acquire a more formidable player. Additionally, reports from Ian Rapaport suggest that Jonathan Taylor was available for trade, but Chicago was not interested.

After analyzing all of the available information, it is evident that the Bears trust Herbert’s abilities before training camp. He has consistently been given the majority of first-team reps during both training camp and preseason, indicating that their confidence in him has not wavered. In week one of preseason he took every single first-team rep. He is the RB1 on this offense.

While I do believe Herbert is the leader, that does not immediately make him a workhorse. In week three of the preseason, the rookie Roschon Johnson was on the field on third down on the first two opening drives with the first-teamers. If that is the case of how the regular season looks, that leaves Herbert in a role with less opportunity for passing work. When you take into account his average draft cost, he still offers solid value. Herbert could still be a great fantasy option at running back even with his touches being limited due to the lack of workhorse running backs in the league. There are essentially none of them anymore.

One last thing to mention is that there is a world where he is not good with a full-time role in the offense. We have never seen that from him yet in the NFL, so it is not unreasonable to say that he could completely flop with a sizeable role this season. If that is true, Johnson could quickly go from a third-down back to becoming the lead back. Herbert seems to have the lead job for now but that does not mean he will keep it if he is outperformed.

Roschon Johnson

Johnson had a solid career in Texas behind the shadow of Bijan Robinson. He never got an opportunity to shine with a big role, but with the limited touches he got he flashed some talent and earned himself day three draft capital. In all honesty, he seemed like a solid but not special player. He never showed any impressive speed, but seemed like a solid and sturdy running back.

He went to a situation in Chicago where we have an ambiguous backfield, while some may think he will be the lead back, I would be very cautious to believe that.

Dynasty ADPword image 1446045 2

Where he is going is not incredibly expensive. Like all players, he was drafted for a reason. He is absolutely also worth the dart throw at his current draft spot, but if I were on the clock and he and Herbert were there, it would be Herbert all day. For now, he is the one with the lead role.

Future Outlook

Johnson has quite an interesting future outlook. For now, he is not the leader of the backfield. As long as Herbert continues to earn his role the fourth-rounder in Johnson likely will not eat into his workload significantly.

Even if Johnson gets to have the third down role as he did recently with the starters in preseason, that will not be prevalent in fantasy football. We love running backs getting third-down roles due to the pass-catching upside that lies there, but Fields is arguably the best running quarterback in the league. He tends not to dump off to the running back position and will take the ball himself for that first down most times he is under pressure.

However, there is still a small opportunity for Johnson to be the primary back for this team. Firstly, if Herbert ever goes down to injury he is right there waiting for a bigger role. If he proves a lot he may earn a larger role in the offense.

The running back in his third year is at risk of losing his starting position if he makes mistakes or has a few bad games. The Bears drafted Herbert on day three and he is currently on a rookie contract, so there is little investment in him. If it becomes necessary, the team should not hesitate to make a change and give Johnson a chance to perform. If Herbert struggles, Johnson could potentially take over the lead role in the backfield by the end of the season.

D’Onta Foreman

Although I won’t write a full piece on Foreman, I want to note that he is emerging as the third-string running back in the offense. He has flashed within the last couple of seasons with other teams but the Bears seem to want to invest in Herbert and Johnson over him. It is unlikely the veteran carves out a role for himself in this offense that is significant for fantasy. Herbert and Johnson are easily the most likely candidates for that job. Foreman is still someone to watch, just in case he finds a role, but it seems unlikely.

Khalil Herbert vs Roschon Johnson vs D’Onta Foreman

Between these three running backs, the choice for me is Herbert all the way. Based on training camp, based on pre-season, and based on what he has done in the league, he is the clear candidate to be the lead of this backfield. It looks like the current favorite for the job may lose it if Johnson performs well in his limited snaps during third down, making him a valuable asset for fantasy football. Foreman appears to be the third-string running back and won’t have much fantasy value unless there are injuries.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you have not checked out the rest of this series that has already been posted, go back and check them out! I wish you all the best of luck this upcoming fantasy football season.

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Ambiguous Backfield Breakdowns: Chicago Bears