BREAKOUT - Cedric Benson - RB
Its hard to find two players whose careers have paralleled each other's like Cedric Benson and Philip Rivers. Both were the 4th overall picks in their respective drafts (2004/2005). Both had record-breaking college careers who received Heisman Trophy consideration. And both missed their rookie training camps due to contract holdouts; and in turn had to watch the young vet in front of them (Thomas Jones/Drew Brees) breakout and have career years. But here's the important part: entering their third professional seasons, Rivers and Benson were entrusted with a starting job on their teams.
Benson has all the tools to become a very good NFL running back. Great size (5'11 225), very good speed (4.5 speed), great vision (as evident by his 5,540 college rushing yard, good for 6th all time) and great power to run over defenders.
In 2006 Benson averaged 4.1 yards per carry, the same average as Thomas Jones. That would lead one to believe he could be as effective as Jones. But if you look at the second half of 2006, you would see that over the final eight games of the season, Benson averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Benson also had the same amount of touchdowns as Jones, but he did it in only half the carries.
Taking into consideration Benson's skill, the Bears' offensive system, and the fact that Benson will no longer be splitting carries with anyone, I could see Benson having a bigger season in '07 r than the seasons Thomas Jones had in 2005 or 2006. I'm thinking something in the 1,400 yard range with double digit TD's which makes him a great starter that you can probably get after the first round. Bears fans and Benson owners alike will hope that Cedric Benson can break out like Philip Rivers did.
BUST - Chicago Defense - DEF
Call me crazy, but I don't foresee the 2007 Chicago defense matching the dominate level that the 2006 defense displayed. Since playing in the Super Bowl, the Bears have lost their Defensive Coordinator (Ron Riveria), two Super Bowl-starting defensive tackles (Ian Scott and Tank Johnson), and most importantly they have angered their second best linebacker (Mr. Lance Briggs) to the point were he has stated he will never again wear a Bears uniform.
Now I have heard the arguments against my theory; I've heard how it's Lovie Smith who runs the defense so losing Rivera isn't such a huge blow. I have heard that both those lost tackles were backups and how Briggs will eventually come back and play this year... but I don't buy all that.
I can understand the Lovie Smith part, but losing two big time DTs like Ian Scott and Tank Johnson is never a good thing. Losing those two kills the depth at the position, and leaves a huge hole next to Tommie Harris with only untested Dusty Dvoracek and Antonio Garay to fill it. Also, Tommie Harris is coming off a pretty nasty injury, so the inside of that line is going to be pretty suspect.
Not to mention that the defense still has to put up with turnover machine Rex Grossman. His costly mistakes will put the defense in a tough spot on a regular basis. Culminating the Bears defensive woes is their signing of the worst cover safety in the NFL to come in and be a starter (Adam Archuleta?!)
Put it all together, and I just don't see the Bears defense being the powerhouse people will make them out to be, and certainly not the consensus #1 defense in the NFL people have claimed them to be. The Chicago Bears will still be a good defense, but not the top unit they were last year.
HOWEVER: If your league is one that the combines Defense with Special Teams, then by all means...draft the Chicago Bears as your starting DST unit! Robbie Gould make the ProBowl last season as the NFC Kicker, and we all know about the dynamite return man Devin Hester, who also made the Pro Bowl. Those two players make for a high scoring special teams unit, so make sure you understand whether or not your league has a D/ST unit or not.
MR DEPENDABLE - Brian Urlacher
Anyone who has played in a IDP (Individual Defensive Player) Fantasy Football league KNOWS how valuable Brian Urlacher is. In his 6 years in the NFL, he has averaged 8 tackles a game (6 solo) and 5 sacks per season.
Urlacher has always been the heart and soul of the Chicago defense and this year the Bears have on paper a weaker defensive tackle core. Combined with the fact that Lance Briggs, the teams second best linebacker, will possibly miss parts of the 2007 season, Urlacher could put a huge fantasy season. Don't be surprised to see Urlacher ring up 150-160 tackles, 5-6 sacks, 1-2 Forced Fumbles and 1-2 interceptions, which would make him a great option as a LB1 in any league.
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