Bears

Fantasy Football: 2015 Quarterback sleepers and busts

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Fantasy Football: 2015 Quarterback sleepers and busts

We're not here to debate Andrew Luck vs. Aaron Rodgers (though that debate will be coming soon).

Everybody knows those are the best two quarterbacks to own in fantasy football. It's just obvious, like this stellar graphic during a Padres broadcast this spring:

We're also not here to argue whether Luck and Rodgers are worthy of a first-round draft pick (they probably are). We're here to discuss 12 other names in the QB circle, guys you could fill your roster with if you don't land Mr. 1A or Mr. 1B.

Top Targets

Ben Roethlisberger, PIT: What’s there not to like about Roethlisberger’s situation? He has arguably the best receiver in football in Antonio Brown, a major deep threat in Martavis Bryant and an electric running back out of the backfield in Le’Veon Bell. He’s also got a reliable red zone target in Heath Miller and an improving receiver in Markus Wheaton. The weapons are there for Roethlisberger to be the third best quarterback in fantasy this year. Don’t miss out. - John "The Professor" Paschall

Tony Romo, DAL: While the rest of the world debates Rodgers vs. Luck, my plan in every league I'm in will be to wait until the middle rounds to get my quarterbacks. Yes, plural. There are so many quality QB options in fantasy today that you can easily acquire two really solid guys and play the best matchups on a weekly basis. Romo's average draft position on ESPN leagues is 75th overall, putting him in the seventh round in 10-team leagues. I'll take that every day of the week from a guy who has consistently been a Top 10 QB during his career and playing behind a dominant offensive line with Dez Bryant as his top target. - Tony Andracki

[MORE - CSN Fantasy Football Podcast: Previewing Raiders, AFC West]

Ryan Tannehill, MIA: You’d be hard-pressed to find a quarterback who has risen up the rankings in the past calendar year more so than the former Texas A&M wide receiver. Tannehill was a revelation for fantasy owners last year, finishing with 266 total points, making him a Top 10 fantasy quarterback. Heading into the 2015 season, with a plethora of weapons at his disposal in Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Jordan Cameron and Lamar Miller, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Tannehill continue to climb that ladder and cement himself among the NFL’s elite. - Scott Krinch

Russell Wilson, SEA: It’s been quite the offseason for Ciara’s boyfriend, but when Week 1 rolls around there isn’t a quarterback not named Luck or Rodgers that I’d want leading my fantasy squad. With a brand-new contract, brand-new tight end (Jimmy Graham) and same fantasy-friendly offense in hand, expect Wilson to again lead all QBs in rushing yards and touchdowns, while getting an additional bump in the red zone with Graham around. Chances are someone will reach too early for him, but if he’s still available in the 4th round I’d pounce on him. You can play the strategy of waiting on a quarterback and roll the dice every week, or you can select a guy who hasn’t missed a game in three seasons and will get you 6+ points on the ground alone each week. Easy decision. - Mark Strotman

Sleepers

Drew Brees, NO: Gone are the days that Brees was considered at worst a third-round fantasy selection. The gunslinging Saints quarterback has been passed up by young bucks’ Luck and Wilson, and he no longer has his favorite target in Graham. But fear not Brees fans, there is still a lot to like about his prospects heading into the season. Getting Brees at his current ADP of 53 or later is tremendous value. Expect Brandin Cooks and Josh Hill to become Brees’ go-to-guys and fill up the box score each week. Add a healthy and explosive C.J. Spiller to the mix and Brees has more than enough weapons in his arsenal, and should easily outperform his ADP in 2015. - SK

Colin Kaepernick, SF: Kaepernick rushed for the second-most yards (639) of any quarterback last season, but somehow only found the endzone once on the ground. If he had four rushing TDs (a moderate - not crazy - boost), Kaepernick would jump from the 18th-ranked Fantasy QB to the 13th. If he had five total rushing touchdowns, he would be tied for 11th among QBs. First off, that depicts just how close the pool of QBs is in Fantasy (another reason why you shouldn't reach for one) and it illustrates how valuable Kaepernick can be as a Fantasy option. In the midst of a disappointing season, the only thing that kept him from being a Top 13 QB was a statistical oddity that should not happen again. Sure, things are still a muddled mess in San Francisco, but Kaepernick should be rejuvenated now that he's out from under Jim Harbaugh's ire and he's still got a solid group of weapons around him. Expect a re-entry into the Top 10 QBs. - TA

[MORE - CSN Fantasy Football Podcast: Previewing NFC West]

Eli Manning, NYG: It was an ugly start to 2014 for Manning, but a sexy finish. Losing Victor Cruz hurt, but gaining Odell Beckham Jr. was a huge boost to Manning’s fantasy value. He could be this year’s Roethlisberger, a fantasy star who is being drafted right now in the mid-to-late rounds. A full offseason with Ben McAdoo’s offense can only help everyone on the Giants. The addition of Shane Vereen is an enormous boost for Manning, who now has a great check-down target. The only thing holding Manning back may be his offensive line, but he’s a top QB2 with a QB1 upside. - JP

Jameis Winston, QB: The NFL’s top pick couldn’t be coming into a better fantasy situation this fall. With bookend receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, no clear-cut running back (all of whom can catch, by the way) and a defense that allowed more than 25 points per game a year ago, Winston is going to be cut loose to throw early and often, and late and often. He’s looked great in the preseason and has star written all over him. Whether that stardom blossoms in Year 1 remains to be seen, but I’ll feel very comfortable snagging him as my QB2 in the later rounds of the draft this year. - MS

Busts

Peyton Manning, DEN: It’s usually a good rule of thumb to draft a quarterback who can feel his fingertips. Unfortunately, we may be seeing the last run of one of the all-time greats, who failed to top 13 fantasy points in any of the last five games of the regular season. The offseason wasn’t kind to him, either, as the Broncos lost Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, hired run-oriented Gary Kubiak as head coach and Manning turned 39. Look, odds are he’ll finish as a Top 5 or 6 quarterback this season because he’s still elite and has Demaryius Thomas running circles around secondaries. But in most leagues, he’s going to cost you a third- or fourth-round pick, and that’s just asking for trouble. Unless he miraculously fell to the 6th round (he won’t), I won’t have him on any of my teams this season. - MS

Cam Newton, CAR: Newton was overrated before his top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending injury. Now, he’s at the top of my “Do not draft" list. Newton will always hold some semblance of value due to his ability to pick up big chunks of yards on the ground, and someone in your league will always draft him a few rounds too early because of that. According to ESPN Stats and Info, only two quarterbacks (Michael Vick and Kordell Stewart) have rushed for over 500 yards after their fourth NFL season. Newton should come close to that total, but he just doesn’t provide enough value with his arm to offset his added rushing value. He’s fool’s gold. Stay far away in 2015. - SK

[MORE FANTASY: Get ready for your Fantasy Football draft by checking out our coverage]

Matt Ryan, ATL: The hype is starting to wear off on me. Sure, he has an All-Pro receiver in Julio Jones to throw to. But after Jones, there’s a lot of concerns and question marks. The Falcons don’t have a legitimate tight end threat in the passing game. Roddy White is really starting to show his age and is undergoing elbow surgery. Is Devin Hester really a legitimate weapon in the Falcons offense? So many question marks for Ryan that I don’t feel comfortable targeting him in my draft this year. - JP

Matthew Stafford, DET: Every year, fantasy owners look at Stafford's physical skills, check to make sure the Lions still have a surplus of weapons around him led by Calvin Johnson, reminisce on his 5,000-yard, 41-TD 2011 season and salivate. They draft him too high based on all of these things and sit back, thinking they just got the steal of the draft. Ten weeks later, they're sitting there with their head in their hands, wondering where their fantasy team went wrong. Fact: The only way to properly draft Stafford to avoid a potential "bust" label is to get him as your second QB and understand that if he suddenly makes good on that jaw-dropping potential, you're set. If he doesn't, you still got a solid starter in place who is not Matt Stafford. - TA

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.