Despite finishing as the WR11 in 2014 and the WR8 the season prior, Alshon Jeffery continues to be a somewhat underrated receiver. He is coming off of a down year compared to his sophomore breakout, but Jeffery is primed for this season to be his breakout. He will step in as the WR1 in Chicago with Brandon Marshall out of town, and has the size, speed, and ability to flirt with a top five finish.
During the offseason Chicago made no real effort to replace Brandon Marshall. The acquisition of Eddie Royal will upgrade the offense and give Jay Cutler a veteran weapon, but he is a slot receiver. His smaller frame better suits short, quick passes and while he will eat up targets, Alshon Jeffery will still see an uptick in his. When the Bears selected Kevin White in the first round of the draft, it was easy to assume he was drafted to replace the 31 year old Marshall, but I disagree. If anything, they drafted an Alshon Jeffery clone in terms of physical traits. Jeffery stands tall at 6’3” weighing 216 pounds. The Bears new addition White also stands tall at 6’3” and is just one pound lighter at 215 pounds. Brandon Marshall was the bigger receiver at 6’4”, but his age began to wear on him last season. Jeffery will be 25 years old throughout the 2015 season, and rookie Kevin White just turned 22 years old. The Bears replaced Marshall’s veteran presence with Royal, but they drafted themselves a younger Jeffery in Kevin White.
Brandon Marshall was not the only Bear to move on during the offseason. Running back friendly coach Marc Trestman has taken his talents to Baltimore, which could negatively impact Matt Forte’s contribution to the passing game. Forte saw 117 targets last season and turned those into 102 receptions for 808 yards, the most of his career. Without Trestman’s scheme, it will be nearly impossible for Forte to replicate those receiving numbers. This isn’t to say that Forte won’t be a factor in the passing game this season, but those numbers will drop and most of those short passes could go Royal’s way, but Alshon Jeffery will inevitably eat some of them up. His versatility allows him to take handoffs through the Jet sweep, and we could see more of that from Jeffery this season.
When Brandon Marshall left he took 103 targets with him. Jay Cutler is not ashamed to lock in on one receiver and force feed him. If we take Alshon Jeffery’s targets from last season and add just 25% of Marshall’s targets, he would have seen 163 targets, second only to Demaryius Thomas. That is just a projection, but it is not inconceivable to think that Jay Cutler could lock in on his stud receiver in the same manner he did Marshall. Martellus Bennett is a gifted receiver in a tight end’s body and targets will go his way as well. Of course Kevin White will contribute and have a role, the Bears did not spend a first round pick on him as a development project, but it’s Jay Cutler’s style that benefits Jeffery. Cutler will force the ball, and Jeffery is a big, physical receiver who could win most of those battles.
The fantasy success of the Bears’ offensive skill positions begins and ends with Cutler, but Alshon Jeffery is primed to be the true WR1 in Chicago this season. All factors considered this should be his career year. The Bears subpar defense will contribute to playing from behind, which correlates to Cutler having to throw the ball. Alshon Jeffery is the new security blanket, and he is primed to finish with his best season to date.