Last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars were the story of the fantasy season. None of their players were highly regarded going into the season, with Blake Bortles going undrafted, TJ Yeldon being drafted at the 5.10, or the 27th RB overall, Allen Robinson going at 6.03, 27th WR, Allen Hurns at 14.04, WR 66, and Julius Thomas at 11.06 as the TE 12. The fantasy community was definitely wrong about this offense, with Blake Bortles finishing as QB 4, Yeldon ending at RB 26, Allen Robinson also finishing as WR 4, Allen Hurns at WR 13, and Julius Thomas as TE 15 after missing multiple games with an injury. Why did the Jags offense perform this well? Basically, they trailed in a ton of their games and were playing catch up and passed the ball all around the field. Their defense was atrocious and this directly correlated to the offensive explosion. Who’s going to be 2016’s Jaguars and score a ton of garbage time points? The Chicago Bears.
It makes a ton of sense, from a game script and personnel standpoint. Jay Cutler = Blake Bortles. Jeremy Langford = TJ Yeldon. Alshon Jeffery = Allen Robinson. Kevin White = Allen Hurns. Zach Miller = Julius Thomas. Jay Cutler’s career interception rate, 3.2%. Blake Bortles’ career interception rate, 3.2%. Career passing yards per game, Cutler = 234.4, Bortles = 244.5. Career TD %, Cutler = 4.7%, Bortles = 4.3% (Cutler’s 2016 = 4.3%). Eerily similar numbers for these two quarterbacks, who have both been heavily scrutinized because of their turnover issues. Bortles, despite his 2016 fantasy prowess, was a turnover machine with 23 turnovers (18 INTs and 5 fumbles). Cutler enjoyed a career year in the turnover department, only throwing 11 INTs and losing 2 fumbles under then Bears’ offensive coordinator Adam Gase, now the Dolphins head coach. The 2015 season seems to be an outlier with Cutler with Adam Gase going to Miami. I expect Cutler to regress back to Bortles’ level, especially since I doubt Cutler actually improved as a player at the QB position.
Both of these QBs have elite downfield, jump ball threats to chuck to. Alshon Jeffery and Allen Robinson are two 6-3, 215 lbs guys that can go up and have a chance at any ball thrown their way. Robinson broke out last year, going for 80/1400/14 and becoming one of the best WRs in the league. Jeffery is slightly different, having already broken out in 2013, posting a similar 89/1421/7 receiving line. He also comes with more baggage than Robinson, with concerns over his durability after his injury-marred 2015 season. Jeffery was limited to 9 games, including 2 games as a ‘decoy’, where he recorded receiving lines of 3/23/0 and 1/10/1. Taking out those games, Jeffery was on pace for an astronomical 16 game pace of 114/1769/7. With a fully healthy 16 games, Jeffery would have a chance to cement his place among the best WRs in the league.
Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns were one of the top fantasy WR pairs in 2015 and Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White have a chance to challenge them for a top spot in that group. White is another one of these 6-3, 215 lbs guys, but he brings another element to his game. Electric speed. Running a 4.35 40 at the combine, White was one of the fastest WRs in his class. This season, the question has been if Jay Cutler can maintain two top fantasy WRs? In 2013, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were elite fantasy receivers, with Cutler playing 11 games. Even though Cutler hasn’t necessarily had two top WRs on his own, that doesn’t matter as much to me, because by projecting the Bears for 600+ pass attempts someone has to catch those passes for fantasy points, unless Jeffery catches 200 passes.
Zach Miller and Julius Thomas were both late season TE producers. Thomas suffered early season injuries and eventually returned to the Jaguars offense in Week 5. Miller was stuck behind Martellus Bennett on the Bears depth chart until the Black Unicorn was placed on IR. Down the stretch (Weeks 9-16, out in Week 17) Zach Miller was a beast, posting 6 weeks of over 9 PPR fantasy points. Going into 2016 Miller is supposed to be a big part of the Bears’ offense and if Kevin White doesn’t perform to expectations, Miller can help carry that load.
A big part of what forced the Jaguars hand in throwing a lot, other than always losing, was a very ineffective running game. Their top 3 backs (Yeldon, Denard Robinson, and Toby Gerhart) combined for 269 rushes for 1050 yards, an abysmal 3.9 ypc, with 3 touchdowns. Jeremy Langford was about as bad. In 16 games (2 starts), Langford rushed 148 times for 537 yards, a 3.6 ypc mark, and 6 TDs. As a backup for much of the season, he was not explosive or extremely productive in any one game, never going over 4.9 ypc in a game or having a rush of greater than 23 yards. Even with Langford projected to get the lion’s share of the touches, his history is unfavorable towards his projection as a featured back in Chicago. Without a productive run game, it’s extremely difficult for a team to succeed without throwing the ball.
The Bears have the weapons in place to be a top fantasy option, but their situation is key. If they mimic the 2015 Jaguars defense, their similarly talented players could explode onto the fantasy scene. With a potentially bad defense and a division prone to shootouts, look for the Bears to post good fantasy numbers, even if they only go 6-10.