The Bears wide receiver corps has one of the easiest schedules going forward, highlighted by games against Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Washington. Since taking over at quarterback, Brian Hoyer has averaged over 42 passing attempts per game. The Bears are open to Hoyer seizing the team’s full-time starting QB job, and with a below average overall defense DVOA, game flow should continue to trend in Hoyer’s favor as the season progresses.
The Bears passing game is a situation worth point-chasing, but Chicago’s WR corps hierarchy is shrouded in uncertainty in the wake of Kevin White’s season ending leg injury. Understanding each wide receiver’s role and capabilities, and correctly predicting future target distribution, is necessary to forecast the future of the team’s passing game. With notable week 5 performances from Cameron Meredith, Alshon Jeffery, and Eddie Royal in the books, we break down all three and their fantasy outlook for the rest of the season.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 9, 2016
Owners who swung for the fences on Cameron Meredith last week are probably still recovering from the dance party that ensued. After replacing the injured Kevin White, Meredith torched the Colts defense with 9 receptions on 12 targets for 130 yards and a touchdown. The second year wide receiver out of Illinois State used his size, athleticism, and 95th-percentile catch radius to make the most of his opportunity as Brian Hoyer funneled targets to him. However, with that being said, Meredith will not have a better situation moving forward than he did in week 5. With Alshon Jeffery drawing the attention of cornerback of Vontae Davis, and Eddie Royal sustaining a calf-strain that kept him out of practice for the week, it’s likely Meredith received a bigger role than he will play moving forward. It’s hard to believe he will be able to repeat such a spectacular performance with all the other talented pass catchers on the roster. He’s definitely still worth holding on to, or picking him up if he’s still on your waiver wire, let’s just temper expectations until we see more.
As noted in a previous article by Andrew Persanyi, now is the time to buy Alshon Jeffery. The targets aren’t coming to him like they were in 2015 (10.4 per game), but he’s been incredibly productive with the 6.2 targets he’s averaging this season. On the year Alshon Jeffery ranks No. 10 in reception yards (394), No. 9 in yards per target (12.7), and No. 8 in production premium (+29.3). His 17.9 yards per reception and 100% contested catch rate on 6 targets should be reason enough for Hoyer to start looking his way in high-leverage situations when the offense needs to make a play (4th and 8, down by 6, in the fourth quarter for example). There’s also going to come a time this season when Jeffery’s biggest fan Jay Cutler returns from injury and takes back the starting job at quarterback…right?
Like Jeffery, Eddie Royal has been extremely efficient with the targets he has received this season. Royal actually has the highest Production Premium amongst all Bears’ receivers at +30.6 (No.7). He ranks No. 11 in fantasy points per target, doing the most damage with the ball in his hands in the open field, as evident by his 136 yards after the catch (No. 12). Royal also offers sneaky touchdown upside. He’s had only two touchdowns on the season but leads all Bears’ receivers in red zone targets (one or more every game) and four redzone receptions (No.8). The Bears will likely to continue to lean on Royal in the short passing game and can be a useful start in spots averaging 13.1 fantasy points per game.
While Cameron Meredith was the fantasy football play-of-the-week for NFL week 5, Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal offer more predictable production at depressed current prices across fantasy football formats.