The Chicago Bears have undoubtedly upgraded many areas of their team in preparation for the 2012 season, but when it comes to fantasy football, Bears players --except Matt Forte, and maybe Jay Cutler-- have a long history of depressing mediocrity. Here are a few Bears that might be sleepers for fantasy football in 2012.
Devin Hester - Wide ReceiverHester hasn't been the weapon at wide receiver we all hoped he would become, but he has continued to put up modest numbers at the position. His production was down during the 2011 season (26 receptions, 369 yards, one touchdown), but he's averaged 49 receptions, 632 yards, and three touchdowns the previous three seasons. While I will admit the Bears adding offensive talent in the form of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery makes Hester a strange choice for a sleeper, I think Hester will excel in the slot position --where many of us have thought he belonged since the beginning. Jeffery could be a great pick for the Bears, but everyone is naming him the number-two receiver before we've even seen the pads go on. Marshall will presumably get his numbers with Jay Cutler at quarterback, but with Johnny Knox out and Jeffery still unproven, Hester could be a nice surprise.
Kellen Davis - Tight EndI like Kellen Davis, but even in his sleeper status that I'm giving him, he remains someone you should pick up in the extreme late rounds. However, the nice thing is that he will most likely be there. Davis will most likely be the starting tight end for the Bears. This is the first season in the last few without Mike Martz --the anti-receiving tight end coach-- at the offensive helm. In spite of Martz's agenda, Davis still managed five touchdowns and 206 yards last season. Fast forward to 2012 and Mike Tice is the offensive coordinator. When Tice was coaching in Minnesota (2002-2007), the starting tight ends averaged 53 receptions, 491 yards, and four touchdowns per year. I wouldn't plan on starting Davis or anything (unless something ridiculous happens), but as a late-round steal to use on a bye or an injury week, Davis should suffice nicely.
Chicago Bears DefenseGiven that the Bears' defense is usually the stronger side of the team, I don't know if I can call them a "sleeper" exactly, but I think they're going to be better than the word on the street. First, the cornerstones are still in place --Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers-- and don't look to be declining in ability. The Bears have two young safeties in Chris Conte and Major Wright who were able to stabilize the position early last season after Brandon Meriweather and Chris Harris struggled. Depth was added to the secondary by bringing in Kelvin Hayden and Jonathon Wilhite behind Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, and the Bears brought in Geno Hayes at linebacker to (hopefully) help fill the revolving-door linebacker spot next to Briggs and Urlacher. I also believe the Bears will be stronger offensively, which should mean the Bears' defense won't have to be on the field for two thirds of the game.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed the NFL throughout.