The Chicago Bears aren’t going to be a hub of talent for which you will stack your fantasy football lineups this season. However, outside of Jordan Howard, there is one other player on offense you might want to consider when putting together your draft boards: Cameron Meredith.
Indeed, Meredith received a mention among Arthur Arkush’s list of fantasy football sleepers for the 2017 season, which can be found over at Pro Football Weekly. It’s almost hard to imagine Meredith still garnering sleeper status when we get closer to fantasy football season, so let’s jump on this bandwagon while we can … and do so before it fills up to the point where Meredith is over-drafted.
We already know Meredith was the Bears’ best receiving option last season, and projects to fill that role again this year (especially with Alshon Jeffery leaving for the Philadelphia Eagles). Meredith took advantage of the additional looks Bears quarterbacks gave him while Jeffery was sidelined with a PED suspension, and finished the year leading the Bears in targets, catches, and receiving yards. As for 2017, Meredith projects to be a valuable commodity (even if the Bears aren’t getting him the ball in the end zone) because of the yards he’ll gain and the catches he’ll haul in, for those of you who will play in PPR leagues.
A few factors will play a role in how much of an impact Meredith will make on your fantasy team.
The first is how balanced the Bears’ attack will be with Dowell Loggains calling plays for new quarterback Mike Glennon. Chicago featured a Pro Bowl running back, but he averaged just 18 rush attempts per game. And even after becoming a starter, Howard rushed the ball fewer than 20 times in nine of his final 13 games. That’s simply not enough for a load-carrying back. But if Howard rushes as often as Ezekiel Elliott did (21.5 times per game) as a rookie, that will mean fewer pass attempts for Meredith to haul in.
Then again, if the Bears find themselves trailing early and often in 2017, that might lead to more opportunities for Meredith to shine. The Bears threw passes on 59.5 percent of their offensive plays last year. That number increased to 63.3 percent when the team was trailing. When it comes to formations, the Bears were in the shotgun on 607 occasions and lined up under center 360 times. Not only did the Bears spend a majority of their offensive snaps in the shotgun in 2016, they threw the ball on 74.6 percent of those snaps. These are the kinds of numbers that will pay off for Meredith owners in 2017.
The hardest factor to project will be how Glennon will spread the ball around the gridiron. In 2016, Meredith was targeted on 17.6 percent of the Bears’ total pass attempts. That number is down compared to Jeffery, who was the team’s target leader in 2015 (18.1%) and 2014 (23.8%), as well as Brandon Marshall, who led the team in targets in 2013 and was thrown at on 28.7 percent of pass plays.
Meredith’s best bet to be a top fantasy target might come in him being the clear cut top option again. Perhaps his late-season surge gives us an idea of what that will look like in 2017. He was targeted on 28.3 percent of the Bears’ passes during the final five weeks of the season. Overall, Bears quarterbacks owned a 100.1 quarterback rating when throwing to Meredith, according to Pro Football Focus.
It all adds up to a player on the cusp of a potentially making a positive impact for your fantasy team. And there aren’t too many Bears players you can say that about for the 2017 season.