Despite the fact that there are many NFL and fantasy football fans who pick over offseason news with a fine-tooth comb, we understand that there are still a lot of you out there who simply don't have time to keep up with player movements or the happenings of each team. That's why yours truly is here to give you the lowdown on the recent 2014 news of each team, both AFC and NFC and how it impacts your fantasy football league/team.
I thought I would do something a little bit different this time. Instead of loading up information on all four teams from each division in one article, I'd like to break down each team in each division for the NFC. I finished up the NFC East last week, so lets get going with the NFC North. Starting with the Chicago Bears.
A dismal 8-8 season, the first season under HC Marc Trestman, might still stick in fan's craw. But nevertheless, there is still a lot of things to look forward to from the team in 2o14. Especially from a fantasy football standpoint.
First we have to start with QB Jay Cutler. Fans and owners alike would prefer to forget about last year's Cutler after he missed five games with an ankle injury. An injury that paved the way for Josh McCown to play well enough and land him a new deal with the Buccaneers.
The Bears, in the hunt for a playoff spot, came up empty on Cutler's arm after losing to the Packers by a score of 33-28. However, Cutler still showed he had that fantasy magic, having passed for 226 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Nabbing 20 (regular league) fantasy points from a player who was close to missing the rest of the season isn't bad. Especially if your championship game was the last week of the year.
There were rumors and speculation galore that the Bears were ready to let Cutler walk if he didn't sign a team-friendly deal. Those rumors didn't last very long after the Bears and Cutler agreed to a seven-year deal worth $126 million, which includes $54 million guaranteed. A nice haul for a player who has had problems staying on the field recently.
Looking to 2014, this Bears offense can easily be considered one of the best in the league. At least on paper. Currently, Cutler's ADP is as the 14th overall quarterback, sandwiched between Tony Romo and Philip Rivers. Having passed for a mere 19 touchdowns each over the past two years has pushed his value down. However, there's no reason Cutler can't reach QB1 status. Trestman told the Chicago Tribune:
"Jay has really worked hard in the offseason, and he has always been a hard worker in his conditioning and his training, but he has really amped it up,"
The problem with Cutler was never his work ethic. He's no slouch. But when you draft Cutler as your No. 1 guy, there is going to be a few red flags simply due to health concerns. If he can play a full sixteen-game schedule, Cutler will finish in the top-7 to top-10 amongst fantasy quarterbacks by the end of the year. His offense is just THAT good.
The biggest mark Trestman made on the offense was at running back. Matt Forte, who had flip-flopped between 900-1000 rushing yards from 2009-2012, set career highs on the ground with 1339 rushing yards, rushing touchdowns with 9 and set career highs with 74 catches and 594 receiving yards. Assistant Pat Meyer gets some of the credit after shoring up the offensive line. There really isn't much to say about Forte's current fantasy value. He's obviously a PPR machine, and is currently ranked as a top-5/top-6 fantasy back in reception leagues. Non-PPR league owners shouldn't hesitate about making him an RB1 either considering he'll rack up enough rushing and receiving yards that a top-10 finish is a fairly clear prediction.
The No. 2 running back spot got a facelift after the Bears rid themselves of Michael Bush and drafted Ka'Deem Carey with their 117th overall pick. Carey is much like Forte in that he excels as both a rusher and pass catcher, having rushed over 300 times in the last two years at Arizona, while catching 77 passes in three years. Carey is smallish at 5'9/207, but should fit right in if Forte winds up missing time. Carey is a mid-level handcuff who could be viewed as the Bears' featured back should Forte be let go once his contract runs out at the 2015 season. Forte turns 29 in December, making Carey a promising second-round option in dynasty leagues.
Widely regarded as one of the best receiving corps in the NFL, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery find themselves close in value. Marshall, who signed a new four-year deal in May, will look to post a third-straight 100 reception year. His receiving yards came down from 1508 in 2012 to 1295 in 2013, but much of the blame can be pointed at the revolving door at quarterback. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that Marshall is a top WR1 again in 2014.
Jeffery makes the Bears receiving duo one of the few where both he and Marshall can be considered WR1's. Despite McCown and Cutler at quarterback, Jeffery's value boomed in 2013 after catching 89 receptions for 1421. Looking at My Fantasy League's current ADP list in PPR leagues, Jeffery and Marshall are neck-and-neck, with Jeffery coming in as the 6th-overall receiver drafted and Marshall as the 7th. Could this be a situation where one owner could own both and start both? Maybe, although I wouldn't chance it if only for the fact that when the Bears have a bad game, both parties will suffer.
Current No. 3 receiver Marquess Wilson doesn't hold much fantasy water unless either Jeffery or Marshall misses a significant amount of time. It's safe to keep him on the waiver wire.
TE Martellus Bennett's first year in a Bears uniform was hot-and-cold to say the least. He started off hot, having caught three touchdowns in the first two games of the season. But after that, he failed to find the endzone in every game but two. And if you look at his catches and receiving yards on a game-per-game basis, he was fairly inconsistent. Bennett is still a TE1 simply because there aren't many tight ends with his talent level left, but he should be considered nothing more than a tail-end fantasy starter. Perhaps the stability at quarterback will push Bennett's value up during the season.