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2016 IDP TEAM PREVIEW: Chicago Bears

There may not have been an NFL team that was less relevant to IDP owners in 2015 than the Chicago Bears. Between the switch to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Vic Fangio and unimpressive play (to put it mildly) from the team’s inside linebackers, if you were starting any Chicago defenders on a weekly basis last year in IDP leagues your team was probably in trouble.

No one’s going to confuse the 2016 iteration of the Bears defense with the 1985 version, which was arguably the greatest single-season defensive unit in NFL history. But thanks to some new faces and youngsters who could be set to take the proverbial “next step,” there’s at least a bit more meat on the bone this year for IDP owners.

 

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Unfortunately, none of that meat is beef(eater) — there just isn’t a whole lot to see up front.

This isn’t to say that the Bears didn’t make any changes in front in 2016. They added veteran defensive end Akiem Hicks (DL94) in free agency, and Hicks told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune he’s looking forward to making some noise for his new team.

“There is a lot further that I can go and plan on going with the tutelage of the coaching staff that they have here with the Bears right now,” he said. “I got a chance to sit down with Coach Fox and Coach Fangio and really discuss where they see me and my future with this organization and I am excited.”

However, the fact remains that statistically speaking at least, Hicks hasn’t been any kind of  factor in IDP leagues since rolling up 56 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2013 — and even then he barely finished inside the top 50 at the position.

Blame the scheme. Blame a lack of talent. Blame Obama. Whatever the reason, the Chicago D-Line is an IDP wasteland.

 

LINEBACKERS

The Bears were very aggressive in addressing their deficiencies at inside linebacker in free agency this year — and it’s there where there’s some tasty chuck roast for IDP owners this summer.

First, the Bears added Danny Trevathan (LB25) on the first day of free agency, inking the 26-year-old to a four-year, $28 million contract. As Trevathan told The Tribune’s Dan Wiederer, his trip to the White House this year with the Denver Broncos included a bit of added pressure — courtesy of the President of the United States.

“He knew who I was,” Trevathan said. “And he grabbed my hand and told me, ‘I can’t wait to see you play with the Bears.’ It was surreal, man. He was just so cool and genuine. I felt like I already knew him.”

President Obama isn’t alone. Trevathan’s top 25 finish last year was all the more impressive given that he didn’t play in subpackages for the Broncos. Now slated for a full-time role, many IDP pundits are salivating over what a bump in snaps could mean for Trevathan’s bottom line.

The Bears weren’t done. They also gave Trevathan a new running mate, agreeing to terms on a free agent deal with veteran linebacker Jerrell Freeman (LB19). Freeman has long been a productive fantasy asset, and Ryan Sitzmann of The IDP Guru expects that to continue in The Windy City.

“Freeman, an undrafted free agent out of Mary Hardin-Baylor, had a nice career with the Colts averaging 120 total tackles a season over a four year span,” Sitzmann said. “Although tackle opportunity in Chicago should be fairly similar to Indianapolis, the Bears’ stat crew is less generous in terms of how many total tackles they distribute out to the defense per qualifying play. Despite the reduction in overall tackle production, Freeman’s fantasy value should remain relatively constant to previous seasons as the expected rise in his solo tackle numbers should offset the decrease in assists.”

Frankly, the argument can be made that it’s Freeman who is the more attractive fantasy option in 2016, for one simple reason — he’s coming at a much lower price in early IDP drafts than Trevathan. Trevathan has the higher ceiling, but it’s no huge stretch to imagine both cracking the top 25 again with their new team.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

The Bears have been searching for a dependable safety to anchor the back end of their defense seemingly since that ’85 team kicked the snot out of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. As Adam Jahns of The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, secondary coach Ed Donatell is hopeful they’ve found their man in second-year pro Adrian Amos (DB101).

“The thing that made him a good player in Year 1 is that he’s the same player every day,” Donatell said. “This guy is a very mature player. He’s going to develop into an excellent pro. Year 2, a lot of things slow down for you [on the field]. From everything I’ve seen, he’s on the proper path to improve this year. I’m looking for excellent ball production from him this year.”

Amos showed some IDP potential last year, ranking among the top 15 fantasy defensive backs over a four-week span from Week 11 to Week 15. If he can up his big-play potential a bit this season the youngster could make for a sneaky value play who can be added at the end of IDP drafts.

It was a drop in those big plays that caused a big downturn in second-year cornerback Kyle Fuller‘s (DB103) IDP production in 2015. However, there’s more than a bit of potential there with him — he’s shown a nose both for the big play (top-15 finish among CB in 2014) and for the sort of gambles that get cornerbacks picked on by opposing quarterbacks. If your IDP league requires the position, keep Fuller in mind as a cheap matchup play.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.