2022 Chicago Bears – Fantasy Football Deep Dive
The double doink, Mitchell Trubisky, and trading for Nick Foles. The last few years, or decade even, have not been kind to the Chicago Bears. However, they’re hoping new hire Matt Eberflus will be able to turn that all around.
Eberflus was an interesting choice for the Bears as young quarterback Justin Fields is the focus of the franchise moving forward. Hiring the former Colts defensive coordinator was a step in the other direction but could also signal that Chicago is attempting to return to a culture reminiscent of The Monsters of the Midway days in the 1980s. Eberflus is a master at making something out of nothing, evident during his time with limited talent around Darius Leonard with the Colts. A particularly valuable asset given the Bears still have to shed bad contracts from the previous regime for the next year or two rather than go into a full rebuild immediately.
Matt Eberflus played college football at Toledo where he was coached by both Nick Saban and University of Missouri legend Gary Pinkel. After his playing days, he was an assistant coach for Pinkel at Toledo and Missouri until moving onto the NFL. During his time with the Dallas Cowboys, he helped develop Sean Lee into one of the cornerstones of their defense in the 2010s. Eberflus was hired to be the Colts defensive coordinator by Josh McDaniels and was retained by Frank Reich after the job was given to him.
While he was with the Colts, Eberflus catapulted the Colts pass defense from near-last in the league to one of the more efficient groups of defensive backs in the NFL. He also played a major part in developing Darius Leonard into one of the best defensive players in the league. Most of all, Eberflus is known for being an energetic leader who will hopefully revive a franchise starved for playoff success.
While it would be easy to discuss Eberflus’ defensive philosophy for the next few paragraphs, when it comes to fantasy, a defensive coach’s play style isn’t entirely relevant. Before talking about the offensive coordinator, expect the Bears defense to be a solid streaming option for bye weeks especially depending on the matchup but avoid drafting them to be a dependable unit. Maybe next year.
When it comes to fantasy relevance, it’s better to talk about Eberflus’ new offensive coordinator: Luke Getsy. He spent the past several seasons as the Packers quarterbacks coach and in that span, Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 85 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions.
There are two particular aspects to keep track of with Getsy’s offense: the Shanahan-style wide zone-blocking scheme and the run-pass option, otherwise known as the RPO. It’s a safe bet to say the Bears will run a style of offense similar to Kyle Shanahan’s with the 49ers since the Packers have been running it since 2019 and Getsy was also the passing game coordinator at that time.
As mentioned in both our podcast and previous articles, the wide zone-blocking scheme essentially means the offense is working up the field by going sideline to sideline rather than trying to go vertical. This allows more room for the running back to, well, run and the quarterback more room for the play to develop.
An interesting thing to note is that the Packers jumped from 15th in scoring in 2019 to 1st in 2020. A large part of this was the introduction of RPO for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers ranked 6th in the league last year in terms of RPO plays called and while Rodgers is no doubt a talented runner, Justin Fields is a better running threat. So expect the RPO to be a major aspect of the Bears offense moving forward and a key part of Fields’ development as he looks to solidify himself as the Bears quarterback of the future.
Who Stands to Benefit?
Khalil Herbert, RB
For reasons that will be discussed later, I actually expect David Montgomery’s fantasy impact to take a hit in the offense. In a wide zone-blocking offense, running backs that can stretch the field with their speed, and arguably, more importantly, their receiving ability, become vastly more valuable. That’s exactly what Herbert can do.
The entire point of a Shanahan offense going back to the Terrell Davis days in Denver is having any running back being able to succeed in the system regardless of their background. Herbert had an 84.4 PFF rushing grade which was the highest among rookies with at least 100 carries. While his receiving stats from last season will hardly blow you away, that can be chalked up more to the poor offensive scheme under Matt Nagy than Herbert’s lack of talent in that area.
Will Herbert take over for Montgomery in terms of carries? Probably not. However, he could overtake him in terms of snaps on passing plays and could easily turn into a home run touchdown-dependent play from week to week. For now, he is a borderline FLEX option with the potential to catapult himself into RB2 territory. Look out for Herbert to be this year’s Elijah Mitchell under the Bears’ new offensive scheme.
Darnell Mooney, WR
While it’s hard to say that Mooney is a breakout candidate given the fact that he had over 80 catches and 1,000 yards last year, his production fantasy-wise has still left something to be desired. As stated with Herbert, the Bears passing game last year was stymied by the frustrating play of Andy Dalton, the learning curve for Justin Fields, and most of all, confusing decisions by Matt Nagy.
Mooney is primed to be Fields’ go-to target this year and Getsy is the man who turned the likes of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, and Geronimo Allison into legitimate-looking weapons. Mooney is unquestionably better than all of those players. While his size (5’11”, 173 lbs.) won’t exactly scream number one receiver, the pure volume that Mooney will see gives him at worst WR2 potential going into the season.
Potential Break-Out Player
Justin Fields, QB
Not by any fault of his own but Justin Fields’ rookie year was certainly the definition of up and down. He showed flashes of why the Bears traded up to make him the new face of the franchise but also had displays of rookie mistakes. The pressure is heavy on him to step up in his sophomore season as he is the surefire starter and has an entire offseason to learn the new system under Getsy.
As mentioned before, the reason Fields is a player to keep an eye on when it comes to fantasy is the likely heavy emphasis on RPO plays. Despite underwhelming passing stats for a variety of reasons, both Jalen Hurts and Kyler Murray finished as top-10 quarterbacks in fantasy last year. This is largely due to their rushing numbers as Hurts finished with 10 touchdowns on the ground and Murray with 5. Not to mention that Ryan Tannehill also finished 12th last season with seven rushing touchdowns.
Expect Fields to eat into Montgomery’s production in the red zone a lot this year (hint: watch out for Montgomery for disappointing fantasy players) and finish with a fair number of rushing touchdowns, catapulting Fields into the late-round, QB2 discussion come August.
Justin Fields will finish as a top-8 quarterback
As stated before, quarterbacks like Murray, Hurts, and Tannehill all finished in the top-12 of fantasy quarterbacks last year. Not a single one threw for more than 24 touchdowns. In 10 starts, Fields threw for 7 touchdowns and rushed for 2 more. Not that he has not only had an entire offseason as the main starter but also in an offensive system that has made Aaron Rodgers seem ageless, it’s not outside the realm of possibility he can throw for 25+ and rush for 10 touchdowns or more.
Fields is the perfect target for a backup QB in the later rounds, as a bye week replacement for whoever your starter is and potentially even replacing him as the starter as the season goes on and he finds his groove.