Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) celebrates the Bears’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers during an NFL football game in Chicago on Sunday, September 11, 2022. (AP Photo/David Banks)
As April’s NFL Draft draws near, most of the NFL’s bottom teams are desperate to capitalize on a bountiful harvest of potential quarterbacks.
But the Chicago Bears are different.
Instead of tying his fortune and No. 1 pick to Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, Bears general manager Ryan Pauls made a successful offseason trade. And he’s putting his faith in a third-year quarterback who is poised to join the league’s elite.
Justin Fields was the only standout player on the Bears’ offense last season. He had the second-most rushing yards of any quarterback in history with 1,143 yards. Over 76 yards per game. Only five NFL running backs have above-average stats. And his eight rushing touchdowns were second among QBs behind Philadelphia’s Jaylen Hurts.
Field pass number? Less impressive, but the main culprit is the lack of incoming targets. His 17 touchdowns and 2,242 passing yards pale in comparison to Ohio State’s average of 244 passing yards and three touchdowns per game.
This year things change thanks to standout wideout DJ Moore, headlining the Bears’ big trade. More on him later.
With an improved offensive line in place and the Bears continuing to lack top-level running backs, Fields should at least replicate his prolific rushing stats this season.
Fields isn’t the only player outperforming expectations this season. Here are a dozen of our bakeries:
our favorite running bag
Derrick Henry (Titans) — King Henry’s stock fell with Tennessee’s during a seven-game losing streak after the season ended. However, he was second in the league in both rushing touchdowns (13) and rushing average (96.1 yards per game). If the passing game improves with the addition of WR DeAndre Hopkins, the focus on Henry should ease a little. Therefore, his sixth-place preseason ranking among RBs seems low. Behind Atlanta rookie Bijan Robinson? It wouldn’t be bloody.
Nagy Harris (Steelers) — Harris, who had 10 touchdowns each in his first two seasons, slipped out of the phantom top 10 as his yardage total dropped by more than 400 in his sophomore year. But he’s shown more vigor during the Steelers’ season-ending four win streak, and will undoubtedly benefit from continued growth in QB Kenny Pickett and Pittsburgh’s O-line.
Isaiah Pacheco (Chiefs) — The Rutgers rookie took over as the Chiefs’ top runner by the end of last season, rushing for 76 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl win. In his mid-twenties, his preseason ranks seem ridiculously low because of his premium role in the world’s most premium offense. Let’s hope he plays a bigger role in the KC pass game. He had just 13 receptions in 2022, but he had five in the AFC title-winning win over Cincinnati.
Dandre Swift (Eagles) — Listening to the “experts”, you would think that injured Rashard Penney is Philadelphia’s top rusher. However, the Eagles acquired Swift in a trade with Detroit. The Swifts struggled last season to see Jamal Williams take every opportunity on the goal line. They have him number one and will enjoy running behind the league’s top attack. After three meandering years at Motor City, the Swift could break out. And you can still find him in Round 6 of the draft.
Ohue Favorite Receiver
DJ Moore (Bears) — Attention all over Chicago is on this Carolina importer working on developing chemistry with Justin Fields. He’ll be the Bears’ No. 1 wideout, but with Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Cole Koumet next to him, Moore won’t face ridiculously tough cover. . He’ll be a fourth-round draft pick, and he’s sure to average over 1,040 yards and four touchdowns a season.
Deebo Samuel (49ers) — Granted, the injury to Brock Purdy leaves the Niners quarterback in turmoil, but Samuel will likely be closer to his 2021 form when he threw 1,770 yards and 14 touchdowns. Last season, he surprisingly had more rushing touchdowns than points. That will never happen again. He will also benefit from the blossoming of teammate Brandon Ayuk. Another 4 round WR gem.
Calvin Ridley (Jaguars) — Also slipping into round four status this year is Duval County’s newest addition, who had 1,374 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in his last full season as a pro. That was, of course, back in 2020 at Atlanta, before a year-long suspension for personal issues and betting on the Falcons derailed the second-team All-Pro. He will carry the number 0 on his back this season, but it will never be zero when teamed up with QB Trevor Lawrence.
Chris Godwin and Mike Evans (Buccaneers) — Yes, Tom Brady has finally retired. And yes, Baker he Mayfield and Kyle his Trask can never be mistaken for a TB 12. But these two Pro Bowlers have plummeted to within eight rounds, and that’s a little too much. Godwin caught 104 passes last season and Evans broke 1,000 yards in all nine seasons. Both players will do surprisingly well in a very mediocre NFC South with mediocre offenses.
our favorite quarterback
Russell Wilson (Broncos) — Only the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had a worse 2022 than a quarterback Seattle decided he could no longer cook. He spent most of his first season in Denver in the backside, posting a league-leading 55 sacks. And his play in an upright position has been far less impressive. But the borderline Hall of Famer, who traded coach from Nathaniel Hackett to Sean Payton, is ripe for a comeback and worthy of a late draft pick.
Kyler Murray (Cardinals) — If Dunge Russ isn’t enough of a risk for you, what about an injured QB that at best warms the seat for future No. 1 draft pick Caleb Williams this season? Either way, offseason knee surgery will keep Murray on hold until October. But if you’re a keeper or in the Dynasty League, you could end up doing worse with your last pick than getting a QB with 107 touchdowns in four years…and in 2024. see where he gets.
our favorite tight end
Darren Waller (Giants) Once considered one of the top three TEs in the league, the former Raider found himself in the Meadowlands after two below-average seasons. He’ll be a welcome addition to the ninth round of the draft, and a welcome new target for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. Especially the red zone. We estimate he will top his 2022 total of just three touchdowns by the end of September.
Taysom Hill (Saints) — When it comes time to make a final pick at the bottom of the draft, keep an eye out for this occasional diamond in the ranks of rough tight ends. Sure, he’s a third-row TE and a fourth-row QB. But he did have seven rushing touchdowns in 2022, which tied for 16th in the league. You know what I call waiting until the last round to make Hill the only tight end?
Scheduled for August 20th: Players who haven’t been particularly evaluated this season.