Save for running backs Jordan Howard (a borderline RB1) and Tarik Cohen (a worthy FLEX starter (depending on the matchup)), the Chicago Bears were mostly irrelevant to the world of fantasy football in 2017. But after an offseason in which the offense was overhauled, that’s probably going to change in 2018.
Howard, quarterback Mitch Trubisky, and receiver Allen Robinson could all be popular names early – especially if your league is inhabited by a bunch of fellow Bears fans – but a glance beyond the surface reveals a potential sleeper to keep an eye on. One who is projected to make an immediate impact.
His name? 2018 Second-Round Pick Anthony Miller. Er, well, his name is just “Anthony Miller,” but you know I like my theatrics.
Indeed, NFL.com ranks Miller 10th on its list of top-20 fantasy rookies, and the only wideout ahead of him on the list is Calvin Ridley. Here’s what NFL.com had to say about him cracking the top-10:
“Miller will have some low-level sleeper appeal as a rookie if he can make an impression in camp. The Bears did add Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton in the offseason, but letting Cameron Meredith walk opens a chance for the rookie to contribute. If Miller can push injury-prone Kevin White down the depth chart, the Memphis product could be worth a late-round flier in seasonal fantasy drafts.”
Drafting a receiver in the second round who fills a need is one thing, but finding a place where he can succeed early in the offense is another.
Miller’s role won’t be carved out for some time, but Jeff Ratcliffe of Pro Football Focus sees a ton of upside in the Bears’ newest receiver. PFF put together a fantasy football mock draft with only rookies, and Miller’s stock is on the rise after the Bears selected him: “We also saw a big move up the board from Anthony Miller, who also went to a strong situation in Chicago and offers the dynamic upside of Steve Smith in his prime,” Ratcliffe writes. “Miller is certainly in play to potentially man the Tyreek Hill role in Matt Nagy’s offense.”
That jolt of energy you felt was envisioning Miller replicating the things Steve Smith did for the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens during his 16-year professional career. We can dream on Miller’s Smith-like upside in another post. For now, I’m intrigued by Miller’s short-term projection as a player who slides into the picture like Tyreek Hill did as a rookie in 2016. Let’s explore it a little deeper.
Hill played on just 40.7 percent of the team’s offensive snaps as a rookie, but was an instant playmaker when given the opportunity. While Hill was targeted just 83 times, he hauled 61 passes and six of those went for touchdowns. He also added three rushing scores on 24 attempts as Kansas City’s offense truly took advantage of Hill being a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses.
And, thus, it doesn’t take much to see how the Bears can make use of Miller’s speed and route-running ability in the passing game. Nor does it take much to envision Miller coming across a formation, taking a jet sweep, and showing off his elusiveness as a ball-carrier in this way.
With a strong showing during spring and summer camps, it will be easy to pencil Miller into a role with the first-team offense – much what happened with safety Eddie Jackson on the other side of the ball last season. Knowing that Miller could play the “Z” receiver opposite of Robinson or in the “Zebra” role on the inside makes him a versatile weapon who projects to see a significant number of snaps as a rookie. And with defenses focusing on Robinson and Howard, Miller should be well positioned to make the most of open areas in the middle of the field.
Being a top pass-catching option who can also get a few dozen hand-offs makes Miller a threat on the gridiron where it matters most and a potential sleeper candidate for your fantasy team. As a Bears fan, I see a best of both worlds situation developing in front of our own eyes.