Despite the inevitable changes that tweak rankings between Memorial Day and Kickoff Weekend, The Huddle’s early sleepers article consistently identifies value picks. Last year four of the six early sleepers outperformed their final average draft position, led by Carolina tight end Greg Olsen (ADP 16, final ranking sixth among tight ends). Willis McGahee missed joining that group by just one spot (ADP 23, final ranking 24th) despite playing in just 10 games due to injury. And as for Darius Heyward-Bey (ADP 39, actual ranking 50th)… sorry ‘bout that.
But enough about the past; it’s time to prove ourselves once again. Whether your league simply can’t wait and holds its fantasy football draft in June, or you just want a head start on preparations for the more typical August draft, it’s never too early to line up your sleepers. And we’re here to help.
It’s easy to dislike Jay Cutler, if for no other reason than facial expressions that range from “Roberto Garza is wearing my jersey again?” to “I just chugged a gallon of sour milk.” But burned fantasy owners have yet to forget how he turning the explosive potential of a Mike Martz offense into multiple seasons of mediocre numbers and fantasy heartbreak.
For crying out loud, last year Cutler scored fewer fantasy points than Christian Ponder!
So it should come as no surprise that Cutler’s current ADP hovers in the middle of the QB2s, the 19th quarterback off the board with an expected draft position in the 12th round.
But much has changed in Chicago, and all of it favors bigger and better numbers from Cutler. Let’s start at the top, where Marc Trestman takes over as the Bears’ head coach. It’s a seismic shift in philosophy from the defensive-minded Lovie Smith to Trestman, who has a reputation as a quarterback whisperer. His impressive NFL resume includes quality seasons from Steve Young, Bernie Kosar, and Jake Plummer as well as Rich Gannon’s 2002 MVP campaign.
Trestman then took his knowledge north of the border, where Anthony Calvillo averaged better than 5,000 yards a season and won two MVP awards and two Grey Cups in five years with the Montreal Alouettes. More importantly, at least in regards to what Cutler has had to deal with the past couple of seasons in Chicago, Trestman’s version of the West Coast offense dramatically reduced the number of sacks Calvillo suffered. The season prior to Trestman taking over, the Alouettes surrendered 68 sacks in 625 pass attempts; Trestman’s offense cut that number to 22 in 712 dropbacks.
Cutler still has Brandon Marshall at his disposal, as well as emerging talent Alshon Jeffery and yet another big target in new tight end Martellus Bennett. And Trestman’s passing game heavily involves the running back—again, playing to a strength of the Bears’ personnel: Matt Forte is as good a pass-catching back as there is in the league.
Cutler hasn’t had a 4,000-yard season since leaving Denver, nor has he cracked the top 10 quarterbacks in fantasy scoring as a Bear. But he was the third-ranked fantasy QB in 2008, when he averaged 38 pass attempts a game. Trestman’s quarterbacks in Montreal averaged more than 35 throws a game, suggesting Cutler will get a real opportunity to cut loose this year. Cutting loose should make Jay happy, and a happy Cutler is a productive Cutler—which in turn makes the fantasy owner who snags him at a backup-level price equally giddy.