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Chicago isn’t one of the most impactful fantasy teams, but the addition of Nick Foles makes them more interesting at the very least, and there’s potential for a few Bears to have real fantasy value in 2020. Foles owns one of the oddest resumes you’ll ever see, as he’s a 31-year-old journeyman with a pedestrian career 7.0 YPA yet also has some standout performances that could be considered signature. Let’s first highlight some years throughout Foles’ career leading to now:
The curious case of Nick Foles
2013: During his second year in the league, Foles replaced an injured Michael Vick and posted the best TD:INT ratio (27:2) and AY/A (10.54) in NFL history and the third-highest Passer Rating (119.2) ever, also tying the record with seven touchdown passes in one game (and he did so in just three quarters while on the road). Foles finished as the No. 4 fantasy player in points per game. While one would assume he benefitted greatly from Philly’s system, this was Chip Kelly’s first year in the NFL; Kelly offenses would rank 13th, 26th and 23rd in DVOA over his next/final three years in the league.
2015: Foles finished last among 36 quarterbacks in completion percentage over expected (CPOE) at -6.7 during his one and only year with the Rams in St. Louis (one other wild thing to note about this season is Andrew Luck finished second-to-last in CPOE, followed by Matt Cassel, Johnny Manziel, Colin Kaepernick and Blake Bortles). In a short three-year span, we’ve already seen the widest range of outcomes from Foles, who’s all about the highs and lows.
2017: Foles started three regular-season contests and got just 5.0 YPA but then replaced an injured Carson Wentz in the postseason, getting 9.2 YPA and 323.7 passing YPG with a 6:1 TD:INT ratio over three wins, including putting up 41 points against the Patriots as underdogs in the Super Bowl. Over six postseason games during his career, Foles has gotten 7.8 YPA, taken just five sacks, and recorded 12 touchdowns.
2018: Foles was ready to make back-to-back Championship Games if not for this brutal drop by Alshon Jeffery, and his otherwise normal-looking stats across five regular-season games suddenly become intriguing when digging deeper, as he produced a highly impressive CPOE (5.9) — a number that ranked second that year and would be top-five in any given season (only Ryan Tannehill and Drew Brees recorded higher marks last season).
2019: While his lone season in Jacksonville was considered a disaster, Foles was off to a great start in his Week 1 Jaguars debut before breaking his clavicle during a sick TD pass. Moreover, in the four games he did play, Foles’ CPOE (2.9) would’ve ranked top-10 had he qualified (the next time you hear someone claim Philip Rivers is done, kindly counter that his CPOE was sandwiched between Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott last year, which will almost certainly lead to them immediately changing their minds and apologizing).
To put this in non-nerd terms, Foles has performed at an extremely high level over the last two seasons based on the most advanced methods we currently have at measuring quarterbacks (albeit while relying heavily on performing his best on third downs). They are smaller samples, but those combined with Foles’ historic 2013, and the fact he’s one of the best postseason performers ever, he enters 2020 as the heavy favorite to start over Mitch Trubisky, even with the shortened offseason (Foles already has the playbook down).
The Bears may frame this as a competition, but they traded a fourth-round pick for Foles (in a QB market that has a free Cam Newton) and declined the fifth-year option on Trubisky, who was consistently awful with and without play action unlike any other QB last year (you’ll find him way down there by my guy Tom Brady). In simpler terms, Trubisky got the 30th-most fantasy points per dropback last year, which is egregious considering how much a little rushing ability adds to a quarterback’s fantasy value. The bet here is Foles starts right away and holds off Trubisky all season, providing an upgrade at QB that helps the rest of the Bears’ fantasy roster, especially their top target:
Allen Robinson a top-10 fantasy receiver
He had 1,400 yards and an NFL-high 14 touchdowns as a sophomore despite Blake Bortles throwing to him. Robinson has dealt with injuries since then, but he stayed healthy and played all 16 games last year, and there’s a strong case Foles marks the best quarterback he’s played with during his entire career. ARob ranked top-five in Contested Catch Rate, target share, and WOPR last season (he was sixth in air yards), and there’s no reason not to expect him to remain among the league leader in targets (only this time his Target Quality might not be outside the top-50).
Robinson is in his prime and is a baller, and while Foles is likely to provide more or less league-average QB play, his presence provides a ceiling the wideout hasn’t experienced before. After the Big Five — Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones — Robinson is just as good of an option as any WR in Tier 2. He absolutely should be treated as a top-10 fantasy wide receiver.
Anthony Miller ready for breakout season
He underwent yet another shoulder surgery, but assuming that’s behind him, Miller has intriguing skills, saw 11-plus targets in three games during the second half last year, and is ready to break out in Year Three. Aside from Robinson (*), there aren’t many other worthy options for targets on Chicago’s roster (if anything, new addition Ted Ginn should help with clear-out routes), and people (raises hand) loved Dede Westbrook last year thanks in part to Foles having one of the highest career target rates to the slot, which is where Miller works. He’s being underrated in drafts with a nice catch floor but also added upside should the previously injury-prone Robinson go down as well.
* Chicago added Jimmy Graham to an already crowded tight end group, but he ranked No. 29 in YPRR among TEs last season, “blocked” like this, and is now a year older and changing systems. With Chicago not drafting a wideout until Round 5, Robinson and Miller should eat this season.
David Montgomery better fantasy pick than some bigger names
He’s coming off a miserable rookie season that featured him finishing 48th out of 50 running backs in YPC after contact (even septuagenarian Frank Gore got more). In rushing DVOA, Montgomery graded 40th among 45 backs (and also poorly as a receiver). He finished No. 109 in fantasy points per opportunity. It’s pretty clear Montgomery’s impressive broken tackle numbers in college were deceptive, as that metric matters less for (and can even benefit from) runners who lack explosion.
However, I still have Montgomery ranked as a top-25 fantasy RB, as volume remains king, and he truly appears to be the only game in town. Da Bears needed to upgrade the position in the draft as much as any team in football, but they selected their ninth tight end instead. I want there to be a sleeper in this backfield considering Montgomery’s underwhelming rookie season, but it’s unquestionably the thinnest in the NFL. The backup appears to be undrafted Ryan Nall (*). The team used a third-rounder on Montgomery last season, and they enter 2020 fully expecting to make him their workhorse.
* Tarik Cohen is coming off a season in which he was arguably the least efficient player in football when he ran the eighth-most routes among running backs and produced a lowly 1.26 yards per route run (after finishing first in 2018). Cohen also somehow got 3.3 YPC despite seeing the second-highest light-front carry rate (78.1%) in the NFL. He checked in at No. 111 in Yards Created Per Touch, and his YPC after contact would’ve ranked last in the NFL if he qualified. Maybe he bounces back, but the Bears would be actively hurting their chances putting him on the field if he doesn’t. Cohen has some value in PPR formats, but I don’t get how someone who’s 5-foot-6 with zero workhorse potential coming off a miserable season that saw him total 669 yards with three touchdowns over 16 games is being drafted as a borderline top-40 back — he’s outside the top-60 on my RB board.
Here’s Montgomery compared to some bigger-name RBs going ahead of him in drafts:
Montgomery is basically a Leonard Fournette, three years younger, wasn’t the NFL’s worst blocking back last season, and owns a smaller suck sample (and with a better QB situation and an organization that’s not actively trying to trade him).
Montgomery is essentially David Johnson, only five years younger, didn’t finish last both in Elusive Rating and YPC after contact last season and has nowhere near the competition for touches like Duke Johnson (Bill O’Brien may never realize Duke is the far superior option to David, but the coach will be fired at some point).
Montgomery is another version of Todd Gurley, only three years younger, wasn’t just cut by his team after finishing last in yards per route run by a mile, and doesn’t have a debilitating knee condition that has his new OC openly questioning his health status.
Montgomery is really just Le’Veon Bell, only five years younger, already has matched the number of 16-game seasons played during his rookie campaign as Bell has accrued throughout his career, wasn’t just ranked 44th out 45 backs in rushing DVOA last season and doesn’t have Adam Gase as his coach.
While most of this is damning with faint praise, Montgomery is looking at an uncommonly high workload with little competition for carries in Chicago’s backfield. With youth/ability to improve on his side, he’s a borderline top-20 fantasy back and should be drafted ahead of the other volume-based backs like Fournette, Johnson, Gurley, and Bell, who all enter 2020 with higher ADPs and more question marks.
Conclusion: The Bears are being undervalued in drafts
One interesting note about the Bears is that after having to deal with an incredibly unfair schedule over the last decade, Chicago is projected to face the easiest set of teams when forecasting Yards Per Play Against, so there’s another reason for optimism in 2020.
Given that quarterback is so loaded, Foles is nothing more than a sleeper in Superflex leagues (or depth in Best Ball drafts), but he’s likely to provide a major upgrade over Trubisky, making Robinson, Miller and possibly Montgomery undervalued fantasy commodities who should be targeted at draft tables.