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2010 Fantasy outlooks: Chicago Bears

Senior Fantasy Writer
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A 7-9 season in 2009 nearly led to the firing of head coach Lovie Smith, but his job was saved so long as the Bears' offense got a makeover. After courting several coordinators, Chicago settled on Mike Martz, whose aggressive, pass-happy style fits in perfectly with the team's best player: quarterback Jay Cutler.

But the Bears didn't stop there, breaking the bank for the first time in franchise history by signing free-agent defensive end Julius Peppers away from Carolina. They also spent aggressively by landing rusher Chester Taylor from Minnesota and blocking tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (a Martz disciple) from San Diego. They also re-acquired safety Chris Harris from Carolina via trade. The Bears also get back linebacker Brian Urlacher from a freak wrist injury that sidelined him for all but one half of one game last year.

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Really, the Bears didn't lose much in the way of personnel as they improved their depth this offseason. Though Martz's wild scheme means that nearly everyone on offense had to start over with a new system and playbook, they've had time to adjust and learn. As for the defense, they're still under the guidance of Smith, who will call the defensive plays while acting as head coach for the second year in a row. Adding a fierce pass rusher in Peppers and an underrated safety in Harris will only make his job easier.

Sleeper ... Chester Taylor, RB

Look, the Bears didn't sign Taylor to a $12.5 million deal with $7 million guaranteed on the first day of free agency to have him watch Matt Forte regain his form. Forte might be the odds-on favorite to start and certainly will see a good amount of work, but Taylor is who my money is on to be the better Fantasy choice. Taylor hasn't taken on a ton of work over the past couple of years and should max out at around 150-to-175 total touches before the end of the year. Forte shouldn't get sizably more, yet he will be taken first in drafts -- potentially with a fourth-round pick. Taylor, meanwhile, can be had much later and be, in my opinion, almost identical in production. The catch is, both Bears running backs will take work away from each other, and Martz's track record with running backs not named Faulk is awfully spotty. But of the two, Taylor is the better value on Draft Day as well as a candidate to play better than his middle- to late-round pick status suggests.

Fantasy value chart
Player Draft Day value
Quarterbacks
Jay Cutler
Running Backs
Matt Forte
Chester Taylor
Wide Receivers
Devin Aromashodu
Devin Hester
Johnny Knox
Tight Ends
Greg Olsen
Kicker/DST
Robbie Gould
Bears DST

Breakout ... Devin Aromashodu, WR

If you paid attention about a year ago, Cutler told anyone who would listen that Aromashodu was a special talent. But a hamstring injury late last preseason threw off his timetable, and the Bears didn't put him back on the field until they had to replace an injured Devin Hester. Aromashodu blew up stat boxes with 22 receptions for 282 yards and four touchdowns in four late-season games against the Packers, Ravens, Vikings and Lions. So long as Aromashodu stays healthy this summer, he'll be given plenty of opportunities to land some deep balls as part of Martz's offense. That's something that everyone -- especially Cutler -- should be thrilled with.

Bust ... Greg Olsen, TE

Martz's offense has been known for involving receivers, not tight ends. Olsen might tell the media that he's fine with his role, but unless Martz has had a real change of heart over the last couple of years we expect Olsen to take a pretty big step back this season. Not helping his cause has been the development of Hester, Aromashodu and Johnny Knox, all of whom have impressed this offseason. Heck, even second-year unknown Juaquin Iglesias has improved his game. What do they have in common? They're wide receivers, and they are expected to be the guys who catch Cutler's tosses in 2010. Not Olsen. With the wide array of tight end talent around the NFL heading into the season, it's not only sensible to pass on Olsen as a reliable No. 1 option, but it's easy, too.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
DET @DAL GB @NYG @CAR SEA WAS bye vBUF MIN @MIA PHI @DET NE @MIN NYJ @GB

The Bears have it rough in 2010, especially toward the end of the season. They have more than their fair share of tough run defenses to face off against -- the Vikings and Packers twice each, the Jets, the Dolphins and the Cowboys all offer tough challenges for their evolving offensive line and two-headed rushing attack. This simply furthers the argument that they will throw a ton, likely putting a smile on Martz's face.

Training camp topics

2009 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Matt Forte 315
Devin Hester 63
Greg Olsen 60
Earl Bennett 54

No one in Bears camp is badmouthing Martz's offense, but it remains to be seen which players gravitate to it seamlessly and which players struggle with it. We like the initiative some players are taking -- for instance Hester sought out Isaac Bruce and will huddle with him to break down what the receiver's role is in Martz's system this summer before camp. Hester is another player with a lot to live up to, so hopefully that meeting goes a long way.

The arrival of Taylor should push Forte to work harder. Forte has already said this offseason that he's healthier and happier than he was entering camp last year, and with hamstring injuries behind him he's ready to recapture his rookie-season form. Forte has good size and has the hands Martz is looking for from his rushers, but so does Taylor. How they split reps early on in camp might forecast some reasonable expectations for both men.

But no one has more expectations than Cutler, who arguably could have the strongest arm of any passer Martz has coached up. The impressive franchise marks Cutler set last season for pass attempts (first) and passing yards (second) might be shattered this season given the nature of the stats quarterbacks have in this downfield scheme. It will take a lot of work to make that happen, but there is no guarantee that Cutler's interception rate will drop, especially since he'll be putting the ball up a lot.

Expect the Bears defense to be asked to bail the team out of tough spots this season. In addition to all of those tough run defenses they'll face, the Bears will also take on their fair share of top-tier quarterbacks. That's going to mean that Peppers will have to do a lot of chasing around in the backfield during the year -- if he fails to deliver, the entire Bears team will suffer. But if he's as good as he's been, the defense could be one of the top units in the game. He'll have the same effect on them as he had on his mates in Carolina, and he should mesh with his new team early on this summer to create a perfect transition. The Bears can't afford to have it any other way.

Injury update

Matt Forte (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Earl Bennett (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Brandon Manumaleuna (knee; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Brian Urlacher (wrist; probable for the start of training camp) ... Charles Tillman (ribs; probable for the start of training camp) ... Garrett Wolfe (kidney; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Israel Idonije (foot; probable for the start of training camp).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Marcus Lattimore eager to start pro career
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4/20/2014) 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore is ready to start his proffesional career. After blowing out his knee in a gruesome injury in October of 2012 at South Carolina, Lattimore told The State on Sunday that his knee rehab is complete and that he's "ready to play."

Lattimore, who will attend the first day of the team's offseason workouts, will enter a crowded backfield with Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James already backing up current starter Frank Gore. However, James has expressed his desire for a bigger role and could be dealt, opening the door for the No. 3 spot in the backfield.

"If that happens, it does put me in that No. 3 spot," Lattimore said. "But I've just got to go in there and work hard. I can pass-protect and run the ball. I've got to show that."


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(4/18/2014) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


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(4/18/2014) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

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"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

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Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
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(4/18/2014) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


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(4/18/2014) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


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(4/18/2014) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

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The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


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