marshall-camp2

Jay Cutler throws to Brandon Marshall a lot. He throws to him when he’s open, when he’s double teamed, when he’s triple teamed, and also when he’s on the John. Man, it’s hard to find a few minutes of peace these days.

The Housekeeping

Notable Additions: Martellus Bennett

Notable Draft Picks: Kyle Long

The Marquee Men (the elitest of the elite)

Matt Forte (ADP: 12.6): The Trestman factor sounds like the next awful Fox reality show (somehow involving sitting in a tank with piranhas, no doubt). But it’s real, and it’ll be spectacular.

Trestman will pass, and then pass some more. We saw this in the CFL with the Alouettes, which is inherently a passing league with its three downs. But more importantly, we saw it long ago during Trestman’s time as an NFL offensive coordinator, most recently with the Raiders between 2001 and 2003.

The great Forte-related joy from that three-season period comes from buckets of footballs chucked at Charlie Garner. In 2001, the first season in Oakland for both Garner and Trestman, the running back caught 72 balls for 578 yards. That already exceeds Forte’s career single-season high in receptions (63), and receiving yards (547). But oh, we’re not done.

The following season (you know, the one that ended in a Super Bowl appearance), Garner had 92 receptions for 941 yards. Not a typo, and I know what you’re thinking (I probably don’t, but just roll with this lazy writing device): “those receiving yards are awesome and all, but wasn’t he just a better Darren Sproles that season? A running back in name only who didn’t do much actual running?”. Wrong, as Garner also added 962 rushing yards, arithmetic which leads to 1903 total yards from scrimmage.

In this offense and with this role, Forte is poised for a significant jump from his career average of 53 receptions per season, and he should easily be a first rounder in PPR leagues. Even in non-PPR leagues, the extra points you’re getting from his receiving yardage will bring you great joy, especially if you falls into the second round. That’s a possibility given his current ADP, so picture this scenario: you have the 12th overall pick in a 12-team league, and you’re able to select Alfred Morris, followed by Forte on the turn. Yum.

Brandon Marshall (ADP: 19.0): Trestman’s CFL influence has led to exotic and wide spread use of trips and bunch formations, and from that comes quick-strike passing and opportunities to explode upfield after the catch. Marshall will excel in that environment (nearly 30 percent of his receiving yards came after the catch last year), in addition to thriving through Trestman’s leanings toward spreading the field, and use of multiple receivers.

Back to that 2003 Raiders season, which featured a significant imbalance between passing and rushing. Trestman called 618 pass plays to 414 run plays, a heavy tilt which resulted in multiple hands catching many balls, and three +50 catch receivers. Jerry Rice finished with 92 receptions, while Tim Brown had 81, and Joey Porter reeled in 51. Between them, that’s three receivers who accounted for 53.5 percent of quarterback Rich Gannon’s completions, distribution which bodes well for Alshon Jeffery’s breakout aspirations too.

If you’re worried that more distribution will be an awful thing for Marshall, stop that. Jay Cutler’s eyes moving elsewhere will be welcome, forcing some honesty on defenses as the field is spread, and they have to account for Forte, Jeffery, or tight end Martellus Bennett.

Last year on his way to a career high 118 receptions, Marshall was targeted 192 times, meaning Cutler was magnetized to him on 44.2 percent of his attempts. Yes, getting targeted that often (including four games with 15 or more) leads to some beastly fantasy returns, and Marshall being a PPR demon. But this is a professional football league, with defensive coordinators who are paid to dismantle obvious tendencies. Cutler’s fixation then also led to a handful of weeks when Marshall was targeted 14 times, and only five or six of those ended in receptions (specifically, weeks 16 and 17).

Balance. It’s not just for expertly constructed human pyramids anymore.

The Middle Men (middle-to-late round options)

Jay Cutler (134.0): I know. Most of you who have owned Cutler in the past would like to send him to Belize, and fair enough. But keep in mind everything written above regarding Trestman’s fondness for throwing, and throwing with great volume using a scheme which — in theory, dear god in theory — minimizes Cutler’s opportunities for mind melting errors in judgement with quick passing, simple drops, and high-percentage throws. Then also remember the Bears’ horrid offensive line, a core recent problem, has welcomed first-round pick Kyle Long, and his very mobile girth. In Chicago, Cutler’s only season when he was sacked less than 35 times came because he broke late in 2011, missing five games.

But most importantly, while noting all those encouraging factoids, look at that glowing ADP number. With his hopeful Trestman rebirth, Cutler could be the lord of the late-round QBs, and provide great value at the position relative to his draft slot. Tony Romo will be the best sort of late-round quarterback, but Cutler may not be far behind in production, while being about three rounds behind in draft value.

Martellus Bennett (147.7): There’s some concern about Bennett’s zero targets so far in a new offense through two preseason games. But that’s probably just those nasty media writer guys overacting to meaningless August games (HI!). Bennett isn’t worried, mostly because he wears large white gloves and he waves them like Mickey Mouse, or something.

It is reasonable, however, to wonder how exactly Bennett will slide into this offense with how much Forte is expected to be targeted on short-to-intermediate routes, and often lined up in the slot. Let’s do some history gazing one more time: over Trestman’s three years in Oakland, there was a total of 149 catches by a tight end. That’s 49.7 per year, which would put Bennett just shy of his career high last year with the Giants (55 catches), but that’s still enough balls to be within reach of 600 yards, both fine numbers at Bennett’s 12th round draft perch.

There’s also an optimistic outlook from Andrew Bucholtz, the editor of the 55-yard Line who has closely watched the various mechanisms of Trestman’s CFL offense at work. In his rapid fire, west-coast oriented scheme, Bucholtz said Trestman often leaned on “possession-oriented slot guys or tight ends who can run short crosses or outs”. That’s a fine description of Bennett.

Late-round TE? Late-round TE.

The Menial Peons (sleepers, flex plays, and matchup plays)

Alshon Jeffery (ADP: 127.8): This is one of those sleeper/breakout types being drafted by both your mother, and your third cousin. Again, Jeffery will benefit from the Trestman’s likely widespread distribution, and Cutler’s eyes moving away from Marshall for at least several seconds. His ceiling this year is limited, however, because he’ll be fourth in line for targets behind Marshall, Forte, and Bennett. For what it’s worth (something, but not much of something), Jeffery has been targeted just twice so far over 30 preseason snaps.

That’s why if he creeps up much further than his current ADP, he begins to lose most of his appeal as a high upside WR4 or flex.

The Mop-Up Men (deeeep sleepers and handcuffs)

Michael Bush (ADP: 128.5): Bush is a handcuff, which is why he’s here under the large, bold handcuff heading. I’m pretty organized like that.

And primarily for fantasy purposes, that’s what he’ll remain. But he can be a little bit more, especially in deep leagues.

He was slowed severely by a broken rib last year starting in Week 2, which explains his plodding and a career low 3.6 yards per carry. Yet because he’s a football player and not a normal humanoid, Bush missed only one game, and he still ran into brick walls made of human on 114 carries while scoring five times. That’s his deep-league value, as a healthy Bush could be the league’s foremost touchdown vulture, and he’ll still hover around 100 carries.

Forte is set to do do many wonderful things as outlined above, but scoring a lot of touchdowns isn’t one of them. His single-season high is eight, and that came five years ago during his rookie year. More recently, on 547 touches over the past two years, only 10 of them have ended with Forte in the end zone.