Impact of Bears' QB battle on fantasy values of Robinson, Montgomery


Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II has been a bit all-or-nothing for fantasy purposes in his six-year NFL career, with a monster season, a really good one and a few others we would describe a bit differently, but we need to give the fellow a break to some extent. After all, Blake Bortles was his main quarterback in Jacksonville, and now, as he enters his third season with Chicago, a perceived training camp battle looms between Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky.

OK, so yet again, not exactly Joe Montana and Dan Marino in their primes, right?

The thing is, for the purposes of evaluating Mr. Robinson -- and running back David Montgomery and other potentially intriguing offensive players in the Bears' neighborhood too -- it might not matter which quarterback stands under center. Just look at Robinson for proof. After all, Bortles played so well in Jacksonville that the franchise could not wait for him to leave, and now, at 28, he is sans employment. Robinson still had a fantastic 2015 season with Bortles, accruing 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. He was not nearly as proficient the following season, but injuries -- and Bortles! -- played a role.

Robinson moved on to Chicago, and last season, despite wildly erratic, disappointing play by Trubisky that warranted the Foles acquisition, he still managed to snare 98 passes for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns, good for the No. 8 spot among wide receivers in PPR scoring. I have said for years that quarterback play hardly correlates directly with wide receiver performance in fantasy football, using the lengthy run of Andy Dalton in Cincinnati with receiver A.J. Green as proof. Dalton's nine seasons as a Bengal bore only one in the top 10 for fantasy goodness -- and oh, what a 2013 campaign that was -- but Green performed nicely for a long time.

Trubisky showed so much promise in 2018, but then things went in the other direction in 2019, perhaps because of a non-throwing-shoulder injury that since was repaired, but that cannot account for everything. The Bears tired of the No. 2 pick from the 2017 draft seemingly around the middle of the 2019 season, and for good reason. Hardly the most accurate thrower to start with, Trubisky lacked consistency even in his breakout season, though at least he threw deep with some success. That ended quickly. Sure, Robinson was his only downfield weapon, but Trubisky generally played poorly. Robinson was a top-10 fantasy wide receiver.

This is why I am mildly intrigued by who wins the starting quarterback job in real life, but I also believe it barely matters in fantasy. Nobody really wants to draft either Bears quarterback in any ESPN standard league, or even a deeper one. Foles has certainly had his NFL moments, with a fantastically aberrant 2013 season -- something was in the air that year with Foles, Dalton and Josh McCown -- and a magical Super Bowl run in 2018, but he is an average passer, and durability is definitely not his thing. Trubisky could lose the job and still play quite a bit this season.

Still, in fantasy, who cares? The electric Robinson, with size and speed, has proved himself, even back to his Penn State days when Christian Hackenberg and Matt McGloin quarterbacked the team. Again, not exactly superstars there! Many of the Robinson numbers in his two top-10 NFL fantasy seasons came via extreme volume and not efficiency, so perhaps they take a mild hit if Anthony Miller and new tight end Jimmy Graham step up as reasonable targets, but I laugh when people downgrade Robinson because of Trubisky. He overcame him already! Half a season of Foles and half with a motivated Trubisky, who likely needs to find a new place to play in 2021, should not be a major problem.

Just ask A.J. Green or any number of other wide receivers who posted years of big numbers on their own. Let us take a quick look at last season. Rams starter Jared Goff could be on his own Trubisky path, by the way, but Cooper Kupp finished 2019 as the No. 4 wide receiver in PPR formats. Everyone thinks Tom Brady was so bad in 2019, but Julian Edelman was still the No. 7 PPR WR. Kenny Golladay was better with Matthew Stafford, of course, but still ended up a top-10 WR despite luminaries David Blough and Jeff Driskel starting half the games. It happens every year!

That brings us to Montgomery. Yeah, I have concerns about him after a relatively pedestrian rookie season in which the Bears seemed reluctant to trust him because he delivered a paltry rate of yards after contact. Quarterback play was hardly the lone issue, as the offensive line never coalesced. Dynamic Tarik Cohen caught the passes out of the backfield, not Montgomery, which was hard to argue with. Perhaps new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor gets a chance to unlock Montgomery's talent and more directly fixes the offensive line, but the point here is that Trubisky was not the problem for the rookie running back. Year 2 should be better.

As for who plays quarterback and aims for the first 4,000-yard passing campaign in franchise history (it's true -- Erik Kramer holds the record with 3,838 yards!), it seems likely Foles gets every chance to win the job to start the season, even without a normal summer of training. Both passers have proved themselves, but Foles does have a history with head coach Matt Nagy, Lazor and quarterback coach John DeFilippo, all from Philadelphia. The key for fantasy is that neither one needs to thrive for the sake of Robinson and other weapons, though it would be nice!