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Fantasy Too Early: Bear Down Edition!

No CBA yet? No problem, we got Bears on the brains anyway. No, really. I watched the @Vikings, Eagles, and Seattle games this week to keep myself busy, and now its time to get a special Fantasy review of Chicago Bears players, where to draft them, and what you might dare to expect.

Matt Forte: Matt Forte is a solid #2 RB in any fantasy league and is a couple of TDs a season away from being a pure #1 option. Depending on how your draft falls, he is a great 2nd round pick in 12 team formats and a top 3rd round choice if not still 2nd round in 10 team formats. Now, if you play in PPR, I would argue he is already a #1 RB. Forte finished 9th in my standard PPR league last year, and was 11th in standard scoring for ESPN (both of which indicate low #1 RB stats, or well-deserving of a 2nd round grade). Will He Be Better in 2011? You betcha. He had a career high in YPC but a career low in carries. He had only 2 games with over 15 carries prior to the bye week. He didn't score a receiving TD after week 2. I see our line improving some, meaning he may get Rushing TDs in more than 5 games. The bottom line is this: There are not many RBs who can legitimately get 100 yards rushing or receiving in any given game, and Matt is that guy. Take him in the 2nd, but expect #1 RB numbers by season end.

D/ST: Top 10 every year. I really don't think much needs to be said here. The Bears D/ST constantly gets left on the board as the Patriots, Jets, Steelers, Ravens, Giants, Cowboys, and now the Packers get drafted, but our Special Teams play is so good that even in 2007-2009 our D/ST was worth owning. Now, I still won't draft a D/ST unit before the 9th-10th round...but I always feel comfortable starting our guys.

Johnny Knox: Knox was a #3 receiver in 2010. He finished 25th in standard scoring and 31st in PPR leagues. He is about a 3 catch a game player, and never had more than 6 in a game. He also only caught TDs in 4 games last year. Still, it was an improvement over the year before and his upside could be good. I have him with a 7th round grade in 12 team leagues, meaning 8-9th round in standard leagues. Will He Be Better in 2011? I don't know guys, and I am just being honest. Knox got a lot of targets (100) to get #3 receiver stats in 2010, and I think more of those targets go to Bennett and Olsen in 2011. Doesn't mean he can't have success, but I wouldn't expect much more than what we got last year...though he may score more than 4 times, which could push him up some. Its harder for little speed guys to get those TDs, though. I downgrade him to a #4 receiver in PPR leagues on top of that because he is not a high reception % player. I like Knox, I just think his physical limitations will continue to define his role going forward.

Jay Cutler: Cutler finished 17th in standard scoring, a clear cut #2 QB with inconsistency being the most defining word you could use. He had 5 games with less than 10 points, but 4 games with over 20 points. If you flip those results though, and/or have him play all 16 games, you get a top 12 QB. He had a solid 3200 yards and over 20 TDs... I think our special teams actually hinders the yardage totals  (see the Minnesota game, 194 yards 3 TDs, or the Jets game with 215 yards and 3 TDs). Will He Be Better in 2011? Yes. I don't see anyway he isn't. Standard scoring penalizes him for each of those 52 sacks. With the addition of Carimi and a 2nd year in the system, I see that number improving some. I expect him to play every game. I expect a lot of those "almost" plays from 2010 to actually happen in 2011, and I see Knox and Bennett both stepping up better for Cutler this year. I expect 3500 yards, at least 10 less sacks, and probably a few more scores. I see a #1 QB that you can draft as your #2 QB in the 8th round.

Earl Bennett: Bennett wasn't really worth owning in fantasy last year. He did not finish top 50, and his only good back to back weeks where Philly & Detroit. Will He Be Better in 2011? I say hands down, yes. He was hurt in 2010, missed most of camp, didn't get to install the offense with everyone else, and so he had a lot to prove. Martz acknowledged as much already this off-season, Bennett is going to see more opportunities in 2011. He had the best hands on the team, easily in 2010, ran some of the best routes, and if you watch the Philly game again, man can he show power and elusiveness. I see a guy here you can draft as a 5th receiver, in the 11th or later rounds of most drafts, that may well be the Bears #1 guy by the end of 2011 and get 60+ catches. I would really target him in PPR leagues.

Greg Olsen: Olsen was barely worth owning as a #2 TE in 2010, and many called it as a symptom of Martz' offense, but he would have been a #2 in 2009 as well if it hadn't been for the garbage time TDs against Arizona (70 yards, 3 TDs). Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda, I know...but the man has not yet torn up the NFL. He also had well over 100 targets in 2009 to get those 600 yards. I for one agree with more of those targets going to wide receivers. Doesn't mean he doesn't have a place, he does, and I hope as much as anyone in his 5th season, his blocking continues to improve and he gets more physical and aggressive as a receiver...But until he does, and consistently, I still think those targets are better off going for Knox (same reception %, much higher YPC) and Bennett (much higher reception %, and 2 more YPC). Will He Be Better in 2011? I'll draft him as my #2 TE, because I am a homer and I hold out hope. With that said, a #2 TE should be something you are targeting in the 10th-12th round or later, not someone you take in the first 8 rounds. I don't know if I actually believe 2011 will be that year. I do think he gets back up over 10 YPC. I think he might squeeze in a couple more TDs in 2011. I doubt he gets more than 500-550 yards, though, unless he takes some major steps.

Vincent Jackson, Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes, Chad Ochocinco? If we go get a shiny new #1 receiver, I am moving them up 1 round from where I have them currently. Why? Because the only thing better than having a great producer in fantasy, is having that player be from your own team. I will be a homer for our guys as soon as I have a reason to believe. I go nuts for Forte, and I'd go nuts for a stud receiver in Chicago too...Plus I'd move Cutler up some as well, though it would hurt the ratings of Knox and Bennett.

IDP Matters Too.

Brian Urlacher, as I outlined in the IDP special, is a #1 LB, draftable in the 1st round in IDP only or the 8th in IDP/Standard leagues.

Lance Briggs is less appealing, but he was a #3 LB in 2010 and should be again in 2011. IDP rosters vary so much its hard to tell you what round to draft a 3rd LB in, it depends how many you start, how many backups you get, and how many DL and DB spots you have...but LBs make the best Defensive "Utility" Position fillers, too!

Charles Tillman finished 2010 as a #3 DB, or a low, low #1 CB (if your league has CB/Safety specific spots).He will be right there again in 2011, and forever after until he forgets how to strip and tackle...but our Safeties don't rate, and neither does whoever our #2 Corner is next year.

Julius Peppers is a top 5 DE for at least 2 more years, and a top 10 DL guy too. The only Tackle I might take ahead of him is Suh. This is a #1 DL/DE starter and as a 100+ point scorer, might not be bad in a utility spot if value is gone at Safety and LB.

Israel Idonije rates lower, as a 3rd string DL guy, and he is in far more danger of stat decline than Peppers is, because the Bears would love to get a better pass rusher in that spot despite Idonije's always solid play. Its kind of like Alex Brown in that respect...We don't seem to be happy with a run stopping, 7-8 sack player, and that is fair in our scheme. Wootton may steal snaps here, but I think unless he outright loses his job, Idonije will be a #3 DL again. Don't trust Paea or Melton this year, but I will be watching them just in case.


Thanks for hearing me out guys, have a great work week, and see you Friday!