Last season, Jay Cutler (right) threw for 3,666 yards and 27 TDs, but with 26 INTs.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In Part 11 of the 32-team series, we head back to the NFC North and check out the struggling Chicago Bears. The Bears were 7-9 in 2009, finishing third in the division. They scored 20.4 ppg on offense (19th among 32 teams) while yielding 23.4 ppg on defense (21st).
Jay Cutler - Chicago and fantasy owners paid a high price for Cutler in 2009 and in his first season for the Bears he didn't deliver the goods. He did throw for 3,666 yards and 27 touchdowns, but with 26 interceptions. Most of the INTs were in the first 10 weeks (17 INTs), which had owners already sitting him on the bench or cutting him before he threw for eight of his TD passes in Weeks 16 and 17. There is a ray of hope - it's offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Martz loves to throw the ball and if he can straighten out Cutler he could be much better than last season. Fantasy owners must think so, because they haven't lowered expectations. He had an ADP of 79 in 2009 and so far in 2010 it's 75. With unknown Caleb Hanie and rookie Dan LeFevour as his backups, Cutler should not be challenged for the starting spot even if he gets off to another slow start.
Matt Forte - On the other hand, Forte could very easily lose carries to Chester Taylor if he doesn't return to the form that made him one of the best fantasy bargains in 2008. Forte (2008 ADP 70) totaled 379 touches as a rookie for a combined 1,715 yards and 12 scores. Those numbers fell 1,400 yards and four touchdowns in 2009 and the consensus No.4 overall choice disappointed fantasy owners almost every week. In January, Forte explained his lackluster results by revealing that he had played with a sprained MCL since Week 3 and had a "procedure" to clean up the damage. Fantasy owners apparently aren't convinced as his current ADP is a modest 51 making him an early fifth-round selection. That might be a little too low, particularly in PPR leagues, as Martz's offense has always featured running backs catching the ball out of the backfield.
Chester Taylor - While Forte will be the starter, Taylor's large contract (four years, $12.7 million) tells you he's not just an "insurance policy." Taylor will probably see plenty of carries and is also adept at catching the ball out of the backfield. While I wouldn't call this a "50/50" shared backfield, Taylor should get enough opportunities to be borderline "fantasy-worthy." Neither Kahil Bell or Garrett Wolfe will likely get enough work to warrant any fantasy attention.
Devin Aromashodu - Aromashodu may have the most talent of the Bears' "mediocre" receiving corps, but he's been working out of the slot this spring which usually isn't a feature position in a Martz' offense (think Kevin Curtis with the Rams 'Greatest Show on Turf' which featured outside guys Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce). He's the first Bears receiver off the board, but not until around pick No.100, so there obviously isn't much confidence in any of the team's receivers "breaking out" this year.
Devin Hester - Hester will be one of the two outside receivers and could have a decent season in the Martz/Cutler offense. That's maybe a 65-catch, 750-yard, six touchdown type year which is barely "fantasy-worthy." It seems to me, the Bears were better off as a team when Hester played defense and was the most dangerous kick returner in football than as a mediocre wideout.
Johnny Knox - Knox should be the other outside receiver, unless he falters and lets Earl Bennett or Juaquin Iglesias steal the spot. Whomever wins the spot should get enough targets to be at least borderline "fantasy-worthy." Knox's current ADP is 157, well ahead of Bennett (ADP 248) and Iglesias (ADP 275).
Earl Bennett - Bennett (2009 ADP 119) was all the rage last year as fantasy owners, me included, thought his relationship at Vanderbilt with Cutler would translate into a big season. Unfortunately, 54 catches for 717 yards and two scores wasn't enough and owners aren't expecting much from the Commodores connection in 2010.
Greg Olsen - Olsen is a very good receiving tight end in an offense which no longer uses them much, except to block. Though he's been saying all the right things, he'll soon get tired and frustrated at watching the receivers and running backs get all the action. He could be worth something on the trade market which is likely the only way Olsen will have fantasy value in 2010. He was the fifth tight end off the board last year, but is currently the 13th tight end selected in 2010 with an ADP of 135.
Brandon Manumaleuna - Manumaleuna knows the Martz offense, having played in St. Louis from 2001-2005. He won't have any fantasy value, but could end up as the Bears starting tight end before the season is over if Olsen is traded.
Robbie Gould - Gould finished well down the scoring list, in part because many of Cutler's interceptions happened deep in opponents' territory and denied him a chance at a kick. He had just 28 attempts in 2009, hitting 24 of them. Gould's numbers should improve in 2010, but he's still likely going to be a "middle-of-the-pack" kicker.
The Bears usually formidable defense lost its "heart and soul" in Week 1 when middle linebacker Brian Urlacher went down with a season-ending wrist injury. Urlacher is confident he will be back to his "old self" but he's 32-years old and has taken a lot of hits over his career.
Without Urlacher, the normally highly-ranked Bears finished in a tie for 16th among D/ST at 110 points. They accumulated 34 sacks along with 28 turnovers and three touchdowns (two on kick returns). They are also thin in the secondary, but tried to address that in the draft with a third-round selection of safety Major Wright and a fifth-round pick of cornerback Joshua Moore.
Still, I'd be a lot more likely to choose the Bears defense on Draft Day if I knew Urlacher were 100% and Hester were concentrating more on punt and kickoff returns than receptions. Chicago currently has an ADP of 208, the 13th defense off the board.