Bears Fantasy Football Preview: Can Nick Foles provide the boost this offense needs?

Bears Fantasy Football Preview: Can Nick Foles provide the boost this offense needs?
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2020 NFL Schedule: Chicago Bears
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Kudos to the Bears for realizing they couldn’t afford to go into the 2020 NFL season with Mitchell Trubisky as the unquestioned starter again. After trading for Nick Foles, the Bears restructured his contract and subsequently declined to pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option, moves that point to Foles potentially having the upper hand. Unfortunately for Fantasy players, even if it is Foles under center, he isn’t the most exciting name to try to breathe life back into this offense. That being said, a steady hand would be an improvement. 

2019 Review

Record: 8 – 8 (14) 
PPG: 17.5 (29) 
YPG: 296.8 (29) 
Pass YPG: 205.7 (25) 
Rush YPG: 91.1 (27) 
PAPG: 36.3 (14) 
RAPG: 24.7 (20)

2019 Fantasy finishes

QB: Mitchell Trubisky QB25 
RB: David Montgomery RB24, Tarik Cohen RB27
WR: Allen Robinson WR7, Anthony Miller WR56, Taylor Gabriel* WR78
TE: None in top 50
*No longer with team

Number to know: 105

Tarik Cohen ran 105 routes out of the slot in 2019, per PFF, and lined up there 143 times. That was 42 more slot routes than any other running back in the league, and Cohen added 64 more snaps where he lined up out wide. A big chunk of Cohen’s slot usage came in Week 1 when he lined up there 40 times, but from then on he was still among the most heavily split out backs in the league. While Cohen’s efficiency was down in 2019, he did see a whopping 104 targets and catch more than 70 balls for the second straight year. That usage makes him a solid PPR option in the hopes his efficiency rebounds, and it also limits David Montgomery’s ceiling after just 35 targets and 25 catches in 2019. 

2020 Offseason

Draft Picks 

2. (43) Cole Kmet, TE
2. (50) Jaylon Johnson, CB
5. (155) Trevis Gipson, DE
5. (163) Kindle Vildor, CB
5. (173) Darnell Mooney, WR
7. (226) Arlington Hambright, OT
7. (227) Lachavious Simmons, G

Additions

QB Nick Foles, DE Robert Quinn, TE Jimmy Graham, WR Ted Ginn, OT Germain Ifedi, LB Barkevious Mingo, CB Artie Burns, S Tashaun Gipson

Key Departures

OG Kyle Long, WR Taylor Gabriel, CB Prince Amukamara, LB Leonard Floyd, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, TE Trey Burton

Available Opportunity 

11 RB carries, 8 RB targets, 48 WR targets, 24 TE targets 

Rankings and Projections

Heath Cummings’ projections
QB Mitchell Trubisky 3,737 YD, 23 TD, 13 INT; 292 Rush YD, 2 TD
RB David Montgomery 971 YD, 6 TD; 24 REC, 181 YD, 1 TD
RB Tarik Cohen 268 YD, 1 TD; 76 REC, 580 YD, 4 TD
WR Allen Robinson 151 TAR, 92 REC, 1,139 YD, 7 TD
WR Anthony Miller 100 TAR, 61 REC, 778 YD, 5 TD
WR Darnell Mooney 56 TAR, 28 REC, 390 YD, 2 TD
TE Jimmy Graham 50 TAR, 30 REC, 310 YD, 4 TD
TE Cole Kmet 45 TAR, 30 REC, 323 YD, 2 TD

Biggest Question

Can Nick Foles recapture his Eagles magic?

The Bears traded for and restructured Foles after he played just four games in Jacksonville last year. Foles rejoins quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, who coached Foles in Philly when the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Matt Nagy’s offense features many of the same Andy Reid principles Foles knows, and Foles would arguably be the best quarterback Allen Robinson has ever played with. Assuming he starts, Foles won’t have to be great to elevate this offense over 2019 levels.

One sleeper, one breakout and one bust

Miiller’s usage early in 2019 was odd, as he was coming off a seven-touchdown rookie season but played just 21% of the snaps in Week 1 and broke the 65% snap threshold just twice in the season’s first nine games. Late in the year, that changed. Miller played 86% of the snaps in Week 11, and earned 11 targets. Over the next five weeks, Miller would hit or eclipse that 86% share four more times, and during that six-game stretch he averaged nine targets, 5.7 receptions and 72 receiving yards. The Bears shuffled pieces behind Allen Robinson and Miller this offseason, but Miller has far more talent than late-stage Ted Ginn or Jimmy Graham. Of course, he likely has more talent than Taylor Gabriel, too, and Gabriel (along with Cohen) helped keep him off the field in 2019. Miller’s a worthwhile late-round pick on the hope he’s a more stable full-time player in 2020, because if he is, the target volume should be there for a strong third season.

There’s a lot of consternation about Cohen’s receiving efficiency in 2019, but it’s hard to make too much of it when David Montgomery was also wildly inefficient in 2019. In fact, the whole Bears offense was pretty inefficient, and the hope is Foles can at least keep them on schedule and move them back toward league average. 

If Cohen’s inefficiency were going to cost him any playing time in the offense, one might have expected that to happen at some point in 2019. Instead, we observed the opposite effect, as Cohen averaged 28.6 snaps per game in the season’s first half versus an even 38 in the final eight games. In Cohen’s far more efficient 2018 season, he finished as RB11 in PPR, but even his RB27 finish in 2019 is well above his current draft range. Buy the efficiency discount in 2020 for a player who has more upside than it seems. 

Montgomery is one of the cheapest sources of locked-in touches at the running back position in 2020, and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be a spectacular bust. But he’s here is because I still don’t think he’s a good draft target, even if he may beat ADP. 

There’s a lot working against Montgomery. He had a limited receiving role, and while Foles would be a better bet to throw check-downs to his backs than the more mobile Trubisky, Cohen is among the more entrenched passing downs backs in the league. Then there’s Montgomery’s own play — he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and was especially bad around the end zone, converting just five of 23 green zone carries for touchdowns. Generally, I’d assume some regression there, and I do expect Montgomery’s touchdowns could rise in Year 2. But I’m also concerned his displayed struggles in the short area of the field will lead the Bears to try different options in close, like more passing, which could quickly push Montgomery into a between-the-20s, early-down grinder role. 

There’s little competition for early-down carries and a reasonable draft cost to acquire Montgomery, so he’s a safe option and better in non-PPR. But tread lightly. The differences Cohen and Montgomery are we’ve seen the good side of Cohen, and we know his ceiling is fairly strong for a passing downs back. Montgomery’s statistical upside is comparatively lacking, especially in PPR. 

Which players are poised for breakouts, which sleepers do you need to jump on, and which busts should you avoid at all costs in your Fantasy football league? Visit SportsLine now to get early rankings, plus see which WR is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.

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