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Fantasy football: Playing buy and sell with Bears players in 2021

Which Bears players offer the most value in fantasy football this year?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL preseason is just a few weeks away, and with the return of the preseason comes the return of fantasy football.

Bears fans haven’t had much to expect out of their favorite team in terms of fantasy production in recent years. While Allen Robinson has been a strong WR1 for the last two years, and David Montgomery is coming off of a breakout season, most of the team’s offensive players since the Marc Trestman era haven’t provided much upside in fantasy circles.

However, with the selection of Justin Fields comes renewed long-term outlook about the Bears’ offensive performance. Though unknown exactly when the rookie quarterback will step into the starting lineup, one can assume that his addition to the team might instill an element of firepower that has been lacking in recent years. That firepower could very well translate to fantasy success, too.

To provide an early look as to which Bears players offer fantasy football value in 2021, let’s go through some notable players and determine whether to buy or sell them at their current positioning.

Buy: Allen Robinson

Allen Robinson has been a top-10 fantasy wide receiver in PPR formats in each of the last two seasons, and barring injury, it seems unlikely that that changes in 2021.

Although his long-term status with the Bears is in question, his value for the upcoming season should not be. He has proven to be a reliable target throughout the course of his career despite subpar quarterback play, both in Chicago and Jacksonville. Regardless of whether Andy Dalton or Justin Fields starts more games, Robinson should be able to contribute at a high level.

ESPN has Robinson projected as the 12th-best receiver in PPR formats and is currently being drafted as a Round 4 target with an average draft positioning of 37.8. At his current positioning, he is being drafted as either a WR2 or a WR3/FLEX, depending on what a drafter does with his or her prior three picks. Given his reliability in fantasy football, that is an incredible value for a player who has been a WR1 in each of the last two years.

Buy: David Montgomery

The injury to Tarik Cohen proved to be a major boost to the fantasy value of David Montgomery last season.

Finishing as the fourth-ranked running back in PPR leagues, Montgomery went on a tear from a fantasy, especially down the stretch: he topped 20 PPR points in each of his last six games. Though Cohen returns to the lineup and projects to take away some of Montgomery’s touches in the passing game, the latter still offers plenty of value in fantasy leagues.

ESPN currently has Montgomery ranked as their 20th running back in PPR leagues, putting him in borderline RB3 territory. While the presence of both Cohen and Damien Williams could play a role in such a low ranking, Montgomery still saw significant usage as a runner prior to Cohen’s injury last season. With an offense that figures to have improved quarterback play, the opportunity could exist for the Iowa State alumnus to score more touchdowns in an offense that had a bottom-10 punt rate last year.

Target Montgomery in the Round 4 range as a potential RB2 for your offense, or even an RB3/flex option if the board falls in that direction. If he is available beyond the fourth round, he could end up being a steal.

Buy: Darnell Mooney

Darnell Mooney broke out as one of the top rookie wide receivers in a stacked 2020 draft class, looking the part of a reliable No. 2 to the aforementioned Robinson.

He finished 50th among wide receivers in PPR leagues, averaging 9.5 points per game despite inconsistent usage early in the season.

Instead of predicting a step up in his sophomore campaign, though, ESPN appears to be sleeping on Mooney. Their collection of experts has him ranked outside of their top 50 receivers, both in PPR and standard leagues. As of this writing, his average draft position is 153.5, placing him in low-end WR5 territory.

Though his ceiling may be somewhat capped with the presence of Robinson, Mooney’s upside is still much greater than where he is being drafted. An explosive receiver who has already grasped the subtle nuances of creating separation in the NFL, he heads into 2021 with a full offseason in an NFL program and the likelihood of better quarterback play. Don’t reach for him, but if he’s available in the last two or three rounds of your fantasy draft, he could be a wise investment to take a chance on.

Sell: Bears D/ST

The Bears may have invested plenty of money into their defense, but that doesn’t always translate to fantasy success.

Last season, they finished with the 19th-best D/ST unit in fantasy football, with their bottom-10 ranking in takeaways and middle-of-the-road performance in terms of sacks playing a major role in their lackluster placement. Though they generally rank pretty well in terms of yardage and points per game allowed, they generated very few splash plays that allow them to make much of a difference in a fantasy setting.

Heading into 2021, ESPN has the Bears ranked as the 15th-best D/ST unit on their board. The unit likely won’t be close to bad by any means, but with an aging front-seven and a secondary that looks worse than it did on paper last year, it’s hard to imagine a major step up in production being made. While Tarik Cohen’s return offers more dynamic potential in the punt return game, the loss of Cordarrelle Patterson greatly diminishes Chicago’s potential of scoring on kickoffs.

Outside of about the top three or four defenses, D/STs are pretty interchangeable every year. If the Bears’ defense bounces back in a new system with defensive coordinator Sean Desai and sees an uptick in production, then they could be worth targeting on the waiver wire. Until then, though, you’re better off looking elsewhere for fantasy production.

Sell: Cole Kmet

Year 2 typically serves as a breakout season for young tight ends, and the expectation is also held to Cole Kmet.

Kmet didn’t play a major role for the Bears’ offense in 2020, and that translated to a lack of fantasy value. Competing for touches at his position with Jimmy Graham, the second-round pick topped 10 points in PPR leagues just once over the course of his rookie season.

ESPN is predicting an uptick in production out of Kmet, placing him as their 20th-ranked tight end in PPR formats. His ranking indicates his potential status as a low-end TE2, but the presence of Graham in the offense could see him struggle to put up enough production to warrant a draft pick in fantasy. The veteran scored 8 touchdowns to Kmet’s 2 last year, and although the lopsided red-zone dynamic might shift slightly next year, the Bears kept Graham around for a reason: they value him in the red zone.

Until Kmet proves that he is the bonafide TE1 in his own offense, he remains a risky investment in fantasy football. Graham looming over the second-year tight end means that his red-zone value could be affected, and he doesn’t project as much of an asset outside of PPR leagues as a short-yardage possession threat. Adding in the likes of Robinson, Mooney, Montgomery and Cohen as competitors for targets, and it could be tough for Kmet to put up significant production in 2021, even if he improves his skill-set in his second year.

Proceed with caution: Justin Fields

First things first: if you’re in a dynasty league, Justin Fields is going to carry incredible value.

His dual-threat ability and consistency as a passer at Ohio State project him as a potential QB1 in fantasy leagues within the next two or three years. In standard leagues, however, his value might be a bit more shaky.

Despite the expectation that the Bears are planning on starting Andy Dalton on Week 1, ESPN has Fields ranked as their 18th quarterback over high-end QB2s from last year like Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins. Though the upside with him is strong to produce like a high-end QB2 right out of the gate, there’s also no telling exactly when he’ll enter the starting lineup.

If you plan on taking Fields in your fantasy league — which many Bears fans seem likely to do — then do so with caution. If you take Fields with the intention of making him your backup, then plan on rostering a third quarterback, preferably one with a later bye week. In a situation in which your starter goes on a bye week and Fields still hasn’t entered the starting lineup, you don’t want to risk looking on the waiver wire for your starter.