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2021 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 5,225 yards (24th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 30 (29th)
Offensive Plays: 1,075 (14th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 600 (21st)
Rush Attempts: 475 (11th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 214 (8th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 64 (19th)
Matt Eberflus, after coaching a Colts defense that led the league in forced turnovers last year, was hired as the Bears’ head coach after the team mercifully parted ways with Matt Nagy. Eberflus will presumably work primarily with the team’s defense while Luke Getsy -- Green Bay’s former quarterbacks coach -- takes over as Chicago’s offensive coordinator. Getsy is credited with overseeing Aaron Rodgers’ career resurgence over the past couple of seasons and will now work with raw but massively talented Justin Fields to improve a Chicago offense that was odious and painfully ineffective for much of 2021.
Getsy told reporters the team's offensive scheme will be similar to the one he worked in during his Green Bay tenure. “The systems that I’ve been a part of, specifically these last three years, too, these are quarterback-driven systems, right?" Getsy said. "So everything is about tapping into that position and building the offense around it. ... It’s gonna be the same thing here. We’re gonna build this thing around this quarterback position.”
A Shanahanian offensive system in Chicago could lead to an emphasis on shorter, easier throws for Fields, the same way Shanahan's offense has provided Jimmy Garoppolo with low-risk intermediate pass attempts in the 49ers offense. That should be good for Fields' development as a passer.
Getsy, to the chagrin of football analytics nerds everywhere, said Chicago's offense would be predicated on the old-school concept of establishing the run, "letting the run game drive the play pass game and then building everything around that." Such an approach could make David Montgomery a sneaky volume-based fantasy option in 2022. More on that later.
There’s no way around it: Justin Fields had a horrific rookie campaign. Not all of it -- maybe not much of it -- was his fault, but Fields finished 42nd in adjusted completion rate while posting the league’s second-lowest adjusted expected points added (EPA) per drop back and the third-lowest success rate per drop back. It was ugly all around for Fields, who was criminally misused by since-fired head coach Matt Nagy. If there was any silver lining to Fields’ 2021 season, it was his completion rate over expected, which was far better than fellow rookies Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. Fields also proved ready and willing to flee the pocket, with six games of at least seven rushing attempts despite Nagy’s efforts to make the rookie a pocket passer. It’s Fields’ mobility and use as a runner that makes him an appealing later-round selection in 2022 even in a scenario where his passing production doesn’t improve dramatically.
Fields in 2021 was far better when the Bears deployed pre-snap motion, a less-than-shocking fact considering motion helps a quarterback better determine the coverage he’s facing. With motion last year, Fields completed 55 of 78 attempts (70.5 percent) for 609 yards (7.8 YPA), two touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 96.6. When Chicago did not use pre-snap motion, he completed 104 of 192 passes (54 percent) for 1,261 yards (6.5 YPA), five touchdowns, nine interceptions, and a passer rating of just 63.7. Fields also excelled on play concepts that utilized his all-world mobility. In his best outing of 2021, Fields in Week 8 was 4-for-4 for 40 yards on designed rollouts and piled up 103 yards and a score on ten rushing attempts; only four quarterbacks posted a higher EPA that week. More pre-snap motion and more designed running opportunities could make Fields -- now free of Nagy’s prehistoric offensive approach -- a pleasant fantasy surprise in 2022.
Darnell Mooney, entering his third year after a 1,000-yard receiving season in 2021, should once again lead the Bears in targets and offers upside as an efficient downfield pass catcher. Mooney last year had the league’s 23rd highest targets per route run (23 percent) and finished as a low-end fantasy WR2 despite abysmal quarterback play throughout. Mooney, who led the Bears in deep ball targets in 2021, could serve as a viable high-end WR2 if Chicago’s new coaching staff treats him like the team’s No. 1 wideout.
Byron Pringle, meanwhile, will probably start 2022 as the team’s No. 2 receiver following a career year in Kansas City in which he showed an ability to make tough over-the-middle catches and was surprisingly productive after the catch. Early-season struggles for Pringle could catapult rookie Velus Jones into a starting role. Bears brass is bullish on Jones, an excellent kick returner who broke out late in his five-year college career. Bears coaches have talked about using Jones in a variety of ways; he’s someone to monitor in deeper fantasy formats.
With two touchdowns on 88 career catches, Cole Kmet has been a hard luck fantasy case since the start of the 2020 season. In 2021, he finished as fantasy’s 20th highest scoring tight end. He did, however, tie Mooney for the Bears’ highest target per route run over Fields’ ten 2021 starts, running a route on 72 percent of the team’s offensive plays. Jimmy Graham finally gone from the picture could allow Kmet to assert himself as Chicago’s best red zone pass-catching option. At worst, he’ll be a useful streaming option in 12-team leagues. At best, Kmet could be a low-end TE1 based on target volume alone.
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David Montgomery slots in as the team’s lead back following a 2021 season sidetracked by a Week 4 knee injury that sidelined him for the better part of a month. Montgomery struggled to produce in the season’s second half, perhaps hampered by the knee issue and dragged down by a predictable, stale Matt Nagy offense. He was once again among the least efficient rushers in the league. Montgomery’s -0.12 rush yards over expected per attempt was in the less-than-inspiring neighborhood of Ezekiel Elliott, Rex Burkhead, and Sony Michel -- all plodders who will get exactly what is blocked and no more.
If the Eberflus regime views Montgomery as the bellcow back he was in 2020 and 2021, he should suffice as a high-end RB2 in 12-team formats. Chicago coaches have talked up a strong commitment to the running game, which could fuel the necessary volume for Montgomery to outperform his redraft ADP. Montgomery has displayed some ability to command targets: In 2021, he had the 17th highest target per route run rate among running backs, in line with Javonte Williams and Dalvin Cook.
There’s certainly a scenario in which the new Chicago coaching staff doesn’t commit to Montgomery as the team’s unquestioned lead runner. Enter Khalil Herbert, who impressed when given the chance during his 2021 rookie campaign, posting top-18 fantasy numbers while Montgomery was sidelined from Week 5 to Week 8. Herbert flashed both as a runner and a pass catcher during that stretch. A massively productive college rusher -- Herbert in 2020 had the fifth-most rushing yards in the nation -- Herbert is an intriguing late-round pick who could carve out a role in Chicago’s backfield and comes with every-down upside if Montgomery misses time in 2022.
It would be difficult to defend taking the over on the Bears’ 6.5 win total for 2022 considering the team is in the midst of a total teardown/rebuild, clearly not fully committed to the quarterback they drafted in 2021, and headed into the season after a series of roster moves that can be most generously described as curious. It doesn’t much matter that the team has the fourth easiest strength of schedule, per Warren Sharp’s analysis. Chicago’s offense could be more aggressive and up-tempo, with Fields utilized as an uber-athlete, and the Bears could still win just a handful of games this year. They have exceedingly few paths to a seven-win season in Matt Eberflus’ first year at the helm.