2021 Chicago Bears Preview

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The 2021 NFL Season is upon us and the Music City Drive In has you covered. We’ll be previewing all 32 teams, as well as our picks for award winners and playoff participants each day through Monday, September 6. Check back daily at 4 p.m. EST for each new piece in our preview series.

By any measure, the 2020 Bears season was a success. The team came into the season with veteran Nick Foles behind former No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky, and both started at times for the Bears, who went 8-8 but qualified for the playoffs. In the post-season, the Bears were badly outplayed by the Saints in the first NFL Playoff game ever broadcast on Nickelodeon, showing that they needed a change.

This off-season, the team decided to blow up its QB room. Trubisky is out, while the team grabbed a veteran and a First-Round rookie to give them options heading into a crucial year four for Matt Nagy.

Off-Season Changes

While Foles is still on the roster, the Bears elected to go another way at quarterback. Foles was ineffective when called on to start in 2020, going 2-5 with 1,852 yards, 10 TDs and 8 INTs. Trubisky was better, going 6-3 and giving the Bears a surge to the playoffs late. But the team decided to part ways, and Trubisky signed with the Bills to backup Josh Allen. Instead, the team grabbed veteran Andy Dalton, who was a starter for a number of years with the Bengals before playing with the Cowboys in 2020. Dalton is 74-66-2 as a starter, giving the Bears a qualified veteran option. He’s thrown for 33,764 yards and 218 TDs and is projected as the Week 1 starter. At least for now.

Bears QB Justin Fields will have chance to earn starting job in camp

The Bears added a few other veteran pieces, including running back Damien Williams, who sat out 2020 after going all the way to the Super Bowl with the Chiefs in 2019. Williams adds depth and experience in the backfield. The Bears also added the speedy Marquise Goodwin and veteran Damiere Byrd to the receiving group. But the big moves came in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Bears moved up to the No. 11 pick to snag Justin Fields out of Ohio State. In two seasons with the Buckeyes, Fields threw for 5,373 yards and 69 TDs, adding 867 yards rushing and 15 TDs. He’s an explosive player and one of the best quarterback prospects in the draft. He’s clearly the future, the question is when that future begins.

Fantasy Prospects

Who starts at quarterback? This is the big question for fantasy players, but also for fans. Nagy has said Dalton is the Week 1 starter, and I suspect he’ll start at the outset of the season. But I think the Bears will need a spark, and the pressure to play Fields will mount. When he’s on the field, I think Fields can be a strong QB2 with upside. But for season-long, I have Fields finish as a QB 3, same as Dalton, as I suspect it’s more of an even split.

In the backfield, the Bears are led by third year back David Montgomery. He had an incredible run to end the 2020 season, finishing as RB4. He racked up 1,070 yards rushing and 8 TDs, catching 54 passes for 438 yards and 2 TDs. He did that with pass-catching specialist Tarik Cohen largely missing the season. I suspect Montgomery comes back to the pack a bit. He’s still a solid starter as an RB2. His ADP of RB18 feels about right. Cohen should contribute as well, but I see him in the RB4 range. Williams feels more like an occasional contributor and injury hedge.

Bears WR Allen Robinson is 'focal part' of Chicago's offense

Among pass catchers, top of the heap is easily Allen Robinson, and it doesn’t matter who plays QB. Robinson saw 151 targets, catching 102 passes for 1,250 yards and 6 TDs. That was good enough to be WR9. He is easily a WR1 this season and has Top 5 upside. The rest of the receivers are more of a mystery. Rookie Darnell Mooney stepped up last season, finishing as WR50. The team moved on from former Second-Round pick Anthony Miller just before training camp, leaving Mooney to compete with Goodwin and Byrd. I like Mooney the best of the group, but still see him in the WR4/5 range.

Tight end is also interesting with second year player Cole Kmet back along with veteran Jimmy Graham. In 2020, Graham was one of the bright spots in the offense, catching 50 passes for 456 yards and 8 TDs. He finished as TE13. As a rookie, Kmet came on late, catching 28 passes for 243 yards and 2 TDs. I think the roles reverse in 2021 with Kmet stepping up and finishing in low-end TE2 range while Graham is more of a Red Zone threat and contributor.

Prediction

The Bears finished 8-8 and squeaked into the playoffs in 2020. Nagy will be under pressure to repeat that feat, and the Bears have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. The NFC is crowded, and I suspect the Bears come up just short in pursuit of a Wild Card berth despite a great closing stretch from Fields. Regardless, the future seems bright for Chicago.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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