The first thing that comes to mind when you think of a team getting rid of Mike Martz is not that they would become more offensive. But that's where we are with the Bears.
Martz is gone as the offensive coordinator, taking with him his deep-drop passing system that nearly got Jay Cutler killed, and he will be replaced by Mike Tice. Cutler is not going to take many seven-step drops this year behind a porous offensive line, and the Bears gave him some new weapons in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Michael Bush.
Cutler has the chance for a solid year, especially being reunited with Marshall, and we like him as a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback with upside. Marshall also projects as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver with the chance to be a No. 1 option even though former Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammed once said that "Chicago is where receivers go to die." Marshall is worth drafting in Round 4 in most formats.
A big key for the Bears on offense will be what happens with Matt Forte and his contract. He was designated as the franchise player this offseason, but he wants a long-term extension. The Bears covered themselves by signing Bush, but Forte is the best player on Chicago's offense and a Fantasy star when healthy.
If Forte has a long holdout then his Fantasy value will plummet and the Bears could struggle. But if he signs a new deal prior to training camp then he can again shine, and the Bears could be tough to stop.
|Player||Draft Day value||Estimated round|
|ND - not expected to get drafted|
Bust ... Matt Forte, running back
Forte's Fantasy value would be in trouble even if he wasn't dealing with a contract situation. The addition of Bush, who had 1,395 total yards and eight touchdowns last year for the Raiders, would already hinder his production. Bush is expected to share carries with Forte, and he will likely work at the goal line. Forte only has one year with double digits in touchdowns, which was as a rookie in 2008 with 12 (he has two seasons with only four), so scoring would be limited. Factor in less rushing yards, and we're talking about his receiving skills having to carry him. On top of that, factor in a potential holdout, and Forte is not looking too attractive as an elite Fantasy option. We saw what happened to Chris Johnson last year with his holdout, but Johnson didn't share carries. If you want to draft Forte in standard leagues then you should probably select him in Round 2, but it's better to wait until Round 3 if possible. His value is higher in PPR formats because he does have at least 51 catches in every year of his career, but I would avoid drafting Forte with an early-round pick because he seems to have more cons than pros this year.
Impact rookie ... Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver
The Bears plan to start Devin Hester opposite Marshall, but we expect Jeffery to be the No. 2 receiver for the Bears, especially with Johnny Knox (back) possibly out for the season. Jeffery has plenty of upside thanks to his size, hands and opportunity. With the Bears likely to lean on Marshall, Jeffery should have plenty of single coverage. The 6-foot-3, 220 pound former standout at South Carolina totaled 179 career receptions for 2,894 yards (16.2 yards per catch) and 22 touchdowns in college. He'll probably take a while to be that productive in the pros, but expectations are growing for him. He's worth a late pick in deeper seasonal drafts, a mid- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and a second-round choice in rookie-only formats.
Sleeper ... Kellen Davis, tight end
If you were to guess who led the Bears in receiving touchdowns in 2011 you likely wouldn't have thought of Davis. But he had five touchdowns while playing in an offense that didn't utilize tight ends as receivers on a regular basis, and he finished with just 18 catches for 206 yards. This year, the Bears have a new offense, and Davis should be much more involved. Davis has tremendous size at 6-foot-7, 267 pounds, and he's a big target for Cutler in the red zone. He could emerge as a Marcedes Lewis-type receiver with minimal catches and yards but a decent amount of touchdowns. Davis isn't worth drafting in the majority of leagues, but he is someone to put on your radar. If he starts off the season playing well then he is someone to add off the waiver wire.
Training camp topics
The last time Cutler played with Marshall was 2008 in Denver, which was the best season of his career. He passed for 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Likewise, Marshall had 206 catches for 2,590 yards and 13 touchdowns during the two years Cutler was his starter. It also helps that joining them will be former Denver coordinator Jeremy Bates, who is an assistant now with the Bears.
|Matt Forte||203 carries, 52 catches|
|Marion Barber||114 carries, 5 catches|
|Kahlil Bell||79 carries, 19 catches|
|Johnny Knox||37 catches|
|Roy Williams||37 catches|
We hope they pick up where they left off, and this passing game has the chance to shine. It should be fun to watch the different wrinkles in the offense with the change from Martz to Tice.
Of course, having Forte in camp will be huge, and Fantasy owners will continue to monitor what develops with his contract. The longer he stays out the worse his value will be and the more owners will start to focus on Bush. If Forte is not a holdout then plan on drafting Bush with a mid-round pick as a No. 3 Fantasy running back.
Cutler (thumb; probable for the start of training camp) ... Jeffery (leg; probable for the start of training camp) ... Johnny Knox (back; doubtful for the start of training camp) ... Brian Urlacher (knee; questionable for the start of training camp)