Lovie Smith returns for a critical year and he’s added a mad scientist named Mike Martz to help jump-start the offense.
The Bears have lots of question marks in reality and fantasy this season. Will Jay Cutler settle down and make better decisions? Will a receiver step up and be a true No. 1 option? Can Matt Forte regain the form he showed as a rookie?
We attempt to answer those questions and more in today’s deep dish-sized edition of the dynasty capsule.
Players in their Prime
Jay Cutler QB
Throwing for 3,802 yards, with 21 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions makes for a pretty good year. Unfortunately, those were the numbers put up by Kyle Orton, the player the Bears traded to the Broncos for Cutler.
To say he struggled in his first season in the Windy City would be putting it lightly. The 3,666 yards and 27 touchdowns were acceptable, but his 26 interceptions led all the NFL.
To say it was all Cutler’s fault would also be unfair. The offensive line gave him little time and his receiving corps was one of the worst in football.
Mike Martz tends to get a lot out of his quarterbacks and Cutler is as talented a signal caller as he’s ever coached. Putting Martz in charge of a quarterback prone to bad decisions should make Cutler owners very nervous, but a lot of good should come with the bad.
Cutler’s certainly in a pivotal season, but things seem to be in line for improvement.
Devin Hester WR
Most Hester owners were hoping for more than the 57 catches, 757 yards, and three touchdowns he provided last year. He has open field ability to rival anybody in the league, but he’s struggled with the transition to full-time wide receiver.
This is a huge year for him and he needs to take advantage to become a greater factor in the offense. If he doesn’t, it looks like he’ll simply do down as a high-profile decoy.
Devin Aromashodu WR
Aromashodu may never be a household name, but that could just be because it’s so difficult to spell. In the last four games of 2009, he had an amazing 22 catches, 282 receiving yards, and four touchdowns.
It seems Jay Cutler has gone out of his way to praise his offseason as well. It may just be time for this former Auburn Tiger to emerge as a long-term fantasy weapon.
Johnny Knox WR
It’s been Knox, not Aromashodu, who’s been running with the first team this Spring. He’s blessed with incredible speed, great quickness and is said to be tough as nails. A rookie season of 527 yards and five touchdowns on 45 catches is nothing to sneeze at.
A sleeper at this time last year, Knox is clearly a player on the rise in Chi-town now that he’s healthy again.
Players with Falling Values
Matt Forte RB
There may not have been a bigger disappointment in fantasy football last year than Matt Forte. After a rookie season with 1,238 yards and eight touchdowns, many owners thought of Forte as a future No. 1 RB. The addition of Chester Taylor, combined with a season that yielded 929 yards and four touchdowns, on just 3.6 yards per carry, has his owners scared to death.
On the bright side, Forte wasn’t healthy all last season and the offensive line did little to help him. He fits in the falling value category at this point, but the book isn’t closed on this young runner quite yet.
Chester Taylor RB
Taylor’s been a forgotten man since his breakout 2006 season in Minnesota. After all, playing behind Adrian Peterson doesn’t do much for your fantasy statistics. Taylor had just 338 yards on 94 carries last season in Minnesota.
He has a much better short-term opportunity in Chicago where he’ll team with Forte, but he’s already 30 years old and is on the downward slope in his career.
Earl Bennett WR
When Cutler arrived in Chicago, many fantasy owners immediately thought Bennett would emerge. After all, they were teammates at Vanderbilt.
Unfortunately, things have simply not progressed well for Bennett. He’s clearly no better than the No. 4 receiver on this team at this point.
Greg Olsen TE
Mike Martz’s offense tends to do wonders for receivers and quarterbacks, but it absolutely kills the tight ends. Factor in the addition of Brandon Manumaleuna to the equation and there’s been a lot of speculation about Olsen being traded out of Chicago.
At this point, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, though. If you’re an Olsen owner, just hope his undeniable talent can rise above an offensive scheme notoriously unfriendly to his position.
From a dynasty perspective, you also can’t really expect Martz and Olsen to be joined at the hip for the long-term. In a league with non-guaranteed contracts, free agency and an active coaching carousel, something has to give eventually.
Garrett Wolfe RB
Many owners hoped Wolfe would eventually get a shot at being a bigger part of the offense. With Taylor in the fold, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon.
Rashied Davis WR
Rashied Davis and Juaquin Iglesias should both make the team, but are pretty much in the same boat. They’re both clearly behind many others on the wide receiver depth chart in Chicago.
Kahlil Bell RB
He’s squarely on the roster bubble this summer, but he showed some talent by averaging 5.5 yards per carry and rushing for 220 yards last year in spot duty behind Forte. His best run was 72 yards, which was the longest offensive gain by any Bear last season. Keep your eye on Bell, as he could make a push to get some touches.
Dan LeFevour QB
If LeFevour touches the field this year, something has gone horribly wrong in Chicago. He does have NFL talent, though.
His decision to not do everything at the NFL combine is going to haunt him for a long, long time as it sent his stock plummeting. However, the Bears were happy to snatch him up late in the draft as a developmental prospect.
He’ll have to eventually beat out Caleb Hanie to be the backup, but that seems possible given his skill set.
The Bears had their share of troubles last year and are clearly under the microscope in both fantasy and reality in 2010.
The wide receivers need to develop, the running game needs to improve, the quarterback needs to make better decisions, and the offensive line needs a total lobotomy.
If those things can happen, this offense will be much more dynamic and reward fantasy owners for years to come.