Bears

Fantasy Football: 11 waiver wire targets for Week 9

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Fantasy Football: 11 waiver wire targets for Week 9

Yikes.

Injuries hit the NFL this week like an avalanche and there's no doubt you've felt the reverberations throughout your fantasy leagues, even if your team was somehow unscathed.

Seriously, just look at this list of players who were hurt in Week 8:

Le'Veon Bell
Matt Forte
Steve Smith
Keenan Allen
Reggie Bush
Khiry Robinson
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Geno Smith
Eddie Royal
Calvin Johnson
Kendall Wright

And that's only the guys who make an impact in fantasy leagues.

Throw in Joseph Randle's reported release Tuesday and suddenly the entire fantasy landscape is in turmoil.

But don't worry, we're here to help in what may be one of the most important waiver weeks ever.

We can also promise we'll give better analysis than Frank Thomas:

Here are 11 guys you can target on waiver wires this week:

1. DeAngelo Williams, RB, PIT

Hello, old friend. Williams starred in the first two weeks of the season during Le'Veon Bell's suspension (38 standard points in two games) and then disappeared from fantasy relevance. Until now. Williams is back in the spotlight and in the mix with a dangerously explosive offense after Bell's season-ending knee injury. If Big Ben can get back on track (which he should), Williams should have a lot of lanes to run through. He's easily the top waiver claim of the week. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

2. Jeremy Langford, RB, CHI

Beyond Williams, Langford should be your next target on the waiver wire this week. Matt Forte is expected to miss some time, which means Langford is primed for a HUGE uptick in usage. After Forte came out of the Week 8 game, Langford received 12 carries in one half and also was targeted on third down on the Bears' final drive. He dropped that pass (which helped contribute greatly to the loss), but still, the intention was there to lean on the rookie in a key situation. Langford won't be Forte, but with the veteran running back possibly leaving after the season, this is a prime opportunity in a lost season for the Bears to see what they have in Langford and determine if he can be a feature back moving forward. (Tony Andracki)

3. Malcom Floyd, WR, SD

The 34-year-old Floyd showed he’s still got something left in the tank with his four-catch, two-touchdown, 92-yard performance against the Ravens last week. The Chargers have lost four in a row and things won’t get easier with Keenan Allen undergoing a kidney procedure that could render him out the rest of the season. That would mean Floyd becomes the No. 1 WR on the NFL’s top and most frequent passing offense. Sign me up. Allen’s sidelining doesn’t mean San Diego will throw any less. Floyd could head into the WR1 conversation if everything falls into place. (Mark Strotman)

4. Vernon Davis, TE, DEN

The biggest splash of the NFL trade deadline was the 31-year-old Davis heading to one of the league’s best passing attacks. While it’d be unwise to believe Davis will put up numbers like Julius Thomas did a year ago – Thomas was a healthy 26-year-old – this is an intriguing add considering Davis is just two years removed from a 13-touchdown season. Denver’s running attack has found life and Emmanuel Sanders and Demariyus Thomas are still Peyton Manning’s top two targets. Still, Davis is worth a speculative add and is a guy who could have TE1 value the rest of the way. (Strotman)

5. Kamar Aiken, WR, BAL

It was really sad to see 89 go down this Sunday (let's be honest, this can't be his last year now right?). But sadly the show must go on. Aiken seems primed to take over as the lead receiver for the Ravens and as the saying goes "Someone has to catch the ball on offense." He's performed pretty well so far this year (40 standard points) and doesn't have much competition elsewhere. Aiken could be a sneaky FLEX play for the rest of the season. (Paschall)

6. Tavon Austin, Athlete, STL

We need to bring back the "athlete" label from preps football to describe Austin. He has at least 20 rushing yards in four straight games and 141 total on the season. Throw in his 24 receptions, 285 receiving yards and six total TDs and you have the makings of a fantasy wild-card. Except this X-factor has scored 10+ points in four straight games in PPR leagues and has the potential to take it to the house anytime he gets the ball. So how is he only owned in 45 percent of ESPN leagues? (Andracki)

7. Stevie Johnson, WR, SD

Johnson was a popular pickup in fantasy leagues earlier this year when he tallied 11 catches and two touchdowns in the first two games of the season. But he's disappointed since, missing Weeks 5 and 6 with a hamstring injury and he was limited again in Week 8 with a shoulder issue. But Keenan Allen could be done for the year and with Philip Rivers leading the world in pass attempts and completions, Johnson joins Floyd as intriguing fantasy options. Somebody has to absorb all of Allen's targets, right? They can't all go to Danny Woodhead. (Andracki)

Montee Ball/Pierre Thomas/Christine Michael, RBs

If you're desperate for running backs because you've had a stud like Forte or Bell or even Arian Foster (last week) go down, keep an eye on these guys. Thomas just signed on with the San Francisco 49ers and Michael could be in line for an increased role with the Cowboys releasing Randle. Ball was a former top "prospect" at RB and looked like he could get the reins in the Broncos' high-powered offense to start 2014, but was ultimately released prior to the start of the 2015 campaign. The Bears reportedly have interest and other teams could come calling for Ball's services. (Andracki)

Bonus: Michael Crabtree, WR, OAK

This is your weekly reminder that Crabtree is good and that my preseason bold prediction looks pretty damn good. After another big game in Week 8, Crabtree is firmly in the Top 25 WRs and is on pace for 91 catches, 1,104 yards and 7 scores. He is owned in only 68.3 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. That should be 100 percent, no question. (Andracki)

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

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USA TODAY

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).

 

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 grade: D+

For these purposes, “management” encompasses the coaching staff and front office. We don’t need a lengthy re-litigation of the failures of the John Fox era, so briefly: The offense was unimaginative, predictable and unsuccessful; there were too many head-scratching coaching decisions, punctuated by that backfiring challenge flag against Green Bay; the defense was solid but not spectacular; special teams had plenty of highs (three touchdowns) and lows (Marcus Cooper’s gaffe against Pittsburgh, Connor Barth’s missed field goal against Detroit). Fox didn’t win enough games to justify a fourth year, even if he left the Bears in a better place than he found them back in 2015. But that 5-11 record drags the management grade down. 

But the larger thing we’re going to focus on here is the hits and misses for Ryan Pace in the 2017 league year. The hits: 

-- Drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Will this be a long-term success? That’s another question. But Pace hitched his future in Chicago to a quarterback last April. For a franchise that hasn’t had a “franchise” quarterback in ages, what more can you ask for? If Trubisky pans out, nobody should care that Pace traded up one spot -- effectively losing a third-round pick for his conviction in his guy -- to make the move. 

-- Moving quickly to hire Matt Nagy. As with Trubisky, Pace identified his guy and made sure he got him. The Bears hired Nagy just two days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with that playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans, and with the Indianapolis Colts -- who eventually got burned by Josh McDaniels -- sniffing around Nagy, Pace made his move to hire a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach to pair with Trubisky. It’s tough to argue with any of the coaching hires made by Nagy, who had a head start on the competition: He retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and that entire defensive staff, kept Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach and hired Mark Helfrich to bring some different concepts as offensive coordinator, and hired a special teams coach in Chris Tabor who must’ve been doing something right to survive seven years and a bunch of coaching changes in Cleveland. Like with Trubisky, it’s too early to say if Nagy will or won’t work out long-term, but it stands out that Pace had conviction in getting a franchise quarterback and a head coach who will make or break his tenure in Chicago. 

-- Drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. In Cohen, the Bears found an offensive spark (who was nonetheless under-utilized) who also was a key contributor on special teams. In Jackson, the Bears added a plug-and-play 16-game starter at safety who looks to have some upside after a solid rookie year. Both picks here were a triumph for the Bears’ amateur scouting department: Cohen wasn’t on everyone’s radar (special teams coach Chris Tabor, who previously was with the Browns, said Cohen’s name never came across his desk in Cleveland), while Jackson was coming off a broken leg that prematurely ended a solid career at Alabama. These were assuredly two hits. 

-- Signing Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension. The Bears rewarded Hicks a day before the season began; Hicks rewarded them with a Pro Bowl-caliber season (despite him only being a fourth alternate) and was the best player on the team in 2017. 

-- Signing Charles Leno to a four-year contract extension. Leno may not be an elite tackle, and still has some things to clean up in his game, but he’s 26 and his four-year, $37 million contract is the 14th-largest among left tackles (for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Leno as the 20th best left tackle in the NFL). The Bears believe Leno is still improving, and could turn that contract into a bargain in the future. But this is important to note, too: Players notice when a team rewards one of its own, especially when that guy is a well-respected former seventh-round draft pick. 

-- Signing Mark Sanchez to a one-year deal. This wasn’t a miss, certainly, and while it’s not much of a “hit,” Sanchez was exactly what the Bears wanted: A veteran mentor to Trubisky. While Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games, he and the No. 2 overall pick struck up a good relationship that makes him a candidate to return in 2018 as a true backup. 

-- Releasing Josh Sitton when he did. Whether or not the Bears offensive line is better off in 2018 is a different question, but file cutting Sitton on Feb. 20 -- when the team had until mid-March to make a decision on him -- as one of those things that gets noticed by players around the league. 

-- Announcing the expansion to Halas Hall. The plan has Pace’s fingerprints on it, and should help make the Bears a more attractive destination to free agents in 2018 and beyond. 

And now, for the misses:

-- Signing Mike Glennon. That completely bombed out. While the Bears weren’t hurting for cap space a year ago, and Glennon’s contract essentially was a one-year prove-it deal, his play was so poor that he was benched after only four games -- when the initial plan was for him to start the entire season to give Trubisky time to develop. The wheels came off for Glennon on his seventh pass in Week 2, when after completing his first six he threw the ball right to Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander for an interception from which he never seemed to recover. He’ll be cut sometime soon. 

-- Signing Markus Wheaton. After signing a two-year, $11 million deal in the spring, Wheaton struggled to stay healthy, with an appendectomy and finger injury limiting him in training camp and the early part of the season, and then a groin injury knocking out a few weeks in the middle of the season. When Wheaton was healthy, he was ineffective, catching only three of his 17 targets. That places him with eight other players since 1992 who’ve been targeted at least 15 times and and caught fewer than 20 percent of their targets. He’s another one of Pace’s 2017 free agent signings who’s likely to be cut. 

-- Signing Marcus Cooper. The Bears thought they were signing an ascending player who picked off four passes in 2016 and would be a better scheme fit in Chicago than he was in Arizona. Instead, Cooper was a liability when he was on the field and didn’t live up to his three-year, $16 million contract (with $8 million guaranteed). Dropping the ball before he got in the end zone Week 3 against Pittsburgh was a lowlight. The Bears can net $4.5 million in cap savings if he’s cut, per Spotrac. 

-- Signing Dion Sims. Sims isn’t as likely to be cut as Glennon and Wheaton, and even Cooper, but his poor production in the passing game (15 catches, 29 targets, 180 yards, one touchdown) puts a spotlight on how the Bears evaluate how he was as a run blocker in 2017. If that grade was high, the Bears could justify keeping him and not garnering a little more than $5.5 million in cap savings. If it was low, and the Bears are confident in Adam Shaheen’s ability to improve, then Sims could be cut as well. 

-- Signing Quintin Demps. The loss here was mitigated by the strong play of Adrian Amos, but Demps didn’t make much of an impact on the field before his Week 3 injury besides getting plowed over by Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1. He’d be a decent guy to have back as a reserve given his veteran leadership -- he was a captain in 2017 -- but given how well Amos and Eddie Jackson worked together last year, he’s unlikely to get his starting spot back in 2018. 

-- The wide receiver position as a whole. Kendall Wright led the Bears in receptions and yards, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better had he been surrounded by better players. The cupboard was bare at this position, and after the worst-case scenario happened -- Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in August, and Kevin White breaking his collarbone in Week 1 -- the Bears were left with an overmatched and underperforming group of receivers. For Trubisky’s sake, Pace has to work to make sure 2018 isn’t a repeat of 2017. 

-- The kicker position as a whole. Since we’re focusing solely on Pace’s 2017 moves, the decision to release Robbie Gould and replace him with Connor Barth doesn’t fall into this grade. But Barth had struggled with consistency prior to this season, and Roberto Aguayo didn’t provide much competition in his short-lived stint in training camp. The Bears eventually released Barth after he missed a game-tying kick against Detroit in November, then replaced him with a guy in Cairo Santos who was coming off an injury and, as it turned out, wasn’t completely healthy yet. So the Bears then had to move on from Santos and sign Mike Nugent to get them through the rest of the season. Better consistency from this position will be important to find in 2018. 

A couple moves fall into the neither hits nor misses category:

-- Drafting Adam Shaheen. Tight ends rarely make a significant impact as rookies, but Shaheen was only targeted 14 times last year. He did catch three touchdowns and flash some good chemistry with Trubisky before suffering an injury against Cincinnati that wound up ending his season. The gains he makes with a year of experience under his belt and during his first full offseason as a pro will be critical in determining his success in Year 2, and whether or not taking him 45th overall was a hit or a miss. 

-- Signing Prince Amukamara. This was neither good nor bad, with Amukamara playing solidly in coverage but not making enough plays on the ball and committing a few too many penalties. 

Pace still has decisions to make on a few other potential cuts, including right tackle Bobby Massie ($5.584 million cap savings per Spotrac) and linebackers Willie Young ($4.5 million cap savings) and Pernell McPhee ($7.075 million cap savings). Whether or not to place the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller and potentially pay him $15 million in 2018 is another call Pace has to make before the official end of the 2017 league year. 

But for Pace, did the hits out-weigh the misses in 2017? The Glennon signing imploded, but Trubisky showed signs of promise during an average season for a rookie quarterback. Cooper was a bust, but Fuller emerged as a potential long-term option to cover for that. The most glaring misses, then, were at wide receiver and tight end where, after injuries sapped those units of Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, there weren’t reliable targets for Trubisky. 

We’ll probably need more time to determine if Pace’s “hits” on Trubisky and Nagy truly are “hits.” But if they are, the misses of 2017 -- Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, etc. -- will be nothing more than amusing footnotes to a successful era of Bears football.