2024 Chicago Bears Fantasy Preview

2023 Stats (rank)

Points per game: 21.2 (18th)
Total yards per game: 323.2 (20th)
Plays per game: 64.5 (9th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks per game: 33.1 (28th)
Dropback EPA per play: -0.06 (24th)
Rush attempts per game: 31.4 (2nd)
Rush EPA per play: -0.05 (9th)

Coaching Staff

Throw out what you know about the Bears’ offense. Last year’s -4 percent pass rate over expected — the third lowest in the league — is gone with the wind. As is OC Luke Getsy. As is QB Justin Fields. As is just about everything that defined this moribund attack over its past few lottery-pick earning seasons. That thankfully does not include No. 1 WR DJ Moore, who is being joined by reinforcements Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze. They will be catching passes from No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams, who will be receiving play calls from ex-Seahawks OC Shane Waldron. The Bears’ new offensive coordinator is a Sean McVay and Pete Carroll disciple, but the biggest influence will probably end up being Williams himself.

Passing Game

QB: Caleb Williams, Tyson Bagent
WR: DJ Moore, Tyler Scott
WR: Keenan Allen, DeAndre Carter
WR: Rome Odunze, Velus Jones
TE: Cole Kmet, Gerald Everett, Marcedes Lewis

That’s because however much imprint an OC leaves on an offense, attempts tend to be a quarterback stat, and few quarterbacks attempted more passes over the past two years than USC’s triggerman. Williams (6’1/214) enters the NFL coming off a “down” season where the Trojans’ line and supporting cast woes “limited” him to 3,633 yards and 30 scores in 12 games after those numbers were 4,537 and 42, respectively, in 2022. Despite his protection problems, Williams continued to look down-field when flushed from the pocket and remained lethal off-platform.

Although by no means an elite runner or true dual-threat, Williams can do damage with his legs — he rushed for 21 scores over the past two seasons — and is difficult to take down due to a thick build a la Kyler Murray or arguably even Jalen Hurts. A genuine franchise-changing type talent for a long-beleaguered Bears quarterback room, Williams is one of the most important players to enter the NFL this decade. Williams’ special qualities combined with his off-the-rack supporting cast make him the rare pass-first rookie QB who deserves to begin the season in the fantasy top 12. If Williams continues to call his own number at the goal line, all the better.

Between Moore, Allen and Odunze, Williams has an embarrassment of pass-catching riches at his disposal, but it was Moore who made fantasy managers rich in 2023. After years of cellar-dwelling quarterback play in Carolina, even Justin Fields was enough of an upgrade for Moore to crash the top 12 at receiver. The top 10, in fact, as only CeeDee Lamb, Tyreek Hill, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Puka Nacua and A.J. Brown generated more total PPR points amongst wideouts. Moore’s increased target competition is bad news on paper, but the Bears’ passing volume is also going to skyrocket. Capable of doing damage at every level of the field — he was a YAC, yards per route run and down-field dynamo in 2023 — Moore has the kind of skill-set that usually breaks through to the top 12 even in crowded skill corps. He’s a safe choice on the WR1/2 borderline who could end up being woefully under-drafted.

The matter is less settled with Allen. On the one hand, he is coming off his most productive season since 2017. On the other, he’s going on 32 after missing the final four games of 2023 with a lightly-explained heel injury. He’s also going to be in a less pass-happy offense even if the Bears greatly increase their attempts, as expected. No team cared less about fielding a serious rushing attack than the pre-Harbaugh Justin Herbert Chargers. Those are the concerns, but the reality is they simply don’t make slot dominators as pure as Allen. He gets open at will over the middle of the field and is going to be a godsend for a young quarterback adjusting to the speed of the NFL game. Allen and his creaky hamstrings are always an injury risk, but he’s amongst the highest-floor WR3 options in fantasy football and could easily PPR scam his way back into the top 24.

If Moore is the alpha and Allen the “sure thing,” rookie Odunze is the upside bet. It’s highly unusual for a top-10 receiver to barely crack the top 40 at the position in summer best ball drafts, but that was the offseason case for Odunze as managers understandably question where the targets are going to come from. In fact, they don’t have to look too far for a cautionary tale: Last year’s No. 20 overall selection Jaxon Smith-Njigba … under Waldron in Seattle.

But the comparisons are superficial. For starters, there’s a big difference between being a No. 9 outside threat and No. 20 slot man. Secondly, Waldron’s boss is no longer “establish it” legend Pete Carroll, but the man drafted to be the first genuine franchise quarterback in Bears history, Williams. A Bears squad that featured 11 personnel/three-receiver sets just 57.8 percent of the time last season will undoubtedly see that number kick up into the 70-75 range.

It also makes all the sense in the world for the Bears to feed 1-on-1 dominator Odunze boom/bust boundary targets and red-zone looks. That means there will be weeks where he barely contributes, but others where he stacks enough fantasy points to flip matchups. Odunze is a perfect WR4 flier based on his draft pedigree, on-paper skill-set, and offensive setup.

The last Bears pass catcher of note is TE Cole Kmet, who was Fields’ No. 2 target in 2023. He will now be No. 3, at best, and likely No. 4 behind the Bears’ new receiver trio. It doesn’t help that play-making fellow TE Gerald Everett has been added to the fold. Everett isn’t going to leap Kmet for No. 1 seam status, but Kmet was someone who couldn’t afford any more lost looks following the additions of Allen and Odunze.

If there’s good news, it’s that 6-foot-6 Kmet’s red zone targets should remain in the 15-20 range thanks to the Bears’ increased overall passing outlook. Still only 25, Kmet has also remained on a consistently upward career trajectory. It still won’t be enough to return him to the top 12 at tight end. Kmet will be gunning for touchdown-based TE2 value and matchup-based TE1 streamer appeal. Barring injury to Kmet, Everett won’t see enough looks to get into the top 24 mix.

Running Game

RB: D’Andre Swift, Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson
OL (L-R): Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins, Ryan Bates, Nate Davis, Darnell Wright

The Bears remade their backfield by letting D’Onta Foreman walk and surprisingly lavishing a three-year, $24 million deal on D’Andre Swift. Although Swift was something of a 2023 disappointment for the Eagles, his salary makes it clear he will be the Bears’ No. 1. He is also the harbinger of a more spread out, uptempo attack.

Before moving forward with Swift, we must look back. Swift’s first 1,000-yard campaign as a rusher last season was offset by dramatically reduced receiving efficiency and a ludicrously low touchdown total playing behind dual-threat Jalen Hurts at the goal line. Swift’s 0.82 yards per route run was 44th amongst running backs, and well off his previous career norms. On the ground, NextGenStats charted him as leaving the 10th most yards on the field. PFF measured him a distant 52nd in average yards after contact.

None of this is particularly surprising. Swift has always been best utilized as a catch-first back, but that’s a role that barely exists in Philadelphia. He was also never going to win a touchdown contest with Hurts. The Bears are guaranteed to restore the receiving threat to Swift’s game, while he should be Option A at the goal line. Wildly over-drafted for years, Swift has probably finally found an appropriate home on the RB2/3 borderline.

Swift’s top backup is Khalil Herbert, at least for now. A potential trade target before Week 1, Herbert has contingency value but would undoubtedly form a committee with Roschon Johnson in the event of a Swift injury. Even when healthy, Swift will probably remain in the 60-70 percent snap range, but Herbert is going to have a difficult time earning enough high-value touches to create standalone PPR value.

Win Total 

The Bears’ over/under is generally installed at 8.5. That’s a number Chicago has not cleared since Matt Nagy roamed the sidelines in 2018. An easy schedule will help the pursuit in 2024, as Warren Sharp charts the Bears as having the league’s third easiest slate. If they’re going to go over, it will probably have to be early, as Week 13 onwards includes dates with the 49ers, Packers and Lions X2. It’s easy to be optimistic after the Bears finished 2023 on a heater and landed the best quarterback prospect in years in Williams, but 2024 has the feel of one final reset before the future arrives in earnest. I’ll take the under in a division with no easy outs.

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