Apr 3, 2009
Okay, here’s my spin on the big trade from yesterday.
First up, for the Bears. It’s always a risk to mortgage your future for any one player, but unless Cutler implodes off the field, this move has little downside for a franchise and fan base that has been without an elite passer since WWII. I’m big on building a team, or at least an offense, from the QB position up, and the Bears now have immediate credibility on the offense. They now have something to truly hang their hat on offensively, and they haven’t had that for a long time.
We get access to tidbits of information all the time, and one thing we heard late last year was that the Bears had come to the realization that Kyle Orton wasn’t the answer. He’s not bad, but unless you have the 2000 Raven defense on the field with him, he’s just not good enough. He’s limited as a passer, particularly his ability to hang in the pocket and deliver the ball down the field for big plays. I saw several times last year when WR Devin Hester was open deep, yet Orton couldn’t get him the ball. The Bears really had no other alternatives this off-season, so they were ready to roll with Orton for at least one more year – but they obviously pounced when Cutler became available.
The Bear OL is decent, and it got better this week when they also added veteran Orlando Pace. Pace is on his last legs and injuries have dogged him, but he does improve their line and their depth on their line. They will likely move 2008 #1 pick Chris Williams to RT, and they also added veteran Kevin Schaffer. They have at the very least replaced veteran John Tait, who is gone.
The Bears have been a run-first team, but you don’t trade for Jay Cutler (who great up a Bear fan, by the way) and just hand the ball off, so they will pass it more than we’ve seen in a decade. They are still thin at receiver, but this is fantastic new for WR Devin Hester. We’ve written for well over a year how the team is VERY high on Hester the WR, and we saw that play out in 2008 with his role at that position and the lack of action he saw as a returner. Hester’s probably a year away from fully reaching his potential as a receiver, maybe even two, but I’m telling you right now that he’s really improved his route-running and he’s exhibited some serious upside. He’s obviously very dangerous after the catch, and I think he’s shown some serious potential as a deep threat. He couldn’t ask for a better QB, quite frankly. Cutler’s a gunslinger who will fire him the ball all over the field, and he can throw it 60 yards down the field while scrambling to his left, almost impossible for a right-handed QB. Forget about the cold and wind in Chicago; Cutler’s gun will slice through that.
One thing’s for sure: Cutler will not stifle Hester’s development, as Orton definitely did. Cutler will do just the opposite, as he did for Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, who was a rookie in 2008.
I understand some people are skeptical with Hester. That’s your prerogative if you are. I personally play to win, so I’m going to be high on Hester’s potential this year, even in Cutler’s first year. Keep in mind Ron Turner’s offense in Chicago is about running the ball and taking shots deep, they will do so with Hester – a lot. I’m not sure if I’ll view Hester as a very low #2 fantasy WR or a high #3, but he’s in that range. I think Hester has a chance to be special with Cutler in, so I’m going to target him. The skeptics can hold off and select only ‘proven’ commodities, but I like to be proactive and get the breakout guy on the cheap before his price goes way up.
This is also fantastic news for TE Greg Olsen, another guy I like a lot. Olsen runs like a WR, and he’s one of the best downfield threats at the TE position. Given how thin the Bear receiving corps is, you can bet Olsen will be a huge part of their passing game, along with Desmond Clark. Olsen to me is a viable starter at this point, no question. I can see 800-900 yards and 6-7 TDs.
If I were the Bears, I would bring Brandon Lloyd back in 2009. He was actually pretty darn good before getting hurt, and he’ll come cheaply. They also need to invest a draft pick in a bigger receiver, and they may be interested in Torry Holt. I’d also be looking into Drew Bennett right now if I were Chicago. He has the size they need, the experience, and he fits in pretty well in Chicago.
As for Matt Forte, I have absolutely no problem with his fantasy value, even if he won’t carry the ball quite as much. He wore down a little last year, anyway, and he’s a very good receiver out of the backfield, very smooth. They will still run him 15+ times per game, and he’ll get 5-6 ball thrown to him a game, at least. Given the threat Cutler brings to the table, and his ability to move the ball consistently, Forte’s value gets a boost, even if it’s a small boost.
In Denver, the outlook offensively isn’t quite as rosy. They do at least get a serviceable player in Orton. I actually don’t think Orton starting for Denver is a tragedy for Marshall. Orton can excel throwing in the intermediate area, and that’s where the physical Marshall tends to make his money. Orton is pretty accurate on shorter passes, and there is a sustaining element to Orton’s game, so Marshall’s catch and yardage totals should be okay. I have to look at all the other players at WR closely to determine if Marshall is still a legit #1 fantasy WR, though. Most likely, he is only in a PPR league. I’m not as encouraged with Eddie Royal. Royal can do well in the intermediate area, but he’s their deep threat (if they have one), and I don’t see him connecting on many deeper balls with Orton, so Royal’s potential takes a hit. He’s probably more of a fill-in starter at this point, and #3-#4 fantasy wideout. Keep in mind they have some other guys who excel in the intermediate area, like Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney. Orton will take full advantage of his TEs, too, but the problem is, I see Daniel Graham being more of a factor now, since he’s a more complete TE. He won’t be anything special because he’s too valuable a blocker, but he could limit Tony Scheffler’s potential. Scheffler is a playmaker, though, and they need all the help they can get with Orton under center.
Orton should be okay for this year in Denver – provided he plays like he did before his ankle injury in 2008. Before that injury, he was actually razor sharp, and very effective. Afterward, not so much. He’s not an ideal franchise QB, so the Broncos will be targeting QB Mark Sanchez in the draft, for sure. Sanchez played in a pro style offense at USC, and even though he started only one year, that’s one more year than Matt Cassel did at USC. Sanchez would likely sit the bench for a season, and be given a chance to start for Denver in 2010. If he is a Bronco, that should help his fantasy value, since the system would be very QB-friendly and a good fit for him.
One final point: the Broncos has better run the ball and fully utilize all their backs this year with Orton in. I look for Correll Buckhalter to get the first crack, and I think J.J. Arrington will be an intriguing weapon, similar to Kevin Faulk in New England.