By Adam Benovic
For as long as Chicago has had a football team, their identity has always revolved around their defense. Even with all-time great running back Walter Payton who without debate is a top 5 running back and to some is the greatest back to ever play the game, it’s Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Bill George, Brian Urlacher. Notice a trend here? For those of you that don’t remember names like Bill George, these are al some of the greatest middle linebackers to play the game, each putting their own stamp on the position. Unfortunately, Chicago seems to have lost its way. Not only have they been missing that dominant force in the center of the defense, their whole defensive side of the ball has been gone. We’re at the start of a new regime headed by John Fox (a defensively minded coach), Vic Fangio (one of the better defensive coaches in the league) and Ryan Pace (the young GM who’s willing to take some risks). The Bears are in the process of rebuilding their defense, and as a result have brought in some young players. Hopefully one of them will make a great IDP stash for your team.
First things first, I’m going to be critical, because I absolutely hated this signing for the Bears. This has absolutely nothing to do with McPhee as a player but more so it showed a degree of ineptitude in the incoming front office. See, the Bears signed McPhee to a 5 year deal worth almost $8 million a year. Technically, if we’re going by the terms of the contract, it’s more like a two year deal with the option to retain McPhee for three years afterwards for $8 million a year. While they have the option to cut McPhee after the 2016 season (or before the 3rd league day of the 2016 season), they grossly overpaid.
Unfortunately, while McPhee was a splashy name and is a young player from a good Ravens system, that doesn’t mean that he was worth this steep of an investment. One of my biggest critiques of McPhee is that he never played more than 50% of the defensive snaps in Baltimore. Yes, he was a great rotational depth player, but those don’t always translate into reliable starters. As a GM, I would be concerned with the fact that he was productive on limited snaps but a) the Ravens did not actively try to bring him back and b) his role was never expanded. The Ravens coaching staff has been very good about knowing what their individual players could handle, so they may have seen McPhee as purely rotational depth.
Not only that, though, McPhee was behind one of the most dominant defensive lines in Baltimore. Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Canty were defensive studs and that’s not counting up-and-comer Brandon Williams who was very effective in limited snaps at the nose.
Last year was McPhee’s statistical “breakout” year. Playing 516 of the Ravens’ 1080 defensive snaps (47.8%), McPhee had 9 hurries, 7.5 sacks, 24 QB hits and 64 QB pressures. From a pass-rushing efficiency standpoint, McPhee was on point. He made use of his limited number of snaps. If he continues on the same rate as a starting OLB (about 75% of defensive snaps), look for his stats to be around 14 hurries, 11.5 sacks, 37.5 QB hits and 100 QB pressures. To put that in perspective, Justin Houston had 84 QB pressures last year. So, take these numbers with a huge grain of salt, although McPhee was second only to Houston in pass rushing efficiency according to ProFootballFocus.
Unfortunately, all of this is a big if. While there is promise in McPhee’s future, he has yet to truly prove his consistency and ability to be a starting linebacker.
Outlook: While McPhee has LB1 upside and will likely be a focal point of the Chicago defense, proceed with caution as McPhee has only produced in a limited role on a very good Ravens defense. This is not a player that I’m taking early in my drafts because of the risk.
Let’s be honest, Fuller is the future of the Chicago secondary. They’re coming off of having Charles Tillman for his mostly dominant career, even placing as the #1 fantasy DB in 2012, (only mostly because he unfortunately had that season and potentially career-ending injury last year) as well as Tim Jennings. Well, now that Tillman is gone and Jennings is on the older side, it’s on Fuller to take over the reins. Luckily, despite having to face the Detroit and Green Bay receiving corps, Fuller showed that there may just be some hope for him yet.
Unfortunately, Fuller’s no longer in a position to learn from the great Peanut, but there are signs of promise. Much like his predecessor, Fuller had a knack for being around the ball in his rookie year. Despite being picked on and burned for rookie mistakes, Fuller still came away with 3 forced fumbles, 4 picks, and 10 passes defended. While the rookie made quite a few mistakes, we saw that the young Bears corner could make plays on the ball in a variety of ways. On top of that, he came away with 50 solo tackles and 13 assisted tackles. That’s plain and simply a formula for success with a fantasy corner.
Now, generally I would recommend looking at safeties over corners in IDP just because most leagues use the general DB position instead of the more specific corner and safety. Safeties tend to be the DBs with more tackles and plays on the ball. That said, if Fuller’s career follows the trajectory that his rookie year shows that it might, he could wind up being a consistent top 20 DB despite being a corner.
Outlook: Fuller has some serious potential as a CB1. Once his instincts develop, he’ll have a better feel for his teammates and make more reliable plays on the ball. Look for him to be paired against the opponent’s #1 receiver often during his career. A great dynasty option, even if he doesn’t pay off dividends immediately.
Going from one of my least favorite moves of the Chicago offseason to one of my favorites. I love Adrian Amos, and all reports coming out of rookie camp and training are that the Bears do, too. Like Brock Vereen the year before, look for the late round safety to get involved early and often in the new look Chicago defense.
Amos was one of my top safeties in the entire draft. While he was not always the most productive player at Penn State, Amos often played all over the field. He was a reliable defender against the run as well as the pass. He finished his 2014 season with 7 pass break-ups and 3 interceptions while never being out of position. Although Amos won’t gamble much, he’s going to be where he’s needed at the NFL level.
One of the best things about Amos is that he’s incredibly fluid and has the speed and length to cover from sideline to sideline. In his last college season, he limited receivers to 3.9 yards per catch. That’s particularly impressive because he was asked to play all over the field as both safety and slot corner.
Unfortunately, his downside is that he’s so focused on his role in the passing game that he often looks lackluster in the run game. While he has a good amount of strength to go with his speed, Amos’ hits never really look all that hard. If he can bring that all together, he could be a formidable safety in a tough offensive division.
Outlook: Amos is a stash player. While he may not pay off dividends immediately, he has the potential to be an intelligent playmaker. It will take time for him to learn how to trust his instincts over his eyes, though. I would say avoid drafting Amos, but he would be a good waiver wire option to carry over for next year on the cheap.
Jon Bostic, Willie Young, David Bass
Overall, this team is going to depend upon their new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to get the job done. This is their first year as a 3-4 defense, and it’s going to take some time to adjust, especially since many of the players were in 4-3 defenses for a long time (I’m looking at you, Jared Allen). Personally, I’m avoiding Bears players in general because the team isn’t far removed from being the 30th ranked defense in the league. There are some good stash options, but make sure that you proceed with caution.
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