The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here. No, here we just care about imaginary winning. If an NFL team gains lots of yardage, limits turnovers, and scores when they reach the red zone, then you'll want to own their skill position players in fantasy leagues. You'll find those teams at the top of the Juggernaut Index. We'll begin at No. 32, the worst of the worst, and work our way to the elite fantasy offenses.
These rankings rely on the same variety of hard, incontrovertible math that resulted in the Mustache Rankings, by the way (where Coy Bacon got robbed). There are algorithms at work. This stuff is peer-reviewed. Seasons are simulated, the models are adjusted, and the simulations are repeated. You can't argue with science, so don't even try...
32. Chicago Bears
Not surprisingly, there are no Bears among the top 25 quarterbacks in the Yahoo! experts composite rankings. There are also no Bears among the top 25 running backs, or the top 50 receivers, or the top 12 tight ends.
This means that as of June 9, when the initial rankings came out, we collectively said that no Chicago skill position player belonged in your starting lineup in a Yahoo! public league.
And that is why Chicago is dead-last in the Juggernaut Index.
They may not be the only NFL offense that has serious question marks, but they're one of the few without any legitimate exclamation points. Nearly every other NFL team features somebody who should be a Week 1 fantasy starter at QB, RB, WR or TE.
The closest thing the Bears can offer is rookie running back Matt Forte, who we've already discussed at length. Forte will certainly be an improvement over Cedric Benson, who was unable to avoid, shed, or run away from tacklers last season. Other things Benson couldn't do: catch passes, pick up blitzing linebackers, operate vehicles safely. (That last thing is alleged, the first two are confirmed). The Bears, who like to say that they're a running team, were last in the NFL in yards-per-carry last season (3.1), and 30th in yards-per game (83.1)
Forte will be confronted by two critical problems: Chicago's offensive line was a massive disappointment in '07, and the passing game is without credibility. The Bears addressed the left side of the line in the NFL Draft, selecting Vanderbilt's Chris Williams with the 14th overall pick. He'll need to be very good, immediately. The receiving corps lost its most talented member, Bernard Berrian, and added Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd. Those two now sit atop the Bears depth chart, though neither should be owned in 12-team leagues. Booker will be 32 when the season begins, and he's five years removed from fantasy relevance. Lloyd has yet to achieve such relevance in his five-year career.
Tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark are likely to again interfere with one another, fantasy-wise. Olsen clearly has the higher ceiling, and he should be deployed in interesting ways. He's ownable in larger leagues.
The most physically gifted Bears receiver is, by orders of magnitude, Devin Hester. He's without equal as a kick returner, and he's clearly one of the league's most exciting players. You'll read lots of glowing reports on his progress this off-season, no doubt -- like this one, and this one. But the fact is, he appeared to be lost at various times last season, and he's competing to be the No. 3 wide receiver. If Hester is going to deliver a respectable impression of Berrian -- and that seems like a far-fetched, best-case scenario -- he'll need to be much better than he was in '07 (20 REC, 299 YDS, 2 TD).
He and every other Bears receiver will, of course, be limited by the quarterback, whoever it is. Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton are expected to compete for the job. Grossman is expected to win, although there are dissenting opinions locally. Neither QB has demonstrated the ability to consistently orchestrate lengthy scoring drives, and Grossman is remarkably careless with the football. He's thrown 24 interceptions and fumbled 12 times over his last 20 games in the regular season. (If you include the 2006 playoffs, it's 27 interceptions and 15 fumbles over 23 games).
Basically, if the Bears are going to have a respectable offense and contribute meaningfully in fantasy leagues, everyone needs to remain healthy, the rookies need to be exceptional, and several veterans need to be significantly better than they've ever been. It's the NFL, so anything is possible...but certain things are more likely than others.
Last season, the Bears defense was the team's leading fantasy scorer (152 points), followed by kicker Robbie Gould (138). Expect a similar result in '08, unless Forte matches the hype that offensive coordinator Ron Turner has attempted to create:
"I love Matt Forte ... He will definitely be an every-down back. He's got the size, he's got the hands."
He just doesn't seem to have the supporting cast.
2007 Chicago Bears team stats
Rushing: 83.1 Y/G
Passing: 231.3 Y/G
Points per game: 20.9
Red Zone possessions and TDs: 44, 18
'08 Schedule strength: .531