The Chicago Bears had one of the worst offenses in the NFL in 2022, but they still had a top-tier fantasy player in quarterback Justin Fields. It wasn't conventional quarterbacking, although he did end up tied for 16th in the league with 17 touchdown passes in 2022, but it was his running ability that had fantasy owners scrambling to get him on their rosters.
Fields was seventh in the entire league with 1,143 rushing yards, and he was tied for 12th with eight rushing touchdowns. His 2,242 passing yards landed him at just 26th overall, but those rushing totals carried him as a fantasy player.
According to Pro Football Reference's fantasy rankings, Fields was the seventh-highest-scoring player a season ago in most standard league formats. When you factor in PPR scoring, he was 17th overall. The DraftKings scoring format had him 15th overall. Any way you slice it, Justin Fields was one of the top fantasy players in all of 2022, and he did so with some less-than-ideal conditions surrounding him.
He was breaking in a new offensive scheme, his third in as many years. His offensive line battled through injuries and poor pass blocking all season long. His top-targeted wide receiver was Darnell Mooney, who only played in 12 games due to injury. His next top targeted wideouts were Dante Pettis and Equanimeous St. Brown, two players who were on no fantasy owners' radar. He did have a solid tight end in Cole Kmet and a decent pass-catching back in David Montgomery, but neither were fantasy difference-makers in 2022.
Fields was a one-man offense for much of Chicago's 3-14 campaign, and defenses couldn't stop him from producing fantasy points.
So what is the best-case scenario for Fields in 2023?
The best thing that can happen for Fields this season is to continue becoming more efficient as a passer while the Bears scale back some of the designed runs. He'll still get plenty of rushing yards scrambling around, but his passing numbers will increase.
The Bears will need their reworked offensive line and new group of weapons to come through, but with Fields in Year 2 of the scheme, we should see some improvements from him due to his comfort and familiarity.
And what is the worst-case scenario for Fields in 2023?
Injuries hurt Chicago's receiving corps and offensive line last year, so if that happens in 2023, the Bears may be forced to put it all on Fields' shoulders again. Fields also missed a couple of '22 games due to injury himself, so the injury bug creeping up could damper his fantasy outlook.
Since we're talking worst-case, Fields is not guaranteed to step up his play this season. I'm hopeful, and it seems likely due to the investment the team made around him, but we still need to see if it all comes together in 2023. If he doesn't jibe with his new weapons or the new emphasis the team will have on the passing game, they may be forced to revert to the designed runs from a season ago. Fields got 'heavy legs' last year from having to do so much, which sapped him towards the end of the season.
2023 fantasy outlook for Fields
I honestly don't see any way Fields will be less effective in 2023. The additions of D.J. Moore (a legit No. 1 wide receiver), the return of wideouts Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool from injury, and free agent tight end Robert Tonyan, to go along with a stable of talented running backs and steady tight end Cole Kmet, and this should be a career year for Fields.
I predict 3,400 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 800 rushing yards, and six TDs on the ground.
Those passing numbers are quite a jump, but Year 3 for Fields in the NFL, in Year 2 of the scheme, with added red-zone threats, should all equal more production.
Other Bears players to consider for your fantasy team
If you're thinking about handcuffing Chicago's QB2 on your roster, don't. P.J. Walker should be Fields' backup, and while he's a better fit schematically than what the Bears had as their backup in 2022, Walker isn't a guy you should ever play on your fantasy team.
D.J. Moore has been a WR1 during his career in Carolina, and that won't stop in Chicago. We've seen several young quarterbacks thrive once their teams added a top-flight wideout, and Moore is that guy for Fields. You can pencil D.J. in to break 1,000 yards receiving and around 10 TDs. It'll be interesting to see how Mooney and Claypool settle into their roles, as Mooney is a former 1,000-yard receiver, and Claypool has the frame to be a viable red-zone threat.
Both Kmet and Tonyan have been decent fantasy pickups in the past, but neither should be your TE1 heading into the 2023 season. The Bears will likely use Kmet more in line with Tonyan playing a Joker role. Until we see a target share at the position, I'd stay away from either guy until the late rounds.
The Bears’ revamped running back room looks to be a committee right now. Khalil Herbert, who led all backs a season ago in yards per carry, is an explosive runner, but he needs to prove he can stay on the field in passing situations. Free agent acquisition D'Onta Foreman was a revelation for fantasy owners last year down the stretch, but he'll also need to prove his worth in the passing game. Rookie Roschon Johnson showed an all-around skill set at Texas, but he'll be fighting for playing time with Herbert and Foreman. My guess is Herbert receives the most playing time of these three, but he may not have the touches to warrant a high draft pick in fantasy. My advice, draft Herbert later and adjust accordingly if Foreman or Johnson emerge.
For you dynasty players, the Bears' new linebackers, Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, should both be tackling machines in Chicago's scheme.