Training camp is here! Before we get to draft season, I wanted to go through the NFC North and look at players whom you might want to keep an eye on to see where their fantasy football value is trending. We’ve already looked at the Detroit Lions that you can check out here:
These players can either be trending towards fantasy relevance or complete irrelevance. This article addresses players who are in the latter group.
We’ll look at three players from the Chicago Bears who should be targeted or worth taking a flier on. You can also check out who to consider avoiding from the Bears here. Fantasy season is just around the corner, and it’s time to start building those big boards.
Jordan Howard, RB
Somehow, I feel like Howard is being overlooked as a viable fantasy option. He’s not Alvin Kamara in the passing game (only 52 catches in two seasons), but he’s a low-floor prospect. Drafting Howard should be an obvious choice because he’s a starting running back who’s guaranteed to get rushing reps. His current ADP is hovering around pick 15, so easily a #2 back on your roster.
In Howard’s rookie year, he had 252 carries that resulted in 1,313 yards on the ground and six touchdowns. That was also after just 13 starts at the position. So in his sophomore year, you have to think that momentum was building, right? Well, not when the Bears turned the reigns over to a rookie quarterback and we watched John Fox’ stale offense run Howard into the back of the offensive line over and over. With more run-pass options in Matt Nagy’s offense, hopefully that’ll open things up for Howard.
Where Howard needs to improve from a fantasy point, is finding the end zone. Of course, that’s an issue the Bears offense had all last season. Howard had nine TDs last season, but if he wants to crack the top-10 in backs he’ll need to either crack 14 touchdowns on the ground or pick up the slack grabbing TDs through the air (0 receiving TDs in 2017). Tarik Cohen could be an impediment on Howard’s receiving stats, but at least you know Howard’s good for 1,000 yards rushing.
Tarik Cohen, RB
Speaking of Tarik Cohen, other than Mark Ingram, Cohen might be the best handcuff option in the league. Towards the end of last season, Cohen got more touches and capitalized on the opportunity. In a secondary role, he put together 370 yards on the ground and 353 through the air. Cohen might not be as explosive as Tyreek Hill was for Nagy in Kansas City, but the speedy back feels he’s faster than a 4.4 40. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Cohen lined up in the slot every so often while Howard is still positioned in the backfield. He also has kick return potential which helps his fantasy prospects.
Cohen’s current ADP is in the seventh round (~pick 82) so the value here could be tremendous. You’ll have to monitor how he’s being utilized in summer practices and the preseason before you plug him in as a FLEX option, but keep an eye on him.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB
I’ve done my best to avoid the hyperbole of a young quarterback making that second-year leap a la Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. When I started writing about the fantasy value of Bears players this season, I even tried to make the case for not drafting Mitch Trubisky.
And then I ended up talking myself into him instead.
The case for Trubisky at least being a little bit better can be made exclusively with the addition of new head coach and offensive-mind, Matt Nagy and OC Mark Helfrich, who has experience working with athletic QBs. But the case for him being a lot better goes like this: Trubisky is free of the shackles of the stale John Fox offense that didn’t utilize his athleticism; Chicago will have competent, healthy weapons; and he will have the full support of the organization to start from week one.
While he had some rough games last season against some solid defenses (three picks against the Lions, two against the Eagles), there were spurts of good quarterback play that you like to see out of a rookie.
In Trubisky’s first preseason game last season, we saw glimpses of what we should see more of this season. Trubisky can make the short and intermediate throws with relative ease. His best plays during that scrimmage, though, came from when he’s moving outside the pocket and he just looks more comfortable delivering the passes on the move than standing in the pocket while the pressure comes in.
In his first career start, Trubisky performed well against a team whose blitzes should induce nightmares for first-time NFL starters. Other than a terrible fourth-quarter interception, the throws were all there for Trubisky and the lack of receiver talent was noticeable.
Trubisky made something out of nothing quite a few times, had a little luck on his first career TD pass, and showcased his athleticism on a trick two-point conversion. Again, the glimpses of being a starting-level QB are there.
His deep ball needs to improve, but luckily that’s where the likes of Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and rookie Anthony Miller will help make that look like less of a weakness. Miller averaged 15 YPC during his career at Memphis and looks like someone who can help make a slightly inaccurate deep pass look like it’s exactly where it’s supposed to be. In Robinson’s best year, he averaged 17.5 YPC as a pro and Gabriel’s 40 time is 4.27. Defenses will have a much more difficult time covering all these guys than the pass catchers the Bears trotted out last season.
Trubisky’s draft position is hovering around the 14th round, pick 172. Place kickers are going ahead of him. So this is the perfect opportunity to take a flier on a backup QB that might be poised to have a breakout year.