Bears

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 2

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Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 2

It's so great to have fantasy football back in our lives on a daily basis. It makes the water cooler a more interesting place at any office.

But Week 1 was nuts, with so many different storylines coming out of the woodwork that had our heads spinning just like Shea McClellin's:

But don't worry, just like McClellin (who was the highest-rated Bears defensive player in Week 1 according to ProFootballFocus.com), we're back on the right track.

[Fantasy Football: Bengals WR A.J. Green: Fantasy football is great for the NFL]

Week 2 is upon us and we're pleading with you all not to get too caught up in Week 1 numbers. They don't matter anymore. The past has passed.

So check out our Week 2 Start/Sit picks:

START

Ameer Abdullah, RB, DET (@ MIN) - The matchup is solid, even if I expect the Vikings to play better run defense than they did Monday night when Carlos Hyde gashed them and Abdullah proved in Week 1 that he is nearing must-start status. He's the guy in Detroit, making the most out of his seven carries (to Joique Bell's six) and four targets (catching all four for 44 yards). Oh, and Abdullah returns kicks for those of you in leagues where that matters. (Tony Andracki)

Vernon Davis, TE, SF (vs. PIT) - The Steelers are still trying to figure out how they had NOBODY COVERING GRONK during some plays last Thursday. While I'm hoping they realize that they should have at least one defender covering a tight end, I don't know if it'll be enough to slow down Davis. The Steelers secondary is a mess and Davis is already doing better in one week than he did all of last year. 47 yards against the Vikings in Week 1 would've been his season-high for a game last year. He's bouncing back this year and he should perform well against the Steelers. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

Percy Harvin, WR, BUF (vs. NE) - I'm so happy Harvin is back to being fantasy-relevant. Opposite Sammy Watkins, Harvin is an underrated asset for the Bills with big-play capability (as evidenced by his 51-yard touchdown in Week 1) and loads of talent. He also has a good matchup this week against the Patriots, if only for the fact that the Bills may need to pass a lot if they're playing from behind all game. Also, his quarterback is awesome. (Andracki)

Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF (@ PIT) -  Will Kaepernick ever get back to being the fantasy stud he once was during the 2013 season? It's hard to tell, but he could take a step towards fantasy relevance again with an impending matchup against a struggling Pittsburgh Steelers defense. Kaepernick looked like a more controlled quarterback than he has in over 12 months during his team's Week 1 victory. Look for Kaep to continue to rack up enough yards on the ground to go along with decent enough passing stats making him a must-start against Pittsburgh. (Scott Krinch)

[RELATED: Fantasy Football Podcast: Assessing the overreactions from Week 1]

Eli Manning, QB, NYG (vs. ATL) - Eli disappointed in Week 1 (only 9 fantasy points), but all the preseason points hold up about his weapons and second year in Ben McAdoo's offense. Expect a rebound this week, going up against a Falcons defense that admittedly looks better under Dan Quinn, but still not good enough to stiffle opposing QBs. (Andracki) 

Joseph Randle, RB, DAL (@ PHI) - If you drafted Randle over any of the other Cowboys running backs, you had to like what you saw in Week 1. Randle totaled 107 yards on 19 touches compared to Lance Dunbar and Darren McFadden's combined 14 touches. Randle is the clear leader in Dallas' running back-by-committee approach and with Dez Bryant sidelined for at least six weeks, the Cowboys will rely on him more than ever. The Eagles pedestrian run defense (105 total yards to the Falcons in Week 1) poses as an intriguing matchup for Randle on Sunday. (Krinch)

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, TB (@ NO) - I don't think I recommended starting a single tight end in 2014, and now this is the second straight week I've suggested a player at the position. A breakout candidate going into the 2015 season, ASJ looked the part in Week 1 after hauling in five receptions for 110 yards and two scores against the Tennessee Titans. The Buccaneers will likely be in many shootouts due to their miserable defense and Week 2 will likely be no different against a Saints defense that just allowed Arizona Cardinals tight end Daniel Fells to have the best game of his career. (Krinch)

Steve Smith, WR, BAL (at OAK) - I understand, Steve Smith owners. You're probably bitter and angry with the way that he performed in Week 1. But he still tied Justin Forsett with a team-high seven targets and was in a very difficult matchup against the Broncos defense. This week should be much easier against a bad Raiders defense that is also losing both of its starting safeties. Smith should blow the top off of the defense and rebound in a big way. Get him in your lineup. (Professor)

[MORE: Get more Fantasy Football coverage here]

Terrance Williams, WR, DAL (at PHI) - Hopefully you won the waiver fight for him because he's going to be hot for a while. This matchup in particular makes Williams a must play. The Eagles secondary is still not great as we saw not only super-human Julio Jones dominate them but also "old man" Roddy White have a solid game. Williams is suddenly Tony Romo's No. 2 guy after Jason Witten and should produce immediate results. He's a great FLEX option this week. (Professor)

SIT

Nelson Agholor, WR, PHI (vs. DAL) - Count me as one of the guys expecting big things from Agholor this season. But with rookies, especially early in the year, I need to build some trust with them. It wasn't a good start for Agholor and myself in Week 1. The Cowboys defense is still solid (not spectacular) and I do expect the Eagles offense to go wild in Week 2, but I don't know if I can take a chance on Agholor again this week as a FLEX or WR2 option. Keep him on the bench until he shows us something. (Professor)

CJ Anderson, RB, DEN (@ KC) - As if his "questionable" label all week hadn't scared you off enough, I have very little confidence in Anderson no matter how much he plays. His toe/foot injury limited him to just 29 rushing yards on 12 carries (2.4 ypc) and 19 yards on four receptions. Ronnie Hillman was more productive and is healthier and looks to be the guy to own in the Denver backfield for this week, at least. (Andracki)

Tom Brady, QB, NE (@ BUF) - I know, this seems crazy. Telling you to sit Brady? Am I out of my mind? Maybe a little bit, but I just don't like this Week 2 matchup. The Bills defense held Andrew Luck in check in Week 1, which is no fluke considering their defense the NFL in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (16), sacks (54) and Total QBR (36.2) since the start of the 2014 season. Rex Ryan gave Brady fits when he was the head coach of the New York Jets, and I expect it no be no different now that he's with the Bills. (Krinch)

Amari Cooper, WR, OAK (vs. BAL) - Here we go with Cooper again. The Ravens didn't allow an offensive TD in Week 1 against the Broncos, who have a much better offense than the Raiders, even amid all the concerns over Peyton Manning. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were held to just 125 yards on 15 catches (8.3 yards per catch). Do you really think Amari Cooper - playing in just his second NFL game - can do better with an injured Derek Carr as his QB? I'm thinking not...(Andracki)

[ROTOWORLD: Your home for all the latest Fantasy Football news]

Melvin Gordon, RB, SD (at CIN) - Can you believe Danny Woodhead stole this guy's thunder to start to the season? Oh well. Gordon will have better weeks. But it just won't be this week. The Bengals completely shut down the Raiders run game and while the Chargers are much better than the Raiders, the threat of Woodhead scares me as a Gordon owner. I don't think Gordon will have his breakout game against the Bengals so if you have other options, look that way this week. (Professor)

Frank Gore, RB, IND (vs. NYJ) - All the reports say the Colts will try and get Gore going on Monday night against the Jets. Good luck. The last time the Colts had a runner go for 100 yards in a game was 2012. That's insane. This offensive line is really bad at run blocking and it won't get any better against a stout Jets defense. Don't give up on Frank the Tank, Fantasy owners. Just need to be patient as he rides out these first couple of tough weeks. (Professor)

Cam Newton, QB, CAR (vs. HOU) - As a general rule of thumb, I don't enjoy playing any fantasy quarterback against J.J. Watt. I just have horrible visions of a helmet-less Watt leveling my QB and knocking him out of the game and I lose my matchup as a result. On top of that, Newton had a really disappointing showing in Week 1 (175 yds, TD), seemingly proving everybody right that he is not a solid option with so few weapons with Kelvin Benjamin out. (Andracki)

DeAngelo Williams, RB, PIT (vs. SF) - Who had Williams as the NFL's No. 3 rusher (127 yards) after one game? Probably not many. Williams, starting in place of the suspended Le'Veon Bell, looked like his old self against the Patriots, but it will be tough sledding against a stout 49ers front seven this week. If Adrian Peterson could only manage 31 rushing yards against San Francisco there's no way that Williams could give you a respectable fantasy output, right? (Krinch)

2017 Bears position grades: Offensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Offensive Line

2017 grade: C+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Josh Sitton (contract), Eric Kush (contract), Hroniss Grasu (contract), Bobby Massie (contract), Tom Compton (free agent), Bradley Sowell (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Andrew Norwell, D.J. Fluker, Justin Pugh, Josh Kline, Jonathan Cooper

How the Bears’ offensive line will shape up in 2018 begins with a decision on which the Bears are already on the clock. The team has until March 9 to pick up Josh Sitton’s 2018 option -- or, to put it another way, they have until March 9 to determine if Sitton was/is/will be good enough to justify keeping him and not netting about $8 million in cap savings, per Spotrac. 

For what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Sitton as the league’s sixth-best guard in 2017. If the Bears’ grades of Sitton match those outside ones, then the team probably won’t cut him -- not destabilizing Mitchell Trubisky’s offensive line would be well worth the money in that case. While Sitton turns 32 in June, cutting him would put a lot of pressure on Kyle Long, who hasn’t been fully healthy since 2016. The Bears are hopeful that Long will be back to full strength after multiple offseason surgeries, but releasing Sitton and then signing/drafting his replacement would be a gamble on Long’s health. 

Sitton’s status is the first part of the Bears’ 2018 offensive line equation. There’s also a decision to be made on Bobby Massie, who Bleacher Report ranked as the NFL’s 14th-best right tackle last year but could be cut for about $5.5 million in cap savings, according to Spotrac. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Bears cut or kept both Sitton and Massie for now, then drafted an offensive lineman in the first round (like Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson or Texas tackle Connor Williams) and released one of them. Or they could keep both through the end of the 2018 season. All those options would make sense on some level.

What wouldn’t seem to make sense is the Bears cutting Sitton or Massie and replacing them with a free agent. This year’s offensive line free agent class, without adding any potential cap casualties to it, isn’t particularly strong. By Bleacher Report’s rankings, the best free agent right tackle is Houston’s Breno Giancomi, who’s 27th in that list -- 13 spots behind Massie. At left tackle, New England’s Nate Solder (No. 22) isn’t rated as highly as Charles Leno (No. 20), who we'll talk about in a bit here. 

The only potential upgrade available via free agency would be Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell (No. 2 in B/R’s rankings), who’s 26 and is in line for a big payday this spring -- but that would seemingly be counter-intuitive to releasing Sitton and then potentially paying more money to a different guard, even if he’s younger and has more long-term upside. The Bears could opt for a cheaper guard in free agency who could have some potential working with respected O-line coach Harry Hiestand -- the Giants’ D.J. Fluker (57th in B/R’s rankings) or Justin Pugh (42nd) fit that mold, as would the Titans’ Josh Kline (37th) or Cowboys’ Jonathan Cooper (38th). Or the Bears could keep Sitton and still sign one of those guys as insurance in case Long and/or Eric Kush, who tore his ACL last training camp, isn’t ready to start the season. 

Tom Compton and Bradley Sowell proved to be serviceable backups last year and could be an option to return, even with a new coaching staff in place. The health of Kush, who was missed as a reliable backup in 2017, will be important in figuring out what the Bears' O-line depth looks like. Hroniss Grasu struggled when he was on the field and missed time due to a hand injury, and despite playing for offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich at Oregon could be on the chopping block before/during training camp. 

We’ll finish here with some thoughts on Leno and Cody Whitehair. Could the Bears upgrade at left tackle and displace Leno to the right side of the offensive line? Possibly, especially if Hiestand believes he can make that move work. But it’d be odd if the Bears shifted Leno off left tackle and then signed someone who’s older and, depending on the evaluator, not even as good as him. 

This is all probably a moot point, since the Bears’ internal evaluation of Leno is what matters here. Leno is 26 and the Bears believe he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet, so more than likely, he’s sticking where he is. At the very least, he’ll enter 2018 with a starting job on the Bears’ offensive line. 

One other offseason objective for Hiestand and the new coaching staff: Keeping Whitehair at the same position. Whitehair’s versatility felt like it worked against him at times last year, with the former regime opting to shift him between guard and center quite a bit from the start of training camp through the early part of the season. That instability seemed to affect Whitehair’s play, as he went through a bizarre patch of snapping issues after moving back to center and struggled to be as consistent as he was in 2016. But Whitehair finished 2017 strong, and keeping him at center for the entirety of 2018 could get him back on track to make his first Pro Bowl. 

2017 Bears position grades: Wide receivers

2017 Bears position grades: Wide receivers

2017 grade: D-

Level of need: High

Decisions to be made on: Markus Wheaton (contract), Dontrelle Inman (free agent), Kendall Wright (free agent), Josh Bellamy (free agent), Kevin White (fifth-year option)

Possible free agent targets: All of them? (But more specifically Jarvis Landry, Mike Wallace, Paul Richardson, Marqise Lee, Ryan Grant, Eric Decker, Albert Wilson, Donte Moncrief, Jaron Brown, Taylor Garbriel, Terrelle Pryor, John Brown, Allen Robinson)

The Bears cannot go into 2018 with a wide receiver core as weak as the one with which Mitchell Trubisky had to work in 2017. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to go out and sign Jarvis Landry for huge money and then draft, say, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, but adding multiple reliable wide receivers is a massive need for the offseason. A blend of free agents and draft picks seems like the most likely route.

Before we look at this year’s free agent class, a word on Cameron Meredith, who said this on locker cleanout day Jan. 1: “Training camp for sure I’ll be back. Right now it’s staying on pace so that I can do that. Yes, full recovery.”

The Bears shouldn’t count on Meredith to improve off his 66-catch, 888-yard 2016 season by virtue of him coming back from a torn ACL suffered last August. But it’s also not like any production from Meredith will be a bonus; if he’s even close to the player he was two years ago, he’ll be a significant part of the Bears’ offense.

So if the Bears are counting on Meredith to play in 2018, do they absolutely need to go out and splurge for the best receiver on the market in Jarvis Landry? Not necessarily. Landry reportedly wants Davante Adams money (four years, $58 million, with $32 million guaranteed) and might get more than that if a bidding war develops on the open market.

Would Landry be worth it? He followed consecutive 1,100-yard seasons in 2015 and 2016 with a league-leading 112 receptions in 2017, and won’t turn 26 until next November, so yeah, he very well could be. The Bears should have enough cap space to chase Landry, too.

But for a few reasons, Ryan Pace has either never landed nor pursued the priciest free agents in his three cycles as general manager. He splashed $38.75 million for Pernell McPhee in 2015; that was the 10th-largest free agent contract signed that year and has the 13th-highest amount of guaranteed money, per Spotrac. Danny Trevathan got $28 million in 2016 (22nd among free agents), and Mike Glennon’s ill-fated $45 million contract ranked 11th last year (with significantly less guaranteed money).

The other part of Pace’s free agency strategy hasn’t been under his control: The Bears just haven’t been an enticing destination lately. Cornerback A.J. Bouye -- 2017’s highest-paid free agent -- turned down more money from the Bears to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, for example.

The Bears hope that’s changing, with a promising franchise quarterback, a young and affable head coach and a major renovation to Halas Hall. For all the losing, and for all the gripes outside Lake Forest about John Fox, the Bears did have a good culture in their locker room. Selling the future of this franchise should be a lot easier in 2018 than it was in 2017.

Will that all add up to the Bears signing Landry to a huge contract? Not necessarily. The Bears could make a strong pitch and sizable offer, but he could be lured by another team that’s had more recent success (like the Oakland Raiders). Or Pace could continue to look for bargains in free agency, which hasn’t particularly worked out for him in the past, but then take a receiver with the Bears’ first-round pick.

But perhaps Pace will see his long-term vision coming together, and will see a big-ticket free agent like Landry being the guy who puts the Bears over the hump from winning to losing. He could be the franchise’s Jon Lester, or if you’re a hopeful White Sox fan, Manny Machado.

But here’s a counter to the argument for signing Landry: Kansas City’s offense last year didn’t have a big-time outside target. Tyreek Hill’s versatility and explosive playmaking ability made him the Chiefs’ best wide receiver, but he was able to line up at almost any position on the field. Albert Wilson (who’s a free agent) had the second-most targets of among Chiefs receivers with 62; tight end Travis Kelce was targeted a team-high 122 times.

The Bears don’t have a Hill or a Kelce on their roster. Tarik Cohen and Adam Shaheen could be the “light” versions of both, which may necessitate a need for better “traditional” wide receivers. That doesn’t necessarily mean Landry, to be fair.

Mike Wallace is 31 but showed he still has something in the tank, missing only one game the last two years while racking up 1,765 yards and eight touchdowns for the Baltimore Ravens. Paul Richardson had a breakout 2017 with the Seattle Seahawks, catching 44 passes for 703 yards with six touchdowns as an effective deep threat. Marqise Lee had 119 catches for 1,553 yards in the vertically-challenged Jaguars offense the last two years. Ryan Grant has never missed a game in his four-year career and is coming off a career best 45-catch, 573-yard season with Washington. The aforementioned Wilson caught 42 passes for 554 yards with the Chiefs last year, both career highs.

Perhaps no free agent receivers have as much to prove than Terrelle Pryor and Donte Moncrief. Pryor, like Alshon Jeffery, found the free agent market weak in 2017 and took a one-year prove-it deal, but instead turning it into an extension and Super Bowl ring, he bombed with only 20 catches for 240 yards with Washington. It’d be a risk, but if he can get the stink of 2017 off him and flash the talent that got him 77 receptions and over 1,000 yards with the Cleveland Browns in 2016, he’d be worth it.

Moncrief is another interesting name out there. He was targeted over 100 times in 2015 and caught 64 passes for 733 yards and six touchdowns as the big-bodied complement to T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis, but struggled to stay healthy the last two years, only playing 21 games and totaling 56 receptions for 698 yards.

One other guy to highlight: Allen Robinson. The Jaguars probably won’t let him get away, but even if they do, would the Bears really want to sign him and then have three wide receivers coming off season-ending injuries (Meredith and Kevin White being the other two; Robinson tore his ACL in Week 1 last year). The Rams’ Sammy Watkins is also an impending free agent, but it’d be a huge surprise if Los Angeles let him hit the open market, so he’s not worth considering for the Bears right now.

We’ll see what direction Pace takes next month with free agency. But expect the Bears to return no more than one receiver from their Week 2 lineup -- Kendall Wright (59 receptions, 614 yards) is probably the only guy who could be back, if the two parties want to re-unite. Wright, as it stands for my grade, was the only guy keeping this unit from an “F,” as in a total failure.

Markus Wheaton, who became only one of nine players since 1992 to be targeted at least 15 times and catch fewer than 20 percent of those targets (he caught two passes), is likely to be cut. It’s unlikely Josh Bellamy or Dontrelle Inman will be re-signed (slight chance for Inman, but he disappeared in December). And the Bears probably will decline Kevin White’s fifth-year option, making 2018 a prove-it year for the former first-round pick.