As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Monsters of the Midway.
Under Matt Nagy’s direction, the Chicago Bears, after years of John Fox futility, finally appear to be on an upward trend. What undervalued player is in a favorable position to maul the competition and return handsomely on investment?
Brad – TREY BURTON. Think of the former Eagle as the truculent grizzly from “The Revenant;” the competition prime DiCaprio flesh. He’s not the perfect size, but Burton is slippery in space, athletic, efficient and an overall route technician. In other words, he’s extremely difficult to cover over the middle of the field, particularly when facing zone coverage. On a per opportunity basis with Philly last year, he ranked No. 4 in the category (0.52 fpts/opp in PPR). All he was missing was a steady snap share (31.9% in ’17) and now he has it. Adam Shaheen’s presence is a dauntless roadblock.
Matt Nagy is an aggressor when it comes to attacking defenses between the hashmarks and within 20 yards – slants, digs, sit-down routes. Trubisky, who excelled in two-TE 12-personnel sets last year (9.6 YPA, 50% success rate), meshes impeccably with his head coach’s philosophy. Burton (Anthony Miller too) is sure to be a primary read operating as Travis Kelce in this offense, possibly drawing 18-20 percent of the target share. Record that type of workload and a 65-825-8 season is reachable.
Liz – I really want to say ANTHONY MILLER here. Regular readers will confirm my early enthusiasm for the Memphis product, comparing him to Doug Baldwin in pre-draft articles. And I did go on record during Fantasy Football Live’s NFL draft show, predicting Miller would be this year’s Cooper Kupp from a fantasy standpoint.
Prior to that, however, I went all-in on TARIK COHEN. Upon learning of John Fox’s firing and Matt Nagy’s subsequent hiring, the satellite back shot up my rankings. Flashing early in 2017 (283 total yards over the first three weeks), the North Carolina A&T product illustrated just why he was nicknamed the Human Joystick. Unfortunately, under Fox’s stuck-in-the-mud offense, Cohen’s full potential was woefully untapped.
That figures to change under Nagy, who demonstrated creativity and ingenuity while utilizing Tyreek Hill’s unique skill set last year in Kansas City. Since March, the Bears new HC has been gushing about Cohen, even comparing him to Hill, equating their size, speed, and shiftiness. Nagy has additionally vowed to use the pass-catching back all over the field, noting his route-running savvy and sticky hands.
Make no mistake, the Chiefs former OC will scheme to get Cohen into space, where he knows the diminutive back can wreak havoc (#7 break away run rate as a rookie). The big plays won’t happen every week, but expect them frequently enough to keep Cohen a robust RB3 (with massive upside) overall.
Conversely, which player will be allergic to consistent fantasy outputs like JR Smith is easy put-backs?
Liz – TREY BURTON. Chicago’s big-bodied acquisition is definitely good for the Bears, but it may not be a boom for fantasy owners. How quickly we forget this time last year when pundits were predicting an under-the-radar breakout for the forty-fifth pick in the 2017 draft, Adam Shaheen.
A below average blocker who excels as a pass-catcher, the Ashland product is three inches taller and three years younger than Burton. Recently praised by Nagy for having “natural hands” and an impressive catch radius, Shaheen will draw targets. He may not be the team’s “U,” and he’s certainly behind Burton on the depth chart, but make no mistake that the sophomore TE will cut into Burton’s workload. Factor in looks for Anthony Miller, Tarik Cohen, and Taylor Gabriel, and Burton’s opportunities aren’t near as robust as his fantasy price tag.
Brad – ALLEN ROBINSON. Full transparency, when the Bears signed Robinson this offseason, I, as an unwavering fan of the franchise, raised a pumped fist. The club, which featured a ragtag receiving corps last season, desperately needed a jolt. With Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Burton and Cohen aboard and with a tireless offensive mastermind at the controls, Chicago finally has the look of a potent vertical offense.
However, the overall upgrades combined with the expanded multi-dimensional role of Cohen likely means target diversification is in order. Robinson will likely lead the team in looks, but what’s a realistic target share? 19-22 percent feels right. Throw in the receiver’s gradual recovery from ACL surgery and pricey ADP (40.0, WR17) and doubts creep in. His ceiling is likely 75-1000-7. Meanwhile his floor is much, much lower. Tread lightly. Similarly priced WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Demaryius Thomas and future Mr. Universe winner, Josh Gordon, rank higher on my list.
Do your best Jim Cantore (of Weather Channel fame) impression. What percentage chance will Mitchell Trubisky make stats rain and finish inside the position’s top-15?
Brad – 63 PERCENT. While people, me included, scream through a megaphone Patrick Mahomes is destined to break out, Trubisky quietly continues to hang in the late-round shadows. Despite the modest amount of hype tied to the passer, he, like Mahomes, has a robust chance to penetrate the QB1 ranks in 12-team leagues.
Again, in an offense that’s slated to 70-80 percent mirror the Chiefs’ version under Nagy, Trubisky meshes with it like mustard does a hot dog (Come at me ketchup fans). He’ll thrive in the scheme’s numerous 12-personnel looks (24% of time in KC last year). Couple that with his sneaky rushing ability – 248 rushing yards a season ago – and major arsenal upgrades and a Jared Goff-like quantum leap in production suddenly seems fathomable. Keep pulling wool over eyes at his 152.3 ADP (QB22).
Liz – 60 PERCENT. He has the weapons. He has the coach. The question is… does have the goods? Averaging 20.6 rushing yards per contest and eight red zone carries (#11), he’s clearly not afraid to use his legs. He can also throw on the run, as evidenced by a solid play-action completion percentage of 63.4 (#16).
Standing tall and delivering in the pocket? That’s where second-year QB’s coach Dave Ragone has to focus. Sure, he’s got a strong arm, but improving his mechanics and pocket awareness are going to be key in Trubisky’s development.
Were the quarterback position not as deep this season, I’d probably say closer to 70 percent, but sneaking into the top-fifteen requires numerous more proven prospects (Wentz, Garoppolo, Cousins, and Goff) to bust.