2014 Fantasy Players That Won Championships

2014 Fantasy Players That Won Championships by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator & Champion of his share of leagues Doug Bowles

The 2014 Fantasy Season is over with Week 17 in the books….and the trophies have been hoisted, so this article can be written.

I find this information particularly interesting, because for years and years (and years) I have been a proponent of drafting QBs later in fantasy drafts, and what I am about to share with you will solidify my stance on the matter.

The following is a list comprised by the NFL Network of “the most owned players that were on the rosters of winning championship fantasy teams in 2014″. Evaluating the list, 8 Running Backs made the list, 8 Wide Receivers made the list, 2 Tight Ends, 1 Defense and 1 Kicker. What’s missing from the top 20 is a Quarterback. In a league where QBs are protected more than any other position and where rules have been made to highly encourage “passing the ball” to promote higher scoring games, it’s fascinating that there isn’t a quarterback on it. What’s also fascinating is that in a league where running backs have been de-valued, as many running backs made the list as wide receivers (8) Clearly, the NFL can de-value the running back position all they want, but fantasy owners cannot.

Most Owned Players on Fantasy Championship Rosters…

#1…WR Odell Beckham

#2…RB C J Anderson

#3…WR Mike Evans

#4…TE Gronk

#5…RB DeMarco Murray

#6…RB Marshawn Lynch

#7…WR Kelvin Benjamin

#8…RB Justin Forsett

#9…LIONS Defense

#10…TE Antonio Gates

#11…RB LeVeon Bell

#12….RB Mark Ingram

#13…RB Matt Forte

#14…K Cody Parkey

#15…WR Jordy Nelson

#16…WR Dem Thomas

#17…RB Eddie Lacy

#18…WR Dez Bryant

#19…WR Antonio Brown

#20…WR Randall Cobb

Stash this list somewhere, because it very may be the blueprint for next year’s round 1 & 2, in a 10 team fantasy league!

Team Profiles Philadelphia Eagles

Team Profiles Philadelphia Eagles by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug “wit out” Bowles

After only 2 seasons as an NFL coach, Chip Kelly has made it clear to everyone on planet Earth that he’s going to build this team “his way“, and apparently with the blessing of Eagle’s owner Jeffery Lurie. He’s been changing the Eagle’s roster faster than the Brown’s change quarterbacks, and he doesn’t seem to care who he let’s go. Players like DeSean Jackson, Trent Cole, LeSean McCoy, Carey Williams, and Todd Herremans have all had to buy new houses in different cities. Kelly came into the NFL wanting to change how the game is played, at least on his team, and only time will tell whether he ends being hailed as a genius or run out of town.

2015 Team Outlook– The NFC East is one of the strongest divisions in the NFL, and although Dallas had their best year since 2009, the Eagles and the Giants can handily challenge them for division champs in 2015. Washington is still in rebuilding mode with a new head coach and with QB RG3 regressing badly from his successful rookie season, so they may not be contenders. Kelly has 2 winning seasons so far (both years…10-6) so his maverick way of coaching hasn’t ruffled the feathers of too many Eagles fans, yet. If he had losing seasons in 2013 & 2014, trading home-town hero RB LeSean McCoy to Buffalo would likely have landed his head at the end of a stick! Even this ballsy move didn’t cause a huge, hostile commotion because ownership and the Philly fan base are going to give Kelly the benefit of the doubt…until he falls on his face, if he ever does.

2015 Fantasy Outlook–

QB– QB Nick Foles has got to be wondering what the heck he has to do in the NFL, to get a little respect. In only his second year, here’s how his 2013 season panned out. Foles finished with 27 touchdown passes and only 2 interceptions, and a season leading 119.0 passer rating. Foles led the Eagles to their 1st playoff berth since 2010. Hosting the Saints, the Eagles lost by two points as the game ended at 26-24. Foles threw for 195 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no INTs, for a passer rating of 105 in his postseason debut. Evidently this is only impressing me. Philly traded QB Foles, a 2015 fourth-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick to the ST L Rams in exchange for QB Sam Bradford and a 2015 fifth-round pick. Philly also re-signed QB Mark Sanchez. Coach Chip Kelly said Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez are openly competing for the starting quarterback job, but the Eagles dealt Nick Foles and a second-round pick for Bradford and his $13 million salary, so Bradford is expected to start.

RBs– The Eagles are solid at the running back position for the 2015 NFL season, having one the best RBs in the NFL LeSean McCoy. Sorry, I mean, Buffalo is solid at the running back position, because HC Kelly traded McCoy in exchange for LB Kiko Alonso. (naturally, Alonso played his college football at Oregon) As of now, 5’6″ – 190 pound, 31-year-old Darren Sproles is listed as the starting running back. The Eagles also have RBs Matthew Tucker (an undrafted free agent) and Kenjon Barner (naturally, Barner played his college football at Oregon) on their roster, so perhaps HC Kelly thinks one of them can be a starter. UPDATE: The Eagles signed former RB Ryan Mathews and former RB DeMarco Murray.It will be a 3-headed monster in Philly with those two RBs and RB Darren Sproles. RB Murray is going very early in current mock drafts, but Utter-Fantasy has dropped his fantasy value and ranks him down to #17 RB confidently.

WRs– In early 2014, Chip Kelly released WR DeSean Jackson without any kind of compensation whatsoever. This year WR Jeremy Maclin is a free agent, and it doesn’t appear that the Eagles want to pony up and pay Maclin. If the Eagles lose Maclin…then Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper, and Josh Huff would be left as their top three receivers. Matthews is a young star that was drafted by the Eagles in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Cooper is barely worth keeping, but cutting Riley Cooper would cost Philadelphia more, thanks to the ridiculous deal the Eagles gave the wide receiver last year. ($22.5M with $10M guaranteed) Josh Huff was drafted by the Eagles in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. (naturally, Huff played his college football at Oregon) Huff could and should replace Cooper as the #2 WR if Maclin flies off to another team, and Huff is a 2015 low-end sleeper either way. Update: Philly signed former Brown/Cowboy WR Miles Austin, but he has no fantasy value. UPDATE: The Eagles selected 6’0″ WR Nelson Agholor with their 1st pick in the 1st round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He will start immediately opposite 2nd year player Wr Jordan Matthews and Agholor is a nice sleeper candidate for 2015.

TEs– An increasing number of NFL offenses are learning to feature pass-catching tight ends in their offense, but even before Chip Kelly took over, the Eagles have always been a team that already did this. Philadelphia almost always has a tight end rank in the NFL top 15 and in 2014 it was TE Zack Ertz at #13. He totaled 703 yards and 3 TDs on the season. Ertz really showed it off how valuable he could be Week 11, hauling in 15 passes for 115 yards. Long-time Eagle TE Brent Celek came in at #35 with 340 yards and 1 TD. With the wide receiving corps going through a transformation, HC Kelly may rely on his athletic TEs even more in 2015. I have TE Ertz sneaking into my top 10 TEs rankings for the upcoming fantasy season.

K- Eagle’s place kicker Cody “Parker” Parkey was recently showcased in an Utter-Fantasy player profile. For an interesting, in-depth review of the kicker who’s cleats will soon be on their way to Canton, OH…see “One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure“.

DEF– The Eagles defense took a step forward in 2014, under HC Chip Kelly and DC Bill Davis (former depressive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals.) Only the Houston T& Pittsburgh had more defensive TDs than Philadelphia did in 2014 (5 vs 4) and only Buffalo & Baltimore had more sacks. The Eagles special teams had a very special year as well, scoring twice as many kick off touchdowns than any other team in the NFL. (4) Fortunately, the Eagles don’t have big headache to face with core defensive players heading for free agency, like the New york Giants have for instance. UPDATE: Philly released CB Cary Williams.

2014 Philadelphia Fantasy Surprises–
RB LeSean McCoy is one of the best receiving running backs in the NFL. With the quick hitting offense that Philly has, it makes sense that McCoy would have grown with the system and improved on his 2013 stats of 540 receiving yards and 2 TDs. Instead, McCoy had the first season since his rookie year, that he had no receiving TDs and less than 315 receiving yards (only 155 in 2014) If you read K Parkey’s player profile, you may have been surprised to see that he ranked as #2 place kicker in the NFL in 2014.

2015 Free Agents that Philadelphia Needs to Address– QB Mark Sanchez (re-signed)- WR Jeremy Maclin(signed w/ KC)- WR Brad Smith- TE James Casey (released)- OT Todd Herremans (released)- OLB Brandon Graham- LB Casey Matthews- CB Bradley Fletcher- CB Cary Williams- S Nate Allen.

2015 NFL Draft– The immediate needs of Philadelphia are at quarterback, wide receivers and need depth on their entire defense. The Eagles will have to pay a king’s ransom to move up and get Mariota (QB), if Maclin becomes a free agent for another team, the Eagles need help at wide receiver, especially with WR Cooper almost impossible to move (WRs) and Philadelphia has under-sized corners who have to clash with WRs in the division who are not under-sized (CB & S). UPDATE: Philapelphia’s entire 2015 NFL Draft can be seen at this link- PHILADELPHIA’S DRAFT

Did You Know-
In June of 2002, the Lincoln Financial Group paid a lump sum of $139.6 million to name the Eagle’s football stadium…the Lincoln Financial Field. In 8 years, the Group will need to write another big check, or let the city find another suitor. (I’m hoping for “Pat’s King of Steaks Field” as a name…original home of the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich.)

All team reports
can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Team Home Page: www.philadelphiaeagles.com

Team Profile Oakland Raiders

 

Team Profile Oakland Raiders by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

 

Jack Del Rio was hired as head coach of the Raiders in January 2015. He had previously been the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003 until 2011, the second head coach in the Jags history. Del Rio is a defense-minded coach having played linebacker in the NFL for 11 years. In his first season with Jacksonville, the Jags finished the season with the second-ranked rush defense and sixth best overall defense. Since Oakland finished dead last in most defensive categories, the Raiders will be hoping that Del Rio can bring that kind of success to the West coast.

2015 Team Outlook – The Raiders only won 3 games last year. They share the AFC West with the division bulldozing Broncos and two other very good teams in the Chiefs and the Chargers. Oakland has a new head coach, a quarterback that’s only going into his 2nd season, a running back that’s only had 5 starts, and a receiving corps that has no real #1, so what should 2015 expectations be? They want to be competitive in every game, and find things to build on for the future. (Peyton can’t play forever.)

2015 Fantasy Outlook –


QB–
In an article that I wrote about this time last year entitled “Who’s #1“, you can read where I conceded that Blake Bortles was going to be the #1 QB taken in the draft, but I thought it would be Houston doing it. Nonetheless, Bortles went first and in my opinion, QB Derek Carr should have gone 2nd. It didn’t turn out that way, as Cleveland wasted their 1st rounder on Johnny Rehab, and look where they are now. Meanwhile, the Raiders, with their 2nd round selection, have a QB for the the future. Carr ended the 2014 season with a respectable 3270 passing yards, 21 TD passes with only 12 INTS. (Bortles had 11 TDs & 17 INTs.) Carr’s stats from 2014 landed him #20 among NFL quarterbacks. He didn’t get pounded like his brother years ago, and he proved he could be a starter in the NFL. UPDATE: Raiders released QB Matt Schaub and signed former Viking QB Ponder to a 1 year deal.

RBs– There are certain things in the NFL that are simply “head-scratchers” for the average Joe to try and understand. Like, why are there retractable roofs in Houston and Arizona, and open roofs in Foxborough or Cleveland? How can the multi-billion dollar NFL industry still be considered a tax-exempt, non-profit organization by the IRS while taxpayers are still paying millions a year to subsidize it?…And why did the Oakland Raiders start RB Darren McFadden and MJD for 3/4 of the 2014 season while RB Latavius Murray sat the bench? In Murray’s first start vs the KC Chiefs in week 12, he only had 4 carries due to a concussion he suffered early in the game. Those 4 carries resulted in 112 yards and 2 TDs. Those 4 carries resulted in more yards than Maurice Jones-Drew had for the entire season with 43 carries. Those 4 carries resulted in same number of TDs that RB Darren McFadden had for the entire season. RB MJD has since retired, and the Raiders won’t resign McFadden. RB Murray is locked in as the Raider #1 and new OC, Bill Musgrave has stated that he is planning to “tailor” his run game to fit Latavius. UPDATE: Raiders signed former Brown/Colt RB Trent Richardson and former Washington RB Roy Helu to 2 year deals. Neither are good fantasy options.

WRs–
If you’re a corner back or safety in the NFL, names like James Jones, Brice Butler, Andre Holmes or Rod Streater don’t exactly have you up with worry the night before the game vs Oakland. These are all gifted athletes because they are in the NFL, but they are not Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson or Demaryius Thomas. WR James Jones was the #1 WR for the Raiders in 2014, but compared to the other wide receivers in the league, he barely ranked in the top 50. Therefore, the Raiders need a bona fide #1 wide receiver and there just so happens to be a couple (or a few) in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Raiders have the #4 overall this April, which is an ideal spot to grab either Amari Cooper or Kevin White, the two top WR prospects coming out of college. UPDATE: Raiders re-signed restricted free agent WR Rod Streater to a one-year deal. The Raiders selected 6’1″ WR Amari Cooper in the 1st Round, pick #4. Cooper immediately becomes the team’s #1 WR and a huge sleeper for 2015.

TEs–
Sophomore Mychal Rivera showed some flashes of being a big-time play maker at the tight end position last season for Oakland. He had a respectable #18 ranking in the league, made possible because of 3 stellar games in 2014. His best production of the 3 came in Week 14 vs Washington – 109 yards and 1 TD. Unfortunately the rest were duds. He did play in 15 games, so if he stays relatively healthy, perhaps QB Carr will find him more in 2015.

K-
Sebastian “Seabass” Janikowski started kicking in the NFL back when players wore leather helmets (or at least it seems that long ago). Over the span of his career, all with the Raiders, he has made over $45 million dollars, kicking field goals. Nice! His job was especially light in 2014, as he was only asked to attempt 22 field goals the entire season, little more than one per game.

DEF–
The Raiders have signed to their coaching staff Ken Norton Jr. to be the team’s defensive coordinator. Norton reunites with head coach Jack Del Rio, as the two men played together in three seasons while in Dallas. Norton has served as the linebacker coach for USC under Pete Carroll. On January 11, 2010 he became the Seahawks linebacker coach again under Pete Carroll. Raider fans are hoping that the combo of Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr can get the Oakland defense out of the NFL basement. UPDATE: Oakland resigned Charles Woodson. Signed former Cardinal NT Dan Williams and former eagles Nate Allen. Re-signed DT C J Wilson.

2014 Oakland Fantasy Surprises – There’s little doubt that QB Derek Carr had a better year than expected (just ask Cleveland who drafted rehab manziel in the 1st round) carr wasn’t expected to start 16 games because Matt Schaub was brought from Houston to do that. The Dennis Allen firing was in part for having two sloths handling running back duties for better part of the season.

2015 Free Agents that Oakland Needs to Address –
RB Sloth McFadden (signed w/ Dallas)- WR Vincent Brown (signed w/ Indy)- WR Denarius Moore- TE David Ausberry- C Stefen Wisniewski- DE C J Wilson (re-signed)- DE Lamarr Woodley (released)- DT Pat Sims- CB Tarell Brown- CB Carlos Rogers- S Tyvon Branch-(signed w/ KC)

2015 NFL Draft–
The immediate needs of Oakland are at wide receiver, all over on defense, and a deeper offensive line. The team needs young play makers for QB Carr (WRs), the Raiders have OLB Khalil Mack who was sensational as a rookie, but they were second-to-last in the league in sacks so they need reinforcements on defense (DE/DT) and have 2 corner backs heading for free agency (CB). They probably also need to replace Stefen Wisniewski (C). UPDATE: Oakland’s entire 2015 NFL Draft can be seen at this link- OAKLAND’S DRAFT

Did You Know –
Del Rio became only the second NFL head coach since 1993 to wear a suit on the sidelines during a November 20, 2006 regular season contest against the Giants, following then 49ers head coach Mike Nolan who had sported the look the previous day vs Seattle. A sponsorship deal between the NFL and Reebok at the time prohibited coaches from wearing anything but Reebok clothing. HC Nolan petitioned the league for permission to wear a suit and since Reebok was planning to unveil a formal line of clothing in 2007, this led to the NFL adopting a rule that permits coaches to wear a suit twice a year. During the 2007 NFL season, both Del Rio and Nolan were given permission to wear a suit at all eight regular season home games. Since his firing as Jaguars coach, however, he no longer wears a suit.

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Team Home Page: www.raiders.com

Team Profiles- New York Jets

Team Profiles- New York Jets by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug (no relation to Todd) Bowles

Todd Bowles signed a multi-year contract to become the head coach of the New York Jets on January 14, 2015, making him the 18th head coach in team history. (Doesn’t it seem like it has been a lot longer than 10 years ago since Herm Edwards was the Jets head coach?) Todd Bowles played eight seasons in the NFL as a safety. He worked as a defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, and then for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and 2014. The Jets replaced a defense-minded head coach (Rex Ryan) with another defense-minded head coach, even though the most glaring problems for New York for the past few years hasn’t necessarily been on defense.

2015 Team Outlook – The New York Jets, Buffalo and Miami have all had to watch as the New England Patriots win the AFC East division year after year…12 times in the past 14 years. The Pats started their dominating run in the AFC East one year after drafting QB Tom Brady (2000) That year, New York used one of their 4-1st round picks on QB Chad Pennington. The Jets entire organization is having a make over this year, including a new head coach, so it’s unlikely that they will threaten New England Patriots anymore than they did in 2014.

2015 Fantasy Outlook –

QB– The Jets have drafted 5 quarterbacks in the past 7 years….Tajh Boyd-2014, Geno Smith-2013, Greg McElroy-2011, Mark Sanchez-2009 and Eric Ainge-2008. Out of this group, only Geno Smith is still on there roster. Out of this group, only Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez are still in the NFL. Geno Smith is not the answer in New York, nor is free agent Mike Vick. The Jets have the #6 overall selection in April’s upcoming NFL Draft, so if the organization wants to try one more time at drafting a franchise quarterback, they are positioned to do so. The two top quarterbacks entering the draft are Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Tampa Bay has the #1 overall selection and they need a QB as well. Rookie QB Winston recently visited the Bucs for an interview and he went to Florida State, so the fit makes sense. Most prognosticators have the Jets selecting rookie QB Marcus Mariota with their only 1st round pick. UPDATE: The Jets Acquired QB Ryan Fitzpatrick from the Texans in exchange for a 2016 seventh-round pick. Fitzpatrick will be competing with Geno Smith for the starting job likely right up to the season opener.

RBs– In 2014, the Jets had a patchwork offense made up of free agents from all over the NFL. RB Chis Ivory came over from New Orleans. RB Chris Johnson came from Tennessee. RB Darryl Richardson was a Ram in 2013. WR Eric Decker was a Bronco and WR Percy Harvin was traded by Seattle. With poor play at the QB position and so many players being worked into a new offense, it’s a wonder that the Jets even won 4 games. In 2014, #1 RB Ivory had 198 rushing attempts for 821 yards and scored seven all-purpose TDs. Ivory turns 27 this month, and will return to the Jets in 2015. RB Chris Johnosn on the other hand is a free agent and New York doesn’t want the back…back. RB Chris Johnson recently blamed GM John Idzik for his reduced role last season and lack of production last season which is classic CJ2K…always blaming someone else. He will get marginal interest as a free agent. UPDATE: The Jets will not re-sign RB Chris Johnson.

WRs– Last season WR Eric Decker chased the money to New York, leaving Denver, Peyton Manning as his quarterback, and a team that had gone to the Super Bowl in 2013. In that Super Bowl year, Decker was the #8 wide receiver in the league, with 1288 receiving yards and 11 TDs. His 2014 season in New York was not as successful. Decker went from #8 to #28 WR in the NFL, with 962 yards and 5 TDs. That was good enough to be the #1 WR for the Jets. To find the stats for the #2 WR in New York, you have to go all the way down to #85 among all NFL wide receivers- Jeremy Kerley. He ended 2014 with 409 yards and 1 TD. The #3 WR for the Jets was the ever-disappointing Percy Harvin- 350 yards -1 TD. Just how bad was this passing offense in 2014? WR Antonio Brown for the Pittsburgh Steelers almost had more receiving yards than all Jets 3 top WRs combined. UPDATE: The Jets acquired WR Brandon Marshall and a 2015 seventh-round pick from the Bears in exchange for a 2015 fifth-round pick. Do not draft Marshall too early. The QB situation for the Jets stinks, and honestly, Marshall hasn’t been motivated for a long time now.

TEs–
If the top Jets 3 wide receivers didn’t get very many receiving yards or touchdowns in 2014, you can bet the tight ends on the team didn’t either. Jet TE Jace Amaro had 345 yards and 2 TDs, followed by Jeff Cumberland with 247 yards and 3 TDs. Neither TE will help much in the NFL or in fantasy football.

K– Hey guess what? An offensive player from the Jets team actually ranked in the 2014 top 15 at his position in the NFL! Kicker Nick Folk ranked #14 knocking in 32 of 39 field goal attempts and all 23 extra points. Alright Nick!

DEF– If you can’t put a great offense on the field each week (or in the Jets case…any week) you damn well better put the best defense out there, which the Jets didn’t do either. New York was the 9th worst team at points allowed in 2014. They got zero TDs from their defense. (JJ Watt for Houston had 2 defensive TDs all by himself.) The Jets were last in the NFL in INTs. This all culminates into four words…”Rex you are fired”. UPDATE: The Jets signed CBs Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to 5 and 4 year deals respectively.

2014 New York Jets Fantasy Surprises
– I was surprised that WR Eric Decker did as well as he did. He almost posted a 1,000 yard season (granted, 221 yards came in the last game of the season vs Miami) Prior to that game, Decker had only one game with 100 yards receiving all year (in Week 15). RB Chris Johnson complains and makes excuses, but is still fast. Didn’t matter…he was only able to score 1 TD in 2014 – a 35 yard TD run in the 4th quarter of Week 4 vs Detroit.

2015 Free Agents that New York Needs to Address –
QB Mike Vick- (not re-signed) RB Chris Johnso (not re-signed)- RB Bilal Powell (re-signed)- FB John Connor- G Willie Colon (re-signed)- DT Kenrick Ellis (signed w/ NY Giants)- ILB David Harris (re-signed)- S Dawan Landry.
The Jets signed SS Marcus Gilchrist to a 4 year deal and re-signed LS Tanner Purdum.

2015 NFL Draft– The immediate needs of the New York Jets are at quarterback, at corner back, new offensive linemen and a running back. The Jets simply can’t go another season with Geno Smith as their quarterback (QB), they need at least 3 new corners (CB), they need big guys to protect a new rookie quarterback (OL) and they need depth behind Chris Ivory (RB). UPDATE: New York Jet’s entire 2015 NFL Draft can be seen at this link- NEW YORK JET’S DRAFT

Did You Know – The Jets have a perfect record in Super Bowl appearances? The Jets are joined by the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa bay Buccaneers as the only three NFL teams to win their lone Super Bowl appearance.


All team reports
can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Team Home Page: www.newyorkjets.com

Team Profiles- Chicago Bears

Team Profiles- Chicago Bears by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Mark Trestman is out, John Fox is in, as head coach of the Chicago Bears. This is like going from Ryan Mallet to Tom Brady. Trestman has been a very good QB coach over the years, mentoring young players such as Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer, and Rich Gannon. He also had success coaching in the CFL, but his 2 years in Chicago were disaster, and he’s better suited in the NFL as an assistant coach. John Fox on the other hand, is a head coach that was a score for the city of Chicago to land. In 13 years as an NFL head coach, Fox only has 4 losing seasons, and while in Denver, he had 4 straight winning seasons, leaving with a 46-18 record. Apparently let go in Denver for not winning the Superbowl in 2013 or 2014, there are teams in the NFL that would just be happy to ever go to the playoffs. Understandable that QB Peyton Manning’s window for getting that 2nd ring is closing, but hardly think firing Fox was the solution for 2015 season. Regardless, Denver’s loss is Chicago’s gain, and maybe a head coach is now in place that will get the most possible out the incredible talent that the Bear’s roster is loaded with.

2015 Team Outlook–
The NFC North is one of the strongest divisions in the NFL. (Being from the northeast, I wasn’t always able to write that.) In 2008, only 7 years ago, the NFC North division teams were very weak and had a combined 25 wins. That was the year the Lions went 0-16. In 2015, all the teams will be formidable, with perhaps Minnesota being the weakest of the 4 teams, due to the Viking’s young QB Bridgewater, who is still learning, but a good QB to build around. QB Jay Cutler is the wild card for HC Fox.

2015 Fantasy Outlook–

QB– The “enigma” known as Jay Cutler. The QB with a cannon for an arm, a very good athlete, and prone to make a ton of mistakes. His NFL career totals have his TDs at 186, and his INTs at 130. That’s a 7:5 ration. For perspective, QB Tom Brady has a career 14:5 ratio, which is twice as many TDs thrown than Cutler, vs each INT. Right now, it is impossible to say whether Cutler will even be a Bear in 2015. Cutler’s $15.5M guaranteed salary makes him both difficult to cut and difficult to trade. One thing is for certain however, this is a very weak QB class in coming up in the 2015 NFL draft, and QB Mark Sanchez is perhaps the prize QB of all the free agents, so Cutler will not be without a starting job. If Cutler stays in Chicago, with HC Fox, his fantasy stock will rise. If he is released and signed by another ten, his fantasy stock will plummet, but either way, I want him on my fantasy team, and usually get him.

RBs– In 2008, RB Matt Forte wasn’t selected until the 2nd round by the Bears. In that draft, here are the running backs that went before RB Forte, all in the first round…OAK- Darren McFadden-4th overall…CAR- Jonathon Stewart-13th overall…DAL- Felix Jones-22nd overall…PITT- Rashard Mendenhall-23rd overall…TENN- Chris Johnson-24th overall. Forte ended the 2014 NFL season with 1846 total yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs (6 rushing-4 receiving) Forte is one of the best RBs in the NFL and perhaps the best receiving RB in the NFL. UPDATED Bears sign former Falcon RB Jacquizz Rodgers.

WRs– My previous article spotlighted the Carolina Panthers, who have one of the weakest receiving corps in the NFL. We are on the other end of the spectrum with the Chicago receiving corps, who have one of the NFL’s best. Chicago has big, talented wide receivers. WR Brandon Marshall is 6’4″, 230 pounds and has been with the Bears since 2012. WR Alshon Jeffery is 6’3″, 213 pounds and has been with the Bears since 2012. A wide receiver who came on in the later part of the season for the Bears was WR Marquess Wilson, another big, talented wide receiver at 6’4″ and 184 pounds. (Wilson is a sleeper candidate for the 2015 season.) The Bears can clear $3.95 million in cap room if they release WR Brandon Marshall before March 12th, and $7.7 million if they designate him a post-June 1 cut. UPDATE: WR Brandon Marshall is traded to the NY Jets for a 2015 5th round pick. Bears sign former Charger WR Eddie Royal. The Bears drafted 6’3″ WR Kevin White who will immediately make an impact for the Bears opposite Wr Alson Jeffery. WR Marquess Wilson’s fantasy stock takes a huge hit with White on the team, and the addition of WR Eddie Royal.

TEs– After the Chicago Bears earned an ESPY “Bone-head” award in 2012 when they traded TE Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers for a 2012 third round draft pick, they manage to sign TE Martellius Bennett 2 years later. (The Dallas Cowboys selected Bennett in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and he would play for the NY Giants in 2012.) TE Bennett has become one of the best tight ends in the NFL today, and ranked #6 in 2015 with 916 yards and 6 TDs.

K– Robbie Gould has been Chicago’s place kicker since 2005. Originally signed by the Patriots as a free agent, Gould is currently the third most accurate kicker in NFL history. Gould’s seven seasons with at least 100 points is a Bears record.

DEF– When you think of a Chicago Bears defense, you think of Ditka, Butkus, Singletary, and Urlacher. Under HC Mark Trestman, the Bear’s defense was 8th in 2013, and dropped all the way down to #24 in 2014. Chicago tried to put a Bandaid on their pass rush by bringing broken-down Jared Allen, who barely played 10 games. The Bears’ defensive front seven badly needs overhauling. Do not expect a big turnaround by the Chicago defense in 2015, as they have too much re-building to do first. UPDATE: Bears sign DE/OLB Pernell McPhee to a 5 year deal. Bears sign FS Antrel Rolle, LS Thomas Gafford, OLB Sam Ocho, ILB Mason Fowler, DE Ray McDonald, CB Alan Ball, CB Sherrick McManis, and DE Jarvis Jenkins.

2014 Chicago Fantasy Surprises–
One never expects any Chicago defense to fall out of the top 10, let alone drop down to #24. Chicago is one of those teams that regardless how they do in the NFL, in fantasy football…they have fantasy players every fantasy team wants to have on their roster. Under HC Fox, this won’t change.

2015 Free Agents that Chicago Needs to Address- QB Jimmy Clausen (re-signed)- WR Josh Morgan- TE Zach Miller (re-signed)- TE Dante Rosario (re-signed)- OT Eben Britton- C Brian De La Puente- DT Stephen Paea (signed w/ Washington)- CB Al Louis-Jean (re-signed)– CB Demontre Hurst (re-signed)

2015 NFL Draft–
The early needs of Chicago are help at three defensive line positions and strength on the O-line. The Bears need new blood for the defensive front seven (LB) and they gave up too many big plays (S) in 2014. Chicago also needs to start thinking about the future, even if Cutler is signed for the 2015 season (QB)

Did You Know–
that since 1982, the Bears have only drafted 8 quarterbacks…total? (Cleveland has drafted that many since the year 2000.) It’s been 12 YEARS since the Chicago Bears have selected a quarterback in the 1st round of any NFL Draft. (In 2003- QB Rex Grossman with their 22nd overall…and before that, 1999 Cade McNown.)

Team home page: www.chicagobears.com