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With the lockout over, camps and pre-season games finally under way all I can say is welcome back NFL. However, with the extended lockout came a free agent signing frenzy like never seen before. Many players have new homes, some in new positions, and some in new schemes. The breakdowns below will help to show who went where and how it will impact their fantasy value as well as who stayed put and what to expect from them too. In addition, many teams have new defensive coordinators and you can read about them in the 2011 Coaching Changes article. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also follow me on twitter @IDPSteve. Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).
Defensive Line: Last year, the big news surrounding the Bears DL was the acquisition of DE Julius Peppers. When everything was said and done, everyone, the Bears, their fans as well as fantasy owners were happy with the move. Peppers was a major reason the Bears finished the season with a 11-5 record, won the NFC North and made it to the NFC Championship game where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Green Bay Packers. Peppers ranked just outside the top 10 last year and much of that was due to a slow start in the 1st half of the season. Over the second half of the season in 2010 after the Bears bye week Peppers ranked as the #4 fantasy DL. This year I fully expect that Peppers should be a top 5 fantasy DL.
While Peppers was the big name, Israel Idonije was a guy that went undrafted in many leagues but went on to put up DL2 numbers. This year look for Idonije to be a low DL2, high DL3 play for fantasy owners. Gone from the Bears DL is DT Tommie Harris, Harris signed with the Colts. Henry Melton looks like he should replace Harris but only in the deepest of DT mandatory leagues would I look to roster Melton. The Bears also added DT Amobi Okoye via free agency; he is a former 1st round pick of the Houston Texans. Okoye was very young when he was drafted and still could develop into a viable starting NFL DT.
Linebacker: Both Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs have been mainstays in fantasy lineups for many years now, that is when they are healthy. As it stands now both look to be 100% healthy and ready for the upcoming NFL season. For me, I see Urlacher as a LB2 with some upside and Briggs as a very solid LB2 with very little downside. Dynasty league owners know that Urlacher and Briggs are both getting up there in age and are looking for that diamond in the rough that will take their place in the future. As it stands now I do not see those players on the Bears roster.
Defensive Back: When talking about the Bears secondary in the past, Charles Tillman was the player that fantasy owners were talking about. Understandable since he is considered one of the better run support corners in the league and for the past seven years, he has had at least 75 total tackles in six of them. His best year was in 2005 when he ended up ranking #2 in fantasy points scored among DBs. Tillman most likely is not going to be a top 5 DB again but he should be a very solid low level DB2 with some upside and at worst a DB3. Outside of Tillman, the player to watch in the Bears secondary is second year SS Major Wright. The Bears SS position has been fantasy viable in the past and this year I would not be shocked to see Wright rank in the top 30 among DBs. Chris Harris is the other Bears safety (FS) but as far as fantasy production goes, I would not expect much from him. Last year, Harris needed a 28-point performance in week 16 to push his season ending ranking to #63 or I could say it pushed him to a DB6 value.
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