2012 Fantasy Football Profile and Projection: Bears QB Jay Cutler
Recent reports suggest that Forte won't hold out, however, and he has conceded that he won't miss any games. Although Forte is less than thrilled about being designated with the franchise tag, ESPN's Adam Schefter speculates that the Bears and Forte will agree to a long-term deal before the July 16th deadline.
On the other hand, Knox would certainly like to play, but his rehabilitation from back surgery may keep him off the field this year (and perhaps even beyond that).
That said, the offseason is going well for quarterback Jay Cutler as the team has added several playmakers on offense.
Assuming Forte plays all 16 games, the Bears have significantly upgraded themselves on the offensive side of the ball. With the addition of Michael Bush, the Bears have a talented 1-2 punch out of the backfield. If Forte misses time due to holdout or injury, Bush has shown that he can carry the load (although he seemed to wear down at the end of last season).
Forte is one of the league's best receiving backs, but Bush is a good receiver out of the backfield as well. Bush was tied with Tennessee's Chris Johnson for tenth in the NFL in receiving yards (418) among running backs last year.
More importantly, at least from Cutler's fantasy perspective, the Bears have significantly upgraded their receiving corps. By trading for Brandon Marshall and drafting Alshon Jeffery, the Bears give Cutler not one, but two big-bodied targets at receiver.
How many receptions will Brandon Marshall have in 2012?
Not only did Marshall have his only three seasons with 100-plus receptions when he and Cutler were in Denver, but Cutler also threw for a career-high 4,526 yards (282.9 per game) in his last season throwing to Marshall. Lacking elite straight-line speed, Jeffery has great hands, a big body and good body control.
As a former collegiate teammate with Cutler, Earl Bennett has great rapport with Cutler and is a reliable target out of the slot. And Devin Hester is a dangerous playmaker in the open field, especially as the team's fourth option at receiver.
One area of concern is the Bears' ability to protect Cutler. The team has allowed 105 sacks in the past two seasons combined and ranked in the bottom five in the league in that category both years.
Other than upgrading the offensive line, another way of reducing the hits Cutler takes is by shortening his drops, which is something the Bears plan to do, according to offensive tackle Gabe Carimi (via Alex Marvez of Fox Sports).
(Strength of) Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last year by all of the Bears opponents this year, Cutler and the Bears' QBs have the tenth-easiest schedule from a fantasy perspective and third-easiest in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16). The Bears face the Vikings, Packers and Cardinals in the fantasy playoffs.
Cutler has thrown 1.537 touchdowns per game, which is a pace of just under 25 touchdowns per 16 games, in his 41 games as a Bear.
With the offseason additions the Bears have made, it would seem only logical that those numbers serve as a low-end projection, assuming he stays healthy for the full season. Cutler should throw close to 4,000 yards and 25-plus touchdowns and is being drafted as a backup (in 12-team leagues) based on his current ADP.
Similar to my outlook for Cutler for the 2012 season, Cutler, who turned 29 years old in April, should continue to be a borderline fantasy starter and an extremely solid backup for owners in 10- or 12-team leagues over the next several years.
Projection: (Passing) 3,900 yards, 27 TDs, 12 INTs; (Rushing) 155 yards, 1 TD
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