On January 8th, 2018 the Chicago Bears announced that they were hiring former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy to be their new Head Coach. Nagy would replace the recently fired John Fox, who went 14-34 in his three years in Chicago.
In Nagy, the Bears get a 39-year old Head Coach who has spent his entire career working for Andy Reid, including serving as the Chiefs’ Offensive Coordinator from 2016-2017. After taking over playing-calling duties from Reid late the ’17 season, Nagy jump-started the stagnant Chief’s offense and brought to life their passing game, calling a mix of deep pass plays throws to the running backs and utilizing the run-pass option.
With the offensive-minded Nagy now running the show in Chicago the question becomes how will he affect the fantasy value of the Bear’s offensive stars? Will Nagy bring out the best in Mitchell Trubisky? Will he be able to utilize both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in the run game? How will new additions Trey Burton and Allen Robinson be used? Here at The SFFS we’ll give you the answers.
Mitchell Trubisky, Quarterback:
“I really feel I was built for this offense, and it’s just dynamic, it’s creative, and it’s also balanced. And that’s what you want. We’re going to get the ball out quick. We’re going to deceive the defenses, and we’re going to spread the field, and we’re going to get (the ball) all over to our playmakers. We’re going to be balanced. We’re going to play fast. We’re going to be dynamic. And we’re going to stretch the field every which way.”
Those were the words from Bears’ QB Mitch Trubisky on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football show on April 6, 2018. He was obviously excited about the new offense Nagy will be bringing to Chicago, and Bears fans should be too. In 2017 Mitch showed flashes of brilliance along with the occasional rookie mistake, while being limited in John Fox’ offense to throwing mainly on third downs. Now, the Bears have added plenty of weapons to the offense and will look to bring balance to their attack, mixing in throws early and often to help their QB build a rhythm. In Nagy, the Bears will go from having a defensive-minded head coach in Fox to an offensive guy (and former collegiate QB) who will look to spread the ball all over the field and utilize the running backs in the passing game.
After Nagy took over play-calling duties from Reid in week 12, Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith jumped from 261 passing yards/game to 292 per game and from a 4.75 touchdown to interception ratio to a 7:1 TD-to-INT rate. Nagy will be much more willing to unleash Trubisky in the passing game, using the tight end and running backs on early throws to soften up the defense and open up deep lanes down the field. A questionable o-line will limit how many deep drops Trubisky takes, but with Mitch having a similar athletic skill-set to Alex Smith, look for Nagy to frequently utilize the read and run-pass-options.
With a vast upgrade in the receiving talent around him and a Head Coach bringing in an up-tempo, spread-style offense, expect Trubisky to complete around 63 percent of his passes and jump from a 1:1 TD-to-INT ratio to a 2:1 rate.
Jordan Howard, running back:
Under John Fox, Howard was inconsistently utilized. Howard had eight games in 2017 with at least 18 carries, but also six games with 13 or less. One major contributing factor to the up and down season for Howard was that the Bears had to consistently play from behind. If the game was close, Fox kept feeding Howard, but if Chicago fell behind, the running game was virtually abandoned. Howard was also the victim of a few other limiting factors; a shoulder injury that hampered him all season long and severely limited his ability to catch the ball, a shoddy offensive line, and the emergence of rookie RB Tarik Cohen.
2018 may not fare much better for Jordan, as two of those three issues will return this year, but at least his shoulder should be healed. Throw in the fact that as soon as Nagy took over the reins, rumors immediately started popping up that the Bears were trying to trade Howard. Nagy is well-known for wanting to utilize multi-dimensional running backs to keep the defenses guessing, and unfortunately for Howard, he is pretty much a one trick pony. Having never been well regarded as a pass-catcher, Howard is likely to lose early down touches to Tarik Cohen, who flashed in both the run and pass games.
The good news for Howard is that Nagy will continue to use a zone-blocking scheme. This is a boon for Jordan, who has a unique vision and ability to press the hole and wait for a seam to open. Howard is also incredibly hard to bring down on first contact, making him a valuable weapon around the goal-line and short-yardage situations. No doubt Howard will have a role in Nagy’s offense, but he is highly unlikely to replicate his 2017 numbers of 276 carries and 1,122 rushing yards. I would expect to see Jordan get about 185 carries in 2018, but he has a legitimate shot at double-digit touchdowns as the Bears don’t have another goal-line option on the roster. Howard is a top-20 running back in standard-scoring leagues only, with no added value in PPR formats.
Tarik Cohen, running back:
Nagy’s arrival is great news for the dynamic Cohen, who is looking at being Chicago’s version of Tyreek Hill. In 2017 the Bears’ rookie played about 36% of their offensive snaps while totaling over 700 yards from scrimmage with 53 receptions and three TDs. While not as fast as Hill, Cohen is about the same size and creates a schematic advantage for the offense with his ability to line up both out of the backfield and in the slot. He can run a full route-tree, whether running a quick out to the flat, in the screen game or deep down the seam. Nagy will look to use both Howard and Cohen in the backfield at the same time, putting Cohen in motion to place stress on the defense and to keep them guessing as to whether it’s a run or pass. Tarik should be able to handle a full work load and expect him to see over 180 combined touches in the run and pass game. He is definitely worth a mid-round pick in PPR leagues.
Trey Burton, running back:
Matt Nagy is all about creating mismatches, and Burton gives him the perfect chess-piece to utilize and move around the board. Burton can play fullback, the traditional Y-Tight End, he can split out wide, and even play quarterback (see last year’s Super Bowl). The $32 million contract that Burton signed this year might seem like a steep price for a player who has never exceeded 37 receptions in a season, but in 2017 Trey proved he could be a team’s #1 tight end. When Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz missed weeks nine and fifteen to injury, Burton stepped into the starting lineup and totaled 112 yards on seven catches with three touchdowns. Despite spending most of last season as a backup, Trey was very efficient inside the 20, scoring four touchdowns on just seven redzone targets. Burton will look to fill the Travis Kelce role (who averaged over 107 targets/year in KC) in Nagy’s offense, and should receive at least 90 targets this season as the Bears second-best receiver. Burton is a top-5 tight end for 2018.
Allen Robinson, wide receiver:
After signing a 3-year $42 million dollar contract in free agency, Robinson instantly becomes the Bears’ #1 wide receiver. Fully expected to enter training camp completely healed from his 2017 ACL-tear, Robinson provides a major boost to the Bears’ receiving corps. Allen is a deep threat in the mold of Sammy Watkins and will provide Mitchell Trubisky a big-bodied target on vertical routes. In his four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Allen averaged over 14 yards per catch on 202 receptions and led the NFL in deep-receiving yards for 2015. With the only real competition for targets on the Bears’ roster coming from Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen, Robinson is a lock for at least 115 targets. A solid fantasy WR2, he should fall no further than the third round in 2018.