CHICAGO — It’s that time of year again Bears fans. Football is back, and so are drafts for your upcoming fantasy leagues.
The NFL preseason is in full swing — Justin Fields is slinging balls, new acquisition DJ Moore is catching them, and a revamped defense is humming around the practice fields at Halas Hall looking to make a complete 180 turnaround from a season ago. But, what should you make of this roster when it comes to your fantasy football draft?
Here’s what outlets covering the NFL have to say when it comes to the 2023 Chicago Bears, and how they rank at their respective positions in fantasy:
CBS Sports: 5th
NBC Sports: 7th
After a historic season running the ball from the quarterback position, fantasy gurus across the country are expecting Justin Fields to be a borderline top-5 QB in fantasy football, after finishing as QB6 at the end of the 2022 season in ESPN fantasy leagues.
Here’s a piece of what CBS Sports’ Chris Towers had to say in mid-July about Fields’ fantasy prospects heading into this season:
“Fields is the free space on the Breakouts Bingo card. Every breakouts column is going to feature him, and for good reason – he has as much upside as a runner as any QB in NFL history and just added a legit No. 1 receiver. There are fair questions about whether that will be enough for this offense to make a legitimate leap and for the Bears to buy into Fields as the long-term answer at the QB position, but Fields was already a must-start Fantasy QB without being a productive passer. If he takes even a small step forward in that regard, it’ll be hard for him to not be a top-five QB.”Chris Towers, CBS Sports Fantasy Writer
As Towers points out, Fields is arguably the most dynamic running QB in NFL history. What makes Fields so tantalizing as a fantasy prospect is the elusive ‘what if‘ question surrounding his production as a passer.
Last season, if you take away the first two starts that Fields made, he was the third-most productive fantasy quarterback — in terms of average points scored per game — across the entire NFL, trailing only Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts.
That’s with the Chicago Bears putting up league-worst numbers when it comes to passing yards per game (130.5), and percentage of QB drop backs that didn’t end in a pass attempt (26%).
If Fields can improve in the passing game — especially when it comes to his short range throws, the deep ball, and getting the ball out of his hands quicker — he stands to make a solid leap in production through the air.
The one bright spot of Fields’ passing game last year was his accuracy on intermediate throws. According to Pro Football Focus, he was tops in the NFL, connecting on throws of 10-19 yards 66.7% of the time.
It’s everywhere else though, that needs drastic improvement.
Fields threw accurate passes 53% of the time on throws from 0-9 yards (10.8% below league average), and 26% of the time on throws of 20 yards or longer (12.1% below league average). In terms of his overall accuracy profile on PFF, 46.9% of Fields throws last season were rated either as catchable inaccurate (23.1%), or uncatchable (23.8%).
With another year under his belt in Luke Getsy’s offense, the additions of DJ Moore, Darnell Wright, and Tyler Scott, along with the return of a healthy Darnell Mooney, Fields should become more comfortable running the show, and begin slashing into those numbers.
Either way, look for Justin Fields to light it up in fantasy leagues this fall — and if you miss out on sure-fire QB’s like Mahomes, Allen and Hurts — he should be the next guy to look toward under center in your fantasy league.
ESPN: 35th/36th (PPR/Non-PPR)
CBS Sports: 35th/34th
NBC Sports: 42nd (PPR)
Many fantasy observers will look at the triumvirate of running backs competing for snaps in David Montgomery’s departure and toss all three aside, believing they will cannibalize each other’s fantasy value, but here is what ESPN’s Liz Loza had to say about Khalil Herbert being a potential late-round sleeper pick:
“A smooth runner who excels after contact, Herbert managed at least 20 touches and 101 scrimmage yards both times he subbed in for an injured Montgomery in 2022. He averaged 19.5 carries and 86 rushing yards over the four contests in which Montgomery was sidelined in 2021. Herbert is more explosive than either Montgomery or [D’Onta] Foreman, and he averaged 5.2 true yards per carry (RB5) while recording 3.29 yards created per touch (RB9) in his sophomore effort.”Liz Loza, ESPN Fantasy Football Analyst
No matter how high or low you are on Herbert — or any Bears running back for that matter — his value is in being a potential home run pick late in fantasy drafts. Swing for the fences and you may crush it, but you could also swing through the pick, looking ridiculous down the stretch when another back usurps RB1 carries from him.
CBS Sports: 17th/19th
NBC Sports: 25th
The woes accompanying the Bears passing game have been well documented over the past two years, and until Luke Getsy and Justin Fields prove otherwise, hesitancy should be exercised when considering any Bears wide receiver in fantasy.
Alternatively, if prospective fantasy drafters were to consider taking any of the Bears top three wide receivers, DJ Moore is the surest bet of the lot — there may just not be as much production there as Bears fans may like, or expect.
Here’s what Yahoo Sports’ Dalton Del Don had to say about Moore, who is a wide receiver he likes less than what fantasy consensus right now dictates:
“Moore is a very good NFL receiver but ranked 28th in expected fantasy points per game last season, just ahead of Brandin Cooks and Jakobi Meyers. He’s been the WR34 and WR28 (per game) in 0.5 PPR leagues the last two seasons. Poor quarterback play can certainly be blamed on Moore never producing WR1 fantasy stats, but he’ll be dealing with the same (if not a worse) situation in Chicago … Moore should once again produce a strong target share, but an extremely shaky QB situation and a limited Chicago offense make him overvalued in fantasy drafts.”Dalton Del Don, Yahoo Sports Fantasy Analyst
Last season in Carolina, Moore put up 63 catches for 888 yards and seven TD’s. In terms of catches and yards, they were his lowest season totals since his rookie campaign in 2018, while his seven touchdown receptions were a career high.
If Moore maintains his touchdown production, while returning to putting up catch and yardage numbers similar to the stats he put up from 2019-2021 (where he averaged 82 catches for 1,176 yards over three seasons), he would be a top 15 wide receiver in fantasy (82 catches for 1,176 yards and 7 TD’s would have landed Moore as WR13 in 2022, under ESPN’s PPR format).
That’s just a big what if, and far from a sure-fire thing to achieve in the current state of the Chicago Bears offense.
CBS Sports: NR/NR
NBC Sports: 59th
If fantasy general managers should be a tad bit gun-shy about drafting DJ Moore — generally speaking — Darnell Mooney represents an even riskier selection.
There are a lot of questions and moving parts that come with Mooney.
Not only is the Bears’ no. 2 wide receiver coming off rehabbing an ankle injury that cut short his 2022 season, but Moore could also usurp targets away from him in an offense that is already starved for passing attempts.
Not all variables a part of the Mooney equation are negative, though.
Mooney is entering a contract year, and by some accounts, has progressed well through rehabbing his ankle injury. The passing attack should also see an uptick in consistency and production, given it’s Fields’ second season in Getsy’s system, and the number of additions they made to the offense this offseason provide him with more weapons to find success.
If Mooney settles in as wide receiver no. 2 in the Bears passing attack, and Fields continues to grow as a passer, Moore could open up opportunities for Mooney to thrive against lesser competition in opposing secondaries.
At Mooney’s ceiling, think about his 2021 numbers, where he put up 81 catches on 140 targets for 1,055 yards and 4 TD’s. Under those metrics, Mooney would have been WR22 in ESPN PPR formats last season.
But, as was the case with Moore, fantasy owners should still pump the breaks, and exercise a similar level of caution with Mooney. That 2021 Bears offense (as inept as it may have been) put up 542 pass attempts, 165 more than they put up in 2022 (377).
To compare that to the jump that would need to happen with the Bears offense, let’s do some mental gymnastics.
Imagine Justin Fields throws 100 more passes than he did in 2022 (318 to 418), while moderately improving his completion percentage (60.4% to 64.8%), and maintaining his yards-per-completion (11.7), passing TD percentage (5.3%), and throwing the same number of INTs.
Fields would finish the season going around 271-418 for 3,171 yards, 24 passing TD’s, and 11 INTs.
With targets and receiving yards translating to passing attempts and passing yards, Mooney and Moore — if Moore were to hit his average amount of targets from 2019-22, and Mooney hit the 140 targets he achieved in 2021 — would need to eat up 279 of Fields’ 418 passing attempts, and 2,231 of his 3,171 passing yards, to hit their lofty ceilings mentioned above.
That’s all without doing any math to balance out the contributions to be made by Cole Kmet, Chase Claypool, Robert Tonyan, Herbert, and more in the passing game.
It may be fun to dream about from the perspective of a Bears fan this year, but when it comes to fantasy football management, it may be better for Bears fans to make Mooney an insurance option on the bench, or look elsewhere in the NFL for wide receiver depth on their fantasy rosters.
CBS Sports: NR/NR
NBC Sports: NR/NR
Most gut-reactions after looking at his league rankings and predictions may say, “don’t draft Chase Claypool.”
While that may be the general consensus surrounding wide receiver no. 3 in a run-heavy Chicago offense, there is still plenty of potential for Claypool as a fantasy sleeper if he can reach back to the production he saw as a rookie in Pittsburgh during the 2020 season.
That’s just a big ‘if.’
In his first season with the Steelers, Claypool amassed 62 catches for 873 yards and 9 TD’s. Those stats (Not including 2 rushing TD’s during his rookie year) would have made Claypool WR23 in ESPN PPR formats last season.
Roto Baller’s Joseph Barbati detailed the tantalizing potential of Claypool during his rookie season in an article published last month, tying him to a wide receiver well-known to the Chicago football faithful:
“Chase Claypool flashed Brandon Marshall-esque tendencies during his rookie year after receiving PlayerProfiler’s highest-graded athleticism score among all wide receivers in the 2020 draft class. The second-round pick out of Notre Dame commanded 31 deep targets, scored 11 touchdowns on just 72 total touches, and featured room for growth with 907 unrealized air yards in 2020.”Joseph Barbati, fantasy football writer for rotoballer.com
The problem is, Claypool has done nothing for his stock since, slowly declining from the heights of his rookie season, until he fell off a cliff last year.
During his sophomore season, Claypool’s catch and yardage numbers remained almost identical (62 catches for 873 yards, compared to 59 catches for 860 yards), but his touchdown production dropped from 11 total TD’s, to just two across all of 2021.
Fast forward to 2022, and Claypool put together a measly 46 catches for 451 yards and a single TD.
The reasons behind Claypool’s drop in production can be pinned on him becoming more of a gadget player in 2022 for Pittsburgh, before being traded to a pass-anemic offense in Chicago — according to Barbati.
Can Claypool return to the point where he had an opportunity to capitalize on all the potential he showed in 2020? It’s not impossible, but it’s just unlikely.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 3,803 yards and 33 TD’s in 2020. There’s a world out there where Justin Fields makes a meteoric leap in Chicago’s passing game to put up similar numbers, but the likelihood that happens — and Claypool turns back the clock at the same time — looks more like someone hoping to hit on a longshot 5-leg parlay.
Fantasy GM’s should place their bets elsewhere when it comes to wide receivers. They’re more likely to hit it big betting on someone besides Claypool anyways.
CBS Sports: 16th/18th
NBC Sports: 14th
Cole Kmet may be the most Justin Fields-dependent player on the Bears’ roster when it comes to how he performs in fantasy football leagues this fall.
Last season, Kmet led all Bears receivers in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, but the picture has changed drastically since mid-season last year, as the Bears have traded for Chase Claypool and DJ Moore, signed Robert Tunyan, drafted Tyler Scott and Roschon Johnson, and Darnell Mooney is returning from injury.
These are all players who could eat into Kmet’s fantasy production — but at the same time — no position in fantasy football is thinner than the tight end position, making the proposition of gauging Kmet’s fantasy value all the more perplexing.
It’s a make-or-break season for Kmet, who enters the final year of his rookie contract with the Bears having been their top tight end over the past two seasons, hauling in 110 catches for 1,156 yards and 7 touchdowns across 34 games started in Chicago.
If he hits the average split from those numbers over 17 games, he’ll put up a stat line somewhere around 55 catches for 578 yards and 3-4 touchdowns.
But if Fields makes a leap, especially in his ability to deliver the deep ball, Kmet could make the jump with him, based on how Kmet was targeted on passing plays in 2022.
According to PFF, 14.5% of Kmet’s targets were on deep passes last season, which was the fourth-most among tight ends with at least 300 pass routes.
This shows that Kmet has the trust of Fields on balls thrown his way downfield, it’s just a matter of whether QB1 becomes a more accurate passer in 2023 to further capitalize on that connection. If he does, Kmet could be a home run pick later in drafts at the tight end position. If not, Kmet likely recedes back to the mean, and puts up similar numbers to the ones fantasy owners have seen over the last two years.
CBS Sports: 20th
NBC Sports: NR
Cairo Santos is an accurate kicker, so much so that he is the most accurate kicker in Bears history (89.7% across four seasons), more than 4% ahead of the second-most accurate kicker, Robbie Gould (85.4% across 11 seasons).
The problem with projecting Santos in fantasy is the ineptitude of the Bears offense. If the Bears offense suddenly becomes better than league average in 2023, Santos could turn into an interesting streaming option in leagues featuring 12 teams or more.
Bears Defense/Special Teams
CBS Sports: 25th
NBC Sports: NR
Until proven otherwise, the Bears defense should firmly remain on the free agents list for the entirety of the 2023 season.
While the Bears added linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards in the off-season to boost their linebacking core, Chicago finished dead last in the NFL in points allowed (463) and sacks (20) last season, showing how much of an uphill battle this defense has to become legitimate, even if they did finish in the top half of the league in turnovers forced a year ago (14 INTs, 9 FRs).