One of the reasons why the NFL is so big in popularity is the explosion of fantasy football. If you're not thinking about how you are going to draft your team this year, then you are already falling behind the other people in your league.
For the first time in a long time, the Bears are on the verge of putting together an elite offense. New weapons to go with returning players coupled with a new offensive system have fantasy owners looking at the team in a way they haven't in a while.
Whether you are a hardcore Bears fan or a person looking to gain some strategy for an upcoming draft, you should know the best options on the team. Here are five players who will be the Bears' biggest fantasy producers this year.
Without a doubt, this will be the most controversial name on the list. But have an open mind for minute.
Earl Bennett will not be a huge fantasy producer, but his consistency and budding relationship with Jay Cutler could provide insurance to a fantasy owner.
The Bears will get plenty of production from Brandon Marshall, Devin Hester is primed to get better looks and rookie Alshon Jeffery will get some red-zone targets this year. However, Bennett will be the team's most consistent receiver after Marshall.
Bennett will not wow you with his yards or touchdown passes, but in a PPR league he can get you a good 10 to 15 points per game. Ask anybody—if they can get that kind of production out of their flex spot every week in a 10-team league, they will take it.
There is no question Jay Cutler and Bennett have strong chemistry. Last season's performances against the Eagles and Lions when he came back from injury is the kind of Bennett/Cutler tandem you can expect to see.
The two were on a solid run with Bennett picking up 11 receptions for almost 200 yards and a touchdown during those two games. The run was ultimately halted by the Cutler thumb injury. Expect the two healthy players to hook up for right around 45 to 50 receptions this season.
Don't waste a high draft pick on Bennett. In fact, you might not have to waste a pick on him at all. When you need a waiver pickup or injury replacement, he should be a guy you look towards. He will always be a viable third-down option racking up receptions.
Hester has always been an up-and-down fantasy option. Instead, go with the consistency. Go with Earl Bennett.
It's a two-back league nowadays. Most NFL teams carry quality second options who are niche players and tend to rack up some serious fantasy points. Last season, while filling in for Darren McFadden, Michael Bush showed he was more than just a backup.
Matt Forte is still the man on the team and a top running back, but some questions with him allow Bush to be more valuable.
First, of course, is the impending contract situation, which could cause Forte to miss some time in camp or not be in top football shape come the start of the season. Second, his injury concerns have hampered him in two of his four seasons in the NFL.
Last season with the Raiders, Bush put together an impressive year, ranking as a top-50 fantasy player at the end of the season. He finished a shade under 1,000 yards but more importantly had 37 receptions to go along with eight total touchdowns.
If Forte is there in Week 1 and stays healthy all year, don't expect that many rushing yards and receptions from Bush, but he could still come close to those touchdown totals. Forte has always had an inability to punch it in on the goal line, and that could give way to more red-zone and goal-line touches for Bush.
After you have filled in your starting running backs, think of Bush as a solid flex or backup option. Expect new offensive coordinator Mike Tice to use him frequently throughout the year.
The Bears finally got their No. 1 wide receiver. Expect them to use him.
Brandon Marshall is as advertised. A prototypical big receiver who can make plays and take over a football game. Not only will he be big for the Bears' offense this year, but fantasy owners should also be confident when drafting him.
Even with poor quarterback play in Miami, Marshall averaged 83.5 receptions and 1,114 yards a year. That gives you a highly productive player you can count on week in and week out on your fantasy roster. What kept him from being elite over the last two seasons was the lack of touchdowns (only nine total during that time).
Due to his low touchdown numbers in Miami, expect Marshall to be passed over in the first two rounds. He now becomes a serious bargain in Round 3.
His highest yards and receptions totals came with Jay Cutler throwing him the football in Denver. He could conceivably put up close to if not more than 100 receptions for over 1,200 yards and at least 10 touchdowns. Those kinds of numbers would catapult him to elite status.
The only question in a fantasy aspect surrounding Marshall is his teammates. In order to produce those kind of numbers, he is going to need other receivers around him to take pressure and double-teams away. Even still, Marshall should feast off a division with teams carrying suspect secondaries.
A new offense and new toys to play with are all signs pointing to a big year from Jay Cutler. The growing trend is to pick a quarterback in the first two rounds, but you may not have to do so this year.
Last season, a record-tying 10 quarterbacks threw for 4,000 yards, with three going over 5,000. It is a passing league and you no longer have to overpay in your drafts for quarterbacks. Cutler will still be the third quarterback in his division drafted, but that just means he's a steal for you later on.
With the new weapons around Cutler, there is no reason why he can't join the 4,000-yard club. He also showed his ability last year to play smarter football and cut down on the interceptions. Mike Tice is no ball-control coordinator. His years as head coach in Minnesota were filled with big plays from Dante Culpepper and Randy Moss. Cutler and Brandon Marshall could come close to duplicating that.
His offensive line will be the biggest concern for Cutler. If he has the time and can stay healthy, then there is no reason for him not to throw for 4,000 yards to go with at least 25 touchdowns. He is going to have to put the ball in the air to keep up with the Lions and Packers.
You may see anywhere from seven to 10 quarterbacks go before Jay Cutler. If you are patient and focus on constructing your team in other areas, then you can get him later on and it should pay off in a big way.
Last season prior to their drafts, people were down on Matt Forte. He slipped in some leagues to as late as the sixth round. That won't happen again this year. Regardless of his contract situation, Forte is a bona fide first-round pick.
There are not too many players in the league who give you the depth and flexibility Matt Forte does. His ability to be a game-changer in the running and receiving game makes him a special fantasy player. In only 12 games last season, Forte still managed to fall just three yards short of 1,000 yards and had 52 receptions.
The Michael Bush singing will take a little from Forte's value. Add in the various additions to the wide receiving corps, and you have a guy who will no longer be over 40 percent of the team's offense. That's OK, though. It allows him to be more rested and able to complete an entire season for when you will need him the most: the playoffs.
The new CBA rules have taken the majority of leverage away from Forte. He might miss some camp time but will not miss any game time. In a year where there are questions to Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson, it just makes Forte all the more valuable. He's as solid a pick as they come and should be targeted early in the first round.