The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!
The Chicago Bears, coming off a playoff berth, looked to the future in 2021, transitioning from veteran Andy Dalton to rookie Justin Fields at quarterback. It wasn’t enough, as the Bears slumped to a 6-11 finish, third in the NFC North and out of the playoffs. The rough finish proved to be the end for Head Coach Matt Nagy, who entered 2021 on the hot seat. Now, with a new General Manager in Ryan Poles and new Head Coach in Matt Eberflus, the Bears will try to right the ship as Fields enters year two.
The biggest change, aside from a new coach and General Manager, was that that Bears saw veteran receiver Allen Robinson depart, signing with the Los Angeles Rams. In his stead, the Bears brought in a slew of free agents looking for a break, including former Chief Byron Pringle and former Packer Equanimeous St. Brown. The Bears also traded for former First-Round pick N’Keal Harry, who struggled to establish himself with the Patriots.
In the draft, the Bears selected Tennessee receiver Velus Jones, Jr. in the Third Round. Jones caught 41 passes for 1,026 yards in two seasons with the Volunteers after starting his career at USC. He joins a receiving corps that, outside of the top receiver, has plenty of openings. That makes him an intriguing pick.
Fields had an up-and-down rookie season, throwing for 1,870 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 INTs. He also ran for 420 yards and two touchdowns. Dalton and veteran Nick Foles are gone, it’s Fields’ show. I suspect he’ll finish in low-end QB2 range in 2022 despite the dearth of weapons surrounding him.
In the backfield, the Bears are led by veteran David Montgomery, entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. Montgomery finished as RB19 despite missing four games. I think he’ll get enough volume to be an RB2. Khalil Herbert flashed at times as a rookie and figures to get some work. He’s a great bet if Montgomery misses time and might be a great hold in dynasty formats considering Montgomery’s contract status. He likely won’t provide solid week-to-week value in 2022.
At receiver, Darnell Mooney is the guy you want. Mooney saw 140 targets, catching 81 passes for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns in 2021. He finished as WR23. I don’t see that volume ebbing down, so I figure he’s a good bet to finish in WR2 range again. Behind him, it’s a guessing game at receiver. I’m interested in taking a late round flier on Jones in rookie drafts, and part of me wonders if Harry or Pringle isn’t a decent last round stash in drafts. But it’s impossible to trust anyone right now.
At tight end, Cole Kmet is the guy. He saw 93 targets and caught 60 passes in 2021, good enough to finish as TE20. He seems to be the only other reliable pass-catching option for the Bears behind Mooney and figures to command a decent target share. With more touchdowns, he could come close to putting up TE1 numbers. His current ADP of TE13 feels about right.
The Bears seem to be in the midst of a multi-season re-build. Poles was content to let veterans go this off-season, stockpiling salary cap space and draft picks for next off-season. It makes sense for the franchise but could be a bummer for those looking to see Fields develop. I think the Bears are a four-to-six-win team that will be picking in the Top 10 in 2023.
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.