The 2017 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the 2017 NFL standings. The next team on the docket:
Chicago Bears (5-11)
Mike Glennon began the season as the Bears’ starter after being brought on board last March via a three-year $45 million free agent deal. Armed with a laughably thin receiving corps, Glennon’s brief stint under center ended following an embarrassing Week 4 loss to the Packers, at which point the Bears decided to trot out 2017 second overall draft pick Mitchell Trubisky for the rest of the season. Despite eclipsing 200 passing yards in just three of his 12 starts, Trubisky showed promise as someone the Bears could build an offense around. With John Fox out as the Bears head coach, having been replaced by former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy (who coaxed career numbers out of Alex Smith this past season) there’s hope Trubisky can take a significant step forward in 2018, though his receiving corps will need to be revamped. Glennon on the other hand will most likely need to accept a pay cut in order to remain with the team as he’s being paid much too handsomely for a below average backup.
Given the circumstances, Jordan Howard’s season can be considered somewhat of a success, as he did prove that 2016 was no fluke. Howard’s five 100-yard rushing games were tied for second-most (along with Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott) and his 1,122 rushing yards ranked sixth. The one concern with Howard going into the season was his pass-game usage (which turned out to be justifiable) as his receiving stats were nearly non-existent as Howard finished with less than half the number of receiving yards as he did in 2016. That said, Howard’s role as a two-down thumper appears secure, making him a solid choice in the late second round of 2018 fantasy drafts though he has less upside in leagues that award points for receptions. For reasons that befuddled the best of us, Head Coach Fox insisted on giving playing time to replacement level free agent signing Benny Cunningham on passing downs at the expense of electrifying fourth-round rookie Tarik Cohen (ironically, Cunningham was the the catalyst for the infamous challenge call that was essentially the beginning of the end for Fox.) Criminally under-used on a team devoid of quality pass-catchers, Cohen should benefit from the Matt Nagy hiring, as the former Chiefs coordinator has a history of involving his backs in the passing game. Listed at just 5’6″ and 181 lbs. though, Cohen profiles as strictly a role player, and has little chance of unseating Howard as the undisputed starter.
The Bears receiving corps suffered major blows early when Cameron Meredith was lost to an ACL tear in the preseason and Kevin White suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 1. White has now caught just 21 passes for 193 scoreless yards in five games played since being drafted with the 7th overall pick in the 2015 draft, and it’s highly dubious the Bears will ever get a return on their investment with White turning 26 this June. Kendall Wright, another former first round draft pick, led the team in receiving, and will head back to free agency as he was only brought on board via a one-year deal last March. Dontrelle Inman was acquired from the Chargers last October, and will head to free agency this Spring. Signed to a two-year $11 million contract last March, Markus Wheaton was a mega whiff as he’s now caught just 7 passes for 102 yards over his past two seasons. Scheduled to earn $5 million for next season, it’s likely the Bears simply admit defeat and move on from Wheaton. Given all the questions surrounding this group, it’s likely the Bears no. 1 receiver for 2018 is not currently on the roster.
Zach Miller ran as the Bears starting tight end for the season’s first eight games before experiencing a gruesome leg injury that has put his NFL future in doubt. Turning 34 this October, Miller’s career could potentially be over as he’s scheduled to be a free agent this Spring. Chosen with the 45th pick in last April’s draft, Adam Shaheen led the team in touchdown passes playing behind both Miller and free agent signing Dion Sims. With a new head coach in town, Shaheen figures to earn more snaps next season as a potential offensive centerpiece for a receiver-starved team, assuming he can leap frog Sims (who is more of a blocker anyway) for the starting job.