Fantasy Football: Bears Murky WR Picture

This article presupposes that Mike Martz will be successful in this, his latest salvage campaign.  That of course, has yet to be written.  Dissenting voices will point to his unspectacular stint with the 49ers or argue that successes with the "Greatest Show on Turf" in St. Louis were because of Hall of Fame names like Faulk, Holt, Bruce, and Warner.  Believers in Martz's systematics will point to Mike Furrey's 98rec 1000yd season and Jon Kitna's 4200yd, 22td season in 2006 as evidence of the bespectacled one's genius.

This time around, the offensive whiz brings his services into the Windy City; to Jay Cutler and his 26 interception season of a year ago.  Fantasy ballers would be wise to look at Cutler's 6.61 yards per attempt, lowest among QB's with at least 500 attempts.  While Martz should bring a bit of efficiency to Da Bears offense, gm's shouldn't hope for an uptick in pass attempts as Cutler had a robust 555 last season.  Realistically, Cutler should lose about 5 interceptions and gain close to 5 td's this season--good enough for a top 8 finish.

While it remains to be seen whether Cutler will turn out to be many a fantasy gm's "Hope Diamond", there is good reason to believe fantasy riches can be found with the receiving corps launched by Martz this season.  Let's dive in to find out who will emerge as the top benefactor of Martz's Lake Michigan reclamation project.

Player (Current ADP)

Devin Aromashodu (8.01)-   At 6'2" and 200lbs, the youngster has prototypical size to play the starting flanker position as easily the biggest and strongest wideout on the Bears roster.  Last season, Cutler did well to find the rookie for 25 receptions over the last four games of the season, tops for any Bear over that stretch.  We imagined the trend could and should continue.  However, we're hearing that the second year man has been lining up in the slot, something he has never done before in his brief football career.  "I haven't really done it.  But I feel, as a receiver, you got to be able to do anything." News of his relegation to the slot can be construed as negative, not that there aren't enough balls to go around in a Martz-led offense.  For now, owners will have to hope this run of practices from the slot position is simply to familiarize the youngster with all aspects of the receiver craft.  But until there is sufficient evidence that Aromashodu will be on the field in two receiver sets, we can't justify using a 7th or 8th round draft pick to garner his services.

Devin Hester (10.06) -  The "other" Devin made a name for himself in Chi-town with blistering speed as an almost unstoppable punt and kick return artist.  So much so that the Bears converted the very special teamer into a full-time wideout in 2007.  Thus far the results haven't approached the hype, as Hester has yet to crack 800 yards or three td's in any of his first three campaigns.  Last season was supposed to be a breakout for Hester as the defacto #1 target, but Hester finished the season with just 57 receptions.  Hardly the stuff of breakout lore.  Hester did amass 34 catches and 5 carries in the six weeks after the Bears bye, a sign that considerable effort went into getting Hester the ball.  However, he was almost invisible down the stretch, registering a putrid 5 receptions over the last 6 weeks, as Aromadoshu and Knox appeared to gel with Cutler.

Opportunity Knox

There is, however, reason for hope.  Hester spent considerable time working with former Martz wideout and eventual hall of famer, Isaac Bruce, to gain understanding nuances of the wide receiver position.  This shows a seriousness about his craft that goes beyond faith in his own speed.  While there is a slight risk that Martz will mix in wideouts, limiting his offensive snaps, the upside present in a Martz attack makes his 10th round ADP enticing for owners looking for upside.  If he plays consistently, 900yds and 5 scores could be easily attainable.

Johnny Knox (9.04) - Knox appears to be the best fit for Martz's scheme.  Beyond his blinding 4.34 speed, the second year pro has the ability to impress with crisp route-running--key in the complicated Martz offense.  Brad Biggs, of the Chicago Tribune says that "Knox has been targeted 55 times, 16 more than Devin Hester and Greg Olsen". Knox appears to have the best chance at solidifying a starting split end spot, as his speed and diminutive size make him an excellent choice to run quick slant routes--a feature of the Martz's gameplan.  Knox's speed could be lethal when paired with Cutler's cannon arm and the new offensive philosophy.  We feel that Knox is the safest bet to post WR3 numbers out of the new-look Chicago offense.  There is certainly upside here, but remember that Knox is more of a homerun threat in the vane of receivers like Greg Jennings and Lee Evans.  We anticipate that his season ending numbers will not be indicative of the up-and-down season in store for Knox.  He wont be a ppr asset either, as he recorded more than 5 receptions just once.  But Knox remains a difference-maker that could win a few games for fantasy gm's on just a few catch and run touchdown bombs.

*Note:  Early reports indicate that running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor have been splitting time (and targets) fairly evenly thus far in camp.

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