Bears

Fantasy Football: 15 bold predictions for the 2015 season

julio-jones-bold-predictions-fantasy-slide.png

Fantasy Football: 15 bold predictions for the 2015 season

Go big or go home.

What's the fun of fantasy football if you don't take risks every now and then?

With that in mind, we've compiled some bold predictions for the 2015 fantasy season.

[MORE: Get more Fantasy Football coverage here]

Consider these predictions like needing only an extra point to tie the game, but deciding to go for two anyways. Sometimes, it's just more fun to go against the grain, even if the odds are stacked against you.

1. Alshon Jeffery will not be a Top 15 fantasy WR this year.

I'm just really lukewarm on Jeffery this year. When Brandon Marshall went down last year and was lost for the season, it was a chance to see what Jeffery could do on his own. I wasn't impressed. I get it that it was a lost season but over the last three games, he only went for 12 catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. That doesn't make me feel good about him being a WR1. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

2. Julio Jones will have 130 receptions this season. 

Predicting Julio Jones will be the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver in 2015 is way too easy. I'm taking a different approach with this prediction and stating that Jones will finish with the second-most receptions in a single season in NFL history (Marvin Harrison had 143 with the Colts in 2002). Jones hauled in 104 passes on 164 targets last season and with Roddy White on a decline and minimal options for Matt Ryan to target in the passing game, I expect Jones to have a monster year in Kyle Shanahan's system. (Scott Krinch)

3. Jameis Winston will return QB1 value.

Hey, we're supposed to be bold with these things. Ryan Tannehill was the 10th best fantasy quarterback a year ago, averaging 22.8 fantasy points per game. I don't know about Winston's offensive line holding up, but assuming Winston plays all 16 games, he's going to reach those numbers. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson are absolute workhorses, both Doug Martin and Charles Sims can catch out of the backfield and Winston has shown some ability to scramble. I've got Winston replacing Matt Ryan in the Top 10 this season. If you took Winston late as your QB2, there's going to be some controversy in your lineup later in the year. (Mark Strotman)

[Fantasy Football Podcast: Draft recap and Week 1 preview]

4. Michael Crabtree catches 90 balls for 1,200 yards and 10 scores.

Crabtree has always left something to be desired, both in fantasy and in real life, even during his best season in 2012 (85 rec, 1,105 yds, 9 TD). I'm betting he surpasses those numbers this year with the Oakland Raiders. He's highly motivated (as CSN Bay Area Raiders Insider Scott Bair recounted for our podcast last month), the talent is still there and he's in an up-and-coming offense where teams will undoubtedly be focusing on highly-touted rookie Amari Cooper. Watch Crabtree explode back onto the fantasy scene in 2015. (Tony Andracki)

5. There will be a Seahawks wide receiver to own by the end of the year: Tyler Lockett.

In past years, it's been a situation to stay away from. Percy Harvin disappointed, Doug Baldwin isn't more than a week-to-week flex option and Jermaine Kearse comes up with one clutch catch and that's about it. Lockett has impressed so far on special teams and should see the field a lot more on offense as the year goes along. He will become a favorite target of Russell Wilson. Keep an eye on the speedster so you aren't too late to snatch him up. (JP)

6. Doug Martin will be a Top 10 RB again. 

Is Doug Martin back? You better believe it. The artist formerly known as the "Muscle Hamster" is once again running with authority, and showing that patience and vision that made him a Top 3 running back in 2012. Without any competition behind him (Charles Sims is merely a third-down specialist), Martin - as long as he stays healthy - should post a Top 10 season at his position. (SK)

[Fantasy Football: 2015 wide receiver sleepers and busts]

7. Davante Adams will fail to impress.

I don't necessarily have any projected numbers for the Packers' new No. 2 WR, but it's asking a whole lot for a second-year wideout to post numbers on where he was selected - his ADP is higher than Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Maclin and Sammy Watkins, just to name a few. I expect him to be a borderline WR2, but Randall Cobb is going to post monster numbers and the Packers will rely even more on Eddie Lacy. One of James Jones, Ty Montgomery or Jeff Janis will emerge as Green Bay's No. 3, and while that won't hurt Cobb any, it may hurt Adams. I get why his stock rose so drastically; it just rose way too quickly for the biggest question mark of any WR2. (MS)

8. Tevin Coleman will be the top rookie RB to own. 

Last season, it was the year of the rookie wide receiver. In 2015, it could be the year of the rookie running back. The likes of Tevin Coleman, Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah, Todd Gurley and TJ Yeldon were all Top 100 fantasy picks. The one that slipped the furthest, Coleman, is the player that I believe will have the biggest fantasy impact this season. The only competition Coleman has in Atlanta is Devonta Freeman, who isn't a serious threat to unseat the rookie. Coleman has breakaway speed and plus skills in the passing game, and has already been named the Week 1 starter. Go out and get him in your perspective leagues before it's too late. (SK)

[Fantasy Football: 2015 running back sleepers and busts]

9. This year's Odell Beckham Jr. will be Todd Gurley.

If you remember, Beckham missed a chunk of the first half of the season and then put up mind-blowing numbers. Gurley will reportedly miss at least the first three games but then comes back to presumably be the top back with the Rams. Tre Mason may get in his way a little, but Gurley's talent will shine immediately like OBJ and will take the league by storm. Get your popcorn ready. (JP)

10. Jeremy Hill will finish as a Top 3 running back.

The Bengals' feature back from Week 9 on finished 11th last season despite rushing 50 times in his first seven games. From Week 9 on, he led running backs in fantasy points, racking up five games of 100+ yards and scoring six touchdowns. He's going to get all he can handle this season with Hue Jackson running the show - and Andy Dalton doing his best impression of a quarterback - and is primed to continue his breakout, much like Eddie Lacy did last season in his Year 2. Fantasy prospects are all about having an opportunity; Hill has a perfect one, and he's going to make the most of it. Congrats if you snagged Hill anywhere in the second round; you've got a steal. (MS)

11. Alfred Morris owners will outright release him before the fantasy playoffs begin.

I've never been a big Morris fan and things are trending in the wrong direction for him. He's never missed a game, but his yards and yards per carry have dropped every season and he almost never catches the ball, so his entire value is weighted on his rushing production. Last season, Morris notched just one game over 92 rushing yards and had six games where he racked up 54 or fewer rushing yards without a tuddie. That kind of inconsistency is maddening and we've heard report after report about how much the Redskins love Matt Jones. I'm betting Jones will be the Washington running back to own by about Week 10 or so. (TA)

12. Antonio Gates misses four games and is still a Top 5 TE by end of season.

He hasn't really shown any signs of slowing down. Philip Rivers is still there. Can Keenan Allen be counted on for a bounce back year? Rivers' favorite target with thrive when he gets back. (JP)

13. Jarvis Landry will finish in the Top 10 in receptions.

If you read any of our previews, I'm all aboard the Dolphins bandwagon this season. And a lot of it has to do with Landry, who tallied 84 receptions on 111 targets a year ago. While the Dolphins spent a first-round pick on DeVante Parker (who's coming along slowly after a foot injury cost him the preseason) the wide receiver depth in Miami isn't great. It's going to be Landry who continues to rise in Year 2, and he's going to be an absolute steal in PPR leagues. He finished 17th in receptions a year ago. I expect 90+ catches in 2015. (MS)

14. Tyler Eifert will be a Top 5 tight end. 

Primed for a breakout season, Tyler Eifert broke his elbow in Week 1 in 2014 and missed the remainder of the year. Now, with expectations lowered, Eifert is the 13th-ranked tight end heading into the 2015 season. With the tight end position so shallow, Eifert has a great chance of climbing up the rankings. The former first-round pick has the ideal size and speed combo and a quarterback that loves the intermediate passing game. Don't be surprised if Eifert finishes second behind wide receiver A.J. Green in targets on the Bengals. (SK)

[Fantasy Football: 2015 tight end sleepers and busts]

15. Travis Kelce will be the No. 1 fantasy tight end.

I haven't hid my love for Kelce over the last two seasons, but all the signs are pointing to a breakout season for the Chiefs tight end if he can stay healthy. Even with Anthony Fasano stealing playing time from Kelce at TE in KC last season, Kelce still finished as the No. 6 fantasy tight end. With healthy/suspension questions around Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas, new environments for Jimmy Graham and Martellus Bennett and a lack of other options around him (Greg Olsen), Kelce could easily jump all those guys and be the No. 2 tight end. I'm betting he's even better than Gronkowski. (TA)

Trubisky using flashcards to learn Bears offense

trubisky-317.jpg
USA Today

Trubisky using flashcards to learn Bears offense

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky is preparing for his second season in the NFL, one in which he'll be running an entirely new offense, with a tried-and-true method of learning: flashcards.

“Quarterback play is how fast you can process,” Trubisky told the Chicago Sun-Times. “A lot of that is recollection. That’s exactly what flash cards are.

"You’re trying to learn and memorize, and to try to forget what you did in the past.”

Coach Matt Nagy is attempting to install an offense that took five years to master in Kansas City in his first offseason in Chicago. Its success or failure will circle directly back to how well Trubisky operates within its structure.

Despite its complexity, Trubisky feels more comfortable in Nagy's system than the one Dowell Loggains ran last season.

“It’s more complex, but it’s easier [to execute], as opposed to simpler but more difficult.

"That’s how I would describe it last year. Last year, there were probably less words, but they didn’t necessarily fit together. Or it was just more difficult to process. This year, it’s more complex but it’s easier to execute and memorize and remember because everything builds on something. You start with a base concept, and it gets more and more complicated.”

Trubisky's comments illustrate what makes Nagy a potentially special offensive coach. He's making a normally difficult process seem easy, and that's the kind of environment that will facilitate learning and execution.

“It’s just crazy to see. I feel like that’s how it should be done, because it’s a more advanced offense, but we were able to pick it up so quickly over the summer because of how they taught it. And how everything fits together."

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Danny Trevathan
2. John Timu
3. Joel Iyiegbuniwe

1. Roquan Smith
2. Nick Kwiatkoski
3. Jonathan Anderson

1. How good can Roquan Smith be?

Making sweeping observations from shorts-and-helmets practices in OTAs is often a fool’s errand, but Smith looked the part while running around the practice fields of Halas Hall after being drafted in April. His quickness and instinctiveness stood out — as they did at Georgia — and his football intelligence and work ethic were praised by coaches and teammates. 

“He’s learning well,” Trevathan said. “He’s doing a good job of learning. He’s learning the little things that you need to learn in this defense. Now it’s all about putting on a show and going out there and rocking.”

And that’s what’s going to be fun to watch in Bourbonnais: How does Smith play with the pads on? Chances are, the answer to that question will be “well,” setting the eighth overall pick on a path to being a mainstay of this defense for years to come. 

That’s not to say Smith doesn’t have plenty on which to work during training camp. But he left Georgia as a sort of “safe bet” in the draft, and nothing he’s done to this point has changed the view of him that he’s likely going to be a good one. 

2. Can Danny Trevathan stay healthy?

In terms of size and athleticism, Trevathan and Smith profile similar to NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the inside linebacking tandem that was the spine of the San Francisco 49ers defense during Fangio’s time there. But for Trevathan and Smith to reach that lofty bar — or even to come close to it — Trevathan needs to be more available than he was his first two years with the Bears.

This isn’t questioning Trevathan’s toughness — far from it. That he returned for Week 1 of the 2017 season 10 months after rupturing his patellar tending (an injury that can be a career-ender) was impressive, and that he was immediately productive upon returning was even more extraordinary. But Trevathan missed three games in November due to a strained calf, and coupled with a one-game suspension and the seven games he missed in 2016, the 28-year-old has only played in 21 of 32 games since signing with the Bears. 

Trevathan is confident he can improve his production in 2018, given he wasn’t able to participate in last year’s offseason program practices. He’s entering his third year in Fangio’s defense and feels better prepared after going through OTAs and minicamps this year. It’s just now about him staying on the field to make sure that work pays off.

“I’m more comfortable with this defense, I’m more comfortable with the guys and the calls that we make,” Trevathan said. “I take pride in being correct and working my tail off and making the defense better. And the more that I can be out there — which I plan on being out there a lot — it’s going to help us tremendously.” 

3. How big a role will Nick Kwiatkoski have?

The Bears didn’t draft Smith because they felt like they absolutely needed to upgrade over Kwiatkoski, who’s acquitted himself well in 25 games since being picked in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. But Kwiatkoski has dealt with some injury issues, and for as solid a player as he may be, the Bears’ defense needed (and still needs) more great players. Drafting Smith gave the Bears a shot at adding a great player.

It also leaves Kwiatkoski in the same spot he was in a year ago, when the Bears entered the 2017 season with Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman as their unquestioned starting inside linebackers. Smith still has to earn that starting spot, but the safe bet is he will, relegating Kwiatkoski again to reserve duties.

And that’s a positive for the overall health of this defense, having a player good enough to start ready to play if needed. But it also raises this question: What do the Bears do with Kwiatkoski if he’s one of their four best linebackers, but isn’t one of their two best inside linebackers? 

So for the purposes of watching training camp practices, seeing if Kwiatkoski gets any reps at outside linebacker will be an interesting storyline to follow.