Chester Taylor to the Bears
One of the more curious free agency signings this offseason was the Bears throwing $12.5 million at Chester Taylor.
Curious because the Bears would seem to already have a talented back in place in Matt Forte; with no first- or second-round draft pick, that money might have been better spent filling other, more critical areas of need in Chicago.
Curious because Taylor is a veteran back on the wrong side of 30 whose touches and productivity have been in steady decline the last three seasons, culminating with 332 rushing yards and two total touchdowns last year.
And curious because with so much invested in Jay Cutler and the passing game, and now the addition of Mike Martz as offensive coordinator, a high priced second back on a sub-.500 pass-first team seems superfluous.
But enough quibbling about the decision. In his new home, what are Taylor’s chances of upgrading from the 44th-most productive fantasy running back a year ago?
A wise man once said that a running back’s fantasy value is equal to talent x situation x (opportunity x 2). Taylor is woefully short on all of the above.
Chester has never scored more than seven touchdowns in a season, and his lone 1,000-yard campaign came back in 2006—one year before Adrian Peterson arrived in Minnesota. It took him 304 carries to reach that mark; he hasn’t topped 157 since, and at best he’ll be sharing the workload with Forte in Chicago.
Taylor’s situation in Chicago doesn’t project to be any better than it was in Minnesota. While the overrated Vikings’ offensive line produced an only slightly better yards-per-carry average than Chicago’s, Taylor’s personal ypc was a half-yard below the team average. And with Martz taking over the Bears’ offense, there will be even fewer carries to go around. Consider this: in his last nine years as head coach or OC, Martz’s offenses have ranked 27th, 32nd, 32nd, 29th, 30th, 28th, 32nd, 22nd, and 25th in the league in rushing attempts.
Oh, but Taylor’s opportunity will come as a receiver, right? After all, his 44 catches ranked 13th among running backs last season—one ahead of Peterson, by the way. Perhaps the Bears weren’t happy with Forte’s 57 catches last season and will give most of the third down looks to Taylor. Even then, he’ll be a committee member in an offense that finished 32nd in fantasy points by running backs a year ago. And don’t let visions of Marshall Faulk cloud your brain; only once in the last seven Martz-run offenses have his team’s running backs ranked in the top half of the league in fantasy points (15th for the Faulk/Steven Jackson tandem in 2005).
In past seasons Taylor has had fantasy value as a handcuff to Peterson, with the potential upside of a heavy third-down workload and maybe some goal line looks; in his new situation, he’ll be at best in a job share with a lesser offense. Taylor’s getting $12.5 million ($7 guaranteed) out of the deal, but those putting any fantasy faith in him this year will wind up empty-handed.