Chicago Bears – 2019 A Look Inside

Contributions from Joshua Hudson, Chris Molina, Chris Tyler, & Joe Zollo

With only five draft picks, the Bears needed to make a statement. They did just that by getting one of my favorite players in this draft class in the third round — RB David Montgomery. In the fourth, they added to their deep receiver corps with Georgia’s Riley Ridley (yes, brother of Falcons WR Calvin Ridley). This class will be judged on their performances, seeing as how their first and second rounders were dealt in the Khalil Mack acquisition, and we know how well that’s worked out for the Bears’ defense. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

The way that Matt Nagy called plays for the Bears last year, it’s hard to predict which players will shine in a given week. They spread the ball around a lot. Allen Robinson was signed to be their number one guy, and he just barely cracked the top 40 at WR. Rookie Anthony Miller was a touchdown machine, but has some maturing to do. Jordan Howard couldn’t handle three down work, so they traded him to Philly and drafted David Montgomery to pair with Tarik Cohen in the backfield. Trey Burton was brought in to be a star TE and, despite a top 8 finish, was inconsistent and a frustrating own. All that and not one mention of Mitchell Trubisky. I’m not a huge fan, but he contributes rushing yards to keep his floor high. Nagy has a way of putting him in positions to succeed, as witnessed by his QB14 finish from a year ago. With a strong RB1 in place, the sky’s the limit for this offense in 2019. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

I don’t like writing about rookies. They perpetually disappoint. But one position where they have an easier path to a productive first year is at running back. When the Raiders drafted Josh Jacobs in the first round, it became difficult to imagine a scenario where, if healthy, he wouldn’t touch the ball 300 times. Another rookie who landed in a picture perfect situation was third round pick David Montgomery. How he fell to the third round is beyond me (likely his paltry 4.63 40 time), but his skill set should be exactly what head coach Matt Nagy is looking for from a running back.

Let’s start with last season. All the talk early on in Bears camp was that Jordan Howard wasn’t cut out to be a true three down back because he struggled in pass protection and had suspect hands. Well, Nagy put him to the test early, with 11 targets over the first three games of the year (nine over the first two). Howard caught all by one target, but it wasn’t enough to sway Nagy’s belief in Howard as a three down back. (I’m guessing his eight games with lower than 3.5 yards per carry also played a role, but I digress.) However, they kept feeding Howard to the tune of 250 carries. It was Howard’s third straight year with 250 carries or more, but his first under 1,000 yards. As a run blocking unit, the Bears were middle of the road by Pro Football Focus’s metrics (tied for 14th in the league). Over the first two years of Howard’s career when he topped 1,000 yards, the Bears ranked ninth and eighth, respectively. See the correlation? If the Bears line improves, even incrementally, Montgomery should have no problem succeeding — he led the NCAA last year in forced missed tackles and forced missed tackles per rushing attempt.

The easiest argument for Montgomery is that the Bears need someone to take over Howard’s 250 carries from a year ago. They brought in Mike Davis from Seattle in the offseason, but then gave up additional draft capital to trade up to get Montgomery. Tarik Cohen had 99 carries in 2018, a year after posting 87 carries as a rookie. If I had to guess, Nagy would be more comfortable if Cohen’s carries decreased into the 60s, and Davis/Montgomery handled more of the rushing load. Davis’ career high in carries was last year at 112. Montgomery toted the rock over 250 times each of the last two seasons at Iowa State. Montgomery is built to handle the heavy workload as a rusher. But what about his hands?

When you watch Montgomery on tape, he is so quick in and out of his breaks. At 5’10”, he’s small enough to shake would-be tacklers, and big enough at 222 pounds to run through them. He had 71 receptions over three years in college and is a solid pass blocker, finishing twelfth in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency metric last season. Cohen is going to see the bulk of the receptions out of the backfield in Chicago, but having a threat like Montgomery allows them to not show their hand on offense, something the Bears were forced to do with Howard. There’s no reason that Montgomery won’t see at least 200 carries and 40 targets, which should easily make him a top 20 running back by year’s end. I say at least because if the Bears believe in Montgomery as much as they showed by trading up to get him, he could see the full 250 that Howard vacated and cut into Cohen’s target share (91) from a year ago. At his current price of RB22, there’s top 12 upside if the usage is where it should be. Just remember, as a fifth round pick in 2016, Howard finished his rookie year as RB9 with 252 carries and 50 targets. Keep that in mind when looking at Montgomery on Draft Day. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

Do you want to play a game? I am going to give two sets of stats. The first set of stats – 80 receptions on 151 targets for 1400 yards and 14 touchdowns. The second set of stats – 55 receptions on 94 targets for 754 yards and 4 TDs. Can you guess who owns these stats? The answer is Allen Robinson. For both. Yes. Allen Robinson owns both of these sets of stats. The 80-reception year was in 2015 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Blake Bortles as his QB. It set the world on fire. He was subsequently drafted in the first round of the next year’s fantasy football drafts. However, the second set of stats was Allen Robinson in 2018 with the Chicago Bears and Mitchell Trubisky at QB. The 2015 version of Allen Robinson is long gone. Replacing him is the 2018 version. In fact, his 3-year average when playing a full season – without 2015 – is 58 receptions on 108 targets for 728 yards and four touchdowns per season. He also missed the entire 2017 season.

Right now, Allen Robinson is being drafted at a reasonable price as the WR32 in mock drafts (middle of the 7th round). If you are considering him at the price, let’s consider who he’s being drafted within that round. First, Robby Anderson is being drafted as the WR31, four spots ahead of Allen Robinson. Second, Christian Kirk is being drafted as the WR33, one spot behind Allen Robinson. Both players have upside that is well documented and will likely shoot past any potential upside from Allen Robinson. For starters, neither player has Mitchell Trubisky as their quarterback. Last season, Trubisky ranked 20th in passing yards, 18th in yards-per-attempt, 19th in completions, 19th in pass attempts, 15th in touchdowns, and 25th in yards per game. Robinson is also behind both Anthony Miller and Trey Burton as targets for Mitchell Trubisky in the red zone. Burton had 6 touchdowns on 11 red zone receptions; Anthony Miller had 7 touchdowns on 7 red zone receptions; Allen Robinson only had 4 touchdowns on 5 red zone receptions.

Therefore, you should expect a similar season to 2018 from Allen Robinson. He was the WR37 last year between weeks 1-16. That’s barely flex worthy. Taking your shot at a receiver for your flex spot in the 7th round isn’t that bad of an idea. However, you should probably take Robby Anderson or Christian Kirk instead. They both have WR2 upside. Anderson’s floor last year was WR36 over the same time frame. However, he was the WR2 when Sam Darnold found his groove over Weeks 14-16. I’m not saying Allen Robison can’t improve or will get worse. I’m saying don’t draft vanilla ice cream when mint-chocolate chip and/or cookie dough ice cream are on the board. – Chris Molina

With so few names to actually trust on this team, we managed to narrow it down to Mitchell Trubisky and Tarik Cohen. As you can see, the short guy won out and here is why. Currently, Cohen is being taken between 2-5 picks after his new teammate, rookie running back, David Montgomery. That is somewhat understandable considering the departure of Jordan Howard but Cohen is still going to get his touches and make most of them count.

Last season, even with another running back in the mix (Jordan Howard), Cohen finished as RB13, hovering around names like Nick Chubb and David Johnson. Both of those guys are being taken much higher than Cohen and rightfully so. But Cohen can still rack up major points at his position. After the bye week, Cohen finished with double-digit points in eight of his last eleven games, rattling off three straight weeks of over 20 fantasy points from weeks six through eight. Cohen’s touches went up a solid amount in his second season and he will most likely get over 100 rushes this season since he hit 97 in 2018. His reception totals should continue to grow as well (which is where Josh and I disagree). I’m not sure Cohen repeats his RB13 numbers from last season but he will definitely finish inside the Top 20 amongst running backs, giving you a high volume of points in multiple weeks throughout the season. – Joe Zollo

As you may know, I’m a big fan of David Montgomery from Iowa State University. With the departure of Jordan Howard, the Chicago Bears need a three-down running back and Montgomery can be that. Over his career, he rushed for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns, proving he has the capability to be an RB1. Given his size and strength, Montgomery’s 4.63 40 raises eyebrows (not in a good way) but he plays faster than that on tape. He’s a compact runner that can hit the afterburners once he clears the linebacker level. His impact will not only be on the ground but in the air as a receiver. In college, he caught 71 passes for 582 yards. He’s an all-around talent who landed in a perfect spot. David Montgomery will be a guy you want on your team this upcoming season. – Chris Tyler

Most likely slotting in as the second option amongst wide receivers in the Bears offense, Anthony Miller is coming into his second season out of Memphis. Miller’s current ADP is WR53, which is hovering around the area of guys like Devin Funchess and DeSean Jackson. That makes zero sense to me considering Funchess has been nothing but a disappointment and Jackson is boom or bust.

Miller brings a solid slot presence to Chicago and I liked him a ton going into last season as well. I ended up featuring Trey Burton last year as a sleeper and it paid off with him finishing as TE8. While I don’t believe Miller will finish in the conversation of a WR1, he has solid PPR upside to reach the WR3 level in his second season. Target Miller between rounds 8 and 10 as his value will be best in that area of the draft. – Joe Zollo

Yes, the sexy name on the loaded Bears defense is Khalil Mack but here is the sad reality when it comes to fantasy football with him: he is listed as a LB. That is a huge dagger since he doesn’t finish anywhere near the Top 20 due to him mostly being an edge rusher and less of a Linebacker that rakes in the tackles. In 2017 with the Raiders, he was listed as a DE which made his value in fantasy football sky high. Now as an LB with Chicago, he has lot most of his value. Mack is still valuable as a backup and is able to exploit fantastic match ups in most games, but the guy to take on this defense is second year man Roquan Smith.

Smith was taken 8th overall by the Bears in the 2018 draft and was expected to immediately fill the Middle Linebacker role that the team has yet to find a replacement for since Brian Urlacher retired. Smith over-delivered in his first season. He managed to rack up 121 total tackles and five sacks during his rookie season, helping him finish as the 9th best Linebacker in fantasy football last season. There is no reason he can’t find himself in the Top 10 again in 2019 and I fully expect him to finish even higher than he did last season. – Joe Zollo