Jay Cutler

 

 

 

For those of you in your fantasy league playoffs, congrats on making it this far and good luck in the finals.  For those of you, especially in keeper and dynasty leagues, who didn’t make it or were eliminated, now’s as good a time as any to start looking to the future.  It’s a good idea to compile information and form opinions based on what is happened this season while it’s still fresh in our minds.  Too often the news becomes distorted over the off season as slow news cycles cause small tidbits of information, good or bad, to get overblown.

 

 

 



Jay Cutler is the 29 year old quarterback for the Chicago Bears.  He’s 6-3 weighs 220 lbs and ran a 4.77 forty at the NFL Combine.  Cutler was born in Georgia but raised in – perfect for my last pre Christmas column – Santa Claus, Indiana.  He went to high school in Indiana where he started for his final three years.  Cutler’s teams dominated during his time at the helm, including a 90-0 shellacking in one game.  He also was the team’s starting safety and reportedly was pretty good at that position too.  Cutler was an all around great athlete, making All-State in basketball and honorable mention in baseball.  He went to Vanderbilt University where he started all four years.  Although the team wasn’t very good going 11-35 in that time, Cutler never missed a game due to injury and performed well.  He made the All-SEC team as a freshman and won the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, a first for the school.   Here are his college stats:

Year

Comp

Att

Pct

Yds

Yds / Att

Yds / Comp

TD

Int


2002

103

212

48.6

1433

6.76

13.91

10

9


2003

187

327

57.2

2347

7.18

12.55

18

13


2004

147

241

61

1844

7.65

12.54

10

5


2005

273

462

59.1

3073

6.65

11.26

21

9



Going into the 2006 draft, there was some debate as to Cutler’s ranking in comparison to a couple of other potential first round QB’s Vince Young and Matt Leinart.  Some had Cutler ranked as the best of the three, some had him the worst.  Some scouts made comparisons to Brett Favre based on arm strength and attitude.  Cutler ended up being selected behind Young and Leinart, picked 11th overall by the Denver Broncos.  He became the Bronco’s starter before the end of his first season and began building chemistry with fellow rookie wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

 

Overall Cutler’s rookie season must be considered a success even though he had a losing record as a starter and the Broncos failed to make the playoffs.  In five games he threw for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns.  In fact for the three seasons 2006-08 Cutler’s numbers were good, but Denver never made the playoffs and head coach Mike Shanahan was sent packing.  When new man Josh McDaniels came on board, reports soon surfaced that the Broncos were looking to trade Cutler.  While the rumors were denied by the front office and coaching staff, Cutler didn’t believe it and asked to be traded.  He was sent to the Chicago Bears in April.

 

Cutler’s first year in Chicago was no better than his Denver career, the Bears finished 7-9 to miss the post season and Cutler led the league in interceptions.  He and the Bears made the playoffs in 2010 and Cutler won his first ever post season game.  In the next round Cutler sustained a knee injury early in the second half after being mostly ineffective in the first.  He was surprisingly criticized in many circles for not playing through the injury and was labeled ‘soft’ and a coward which was ridiculous.  Cutler had his team at 7-3 in 2011 despite running for his life in most games due to poor offensive line play and debatable play calling.  He broke his thumb and was sidelined for the rest of the season.  Chicago would only win one more game and missed the playoffs.    Here are Cutler’s NFL stats:

Year

Tm

G

Record

Cmp

Att

Cmp%

Yds

TD

Int

Yds / Att

Yds / Comp


2006

DEN

5

2-3

81

137

59.1

1001

9

5

7.3

12.4


2007

DEN

16

7-9

297

467

63.6

3497

20

14

7.5

11.8


2008

DEN

16

8-8

384

616

62.3

4526

25

18

7.3

11.8


2009

CHI

16

7-9

336

555

60.5

3666

27

26

6.6

10.9


2010

CHI

15

10-5

261

432

60.4

3274

23

16

7.6

12.5


2011

CHI

10

7-3

182

314

58

2319

13

7

7.4

12.7


2012

CHI

13

8-5

225

377

59.7

2630

17

14

7

11.7



There was excitement in Chicago and increased optimism for Cutler’s fantasy value prior to the 2012 season.  The Bears acquired his former Broncos running mate Brandon Marshall.  In 2007-08 when both were established starters, Cutler hooked up with Marshall to the tune of over 200 catches, almost 2,600 yards, and 13 touchdowns in 31 games.  At the same time there was concern over the departure of Mike Martz as offensive coordinator and his replacement Mike Tice.  The same first name is about the only thing these two have in common with respect to offensive game planning.  Many feared more focus on the running game and less emphasis on deep passing plays, both of which can limit a quarterback’s fantasy value.

 

So far in 2012 you could say the Tice factor has won the battle of the two impacts because Cutler is averaging about two fantasy points per game less than 2011.  That may not sound like much but for a guy who was a borderline QB1 in fantasy last year it’s a fairly big deal.  Cutler is signed through 2013 and almost assuredly will be back with the Bears, especially since they don’t have a legitimate replacement in the system.  So can Cutler return to his 2008 Pro Bowl form?

Well in reality the Bears didn’t throw the ball as much as one would think during the Martz years.  In his first year with Martz, Cutler averaged the lowest number of attempts per game since his rookie season.  Of the top 15 fantasy QB’s in 2011 for example, none averaged less than 32 attempts per game.  Cutler averaged less than 29 in 2010 and less than 32 in 2011.  So far under Tice this year he’s averaging 29 attempts per game.  So does Cutler need to throw it more to become a reliable fantasy starter?  It sure seems like it, as the only top fantasy QB’s this year averaging less than 33 attempts per game are Cam Newton, RGIII and Russell Wilson, all of whom run the ball frequently and successfully.  Now let’s take a look at the Bears receiving stats:

2012

Pos

G

Rec

Rec / Gm

Yds

Yds / Gm

TD


Brandon Marshall

WR

14

107

7.6

1398

99.9

10


Matt Forte

RB

13

41

3.2

312

24.0

1


Alshon Jeffery

WR

8

19

2.4

256

32.0

3


Earl Bennett

WR

10

23

2.3

250

25.0

1


Devin Hester

WR

13

23

1.8

242

18.6

1


Kellen Davis

TE

14

17

1.2

210

15.0

2


Michael Bush

RB

13

9

0.7

83

6.4

0



In Cutler’s case just throwing the ball more won’t really help because other than Marshall and Matt Forte the Bears don’t have anyone else who has made significant contributions to the passing game.  Forte being second on the team in receiving with just 3 catches and 25 yards per game is not the recipe for fantasy QB success.  Rookie Alshon Jeffery has shown promise and Johnny Knox, who hasn’t played this year, was decent enough last season but otherwise their stable of receivers is wafer thin.  Kellen Davis will never be mistaken for a weapon in the passing game.

I don’t believe Jay Cutler will be a viable starting quarterback for fantasy in 2013 but that will depend on whether the Bears add any help at wide receiver or tight end.  If Marshall, Knox and Jeffery are the top three WR and Davis returns as the primary TE I wouldn’t count on Cutler as anything more than a time share QB next year.  Even then there will likely be more productive options in that role for your team.  Most likely the Bears will also be looking to improve their offensive line which would also help Cutler.  But the Bears are aging no defense and they can only improve so many areas in one draft and one free agency period.  But if the Bears add two of the following: a quality pass catching tight end; a quality number two receiver; a significant upgrade on the offensive line; then Cutler’s fortunes look much better.  If the Bears do two of those things then I see Cutler as an excellent buy low candidate, although a bit of a risk-reward scenario.

 

Cutler is only 29 years old so he should have several quality seasons left in him.  He’s got the physical ability and while he’s no Peyton Manning or Tom Brady he thinks the game well enough that he’s been successful even while under pressure when he’s had receiving options.  Right now teams can double Marshall and put everyone else tight to the box and be able to cover all the other receivers and keep Forte in check where the passing game is concerned.  Of course it remains to be seen whether the Bears re-sign him after 2013 the probability of that goes up significantly if he has more weapons next year as I’m confident he would take advantage of them.  If he again ends up as a middle of the pack NFL quarterback then I don’t see the Bears or any other team willing to pay him top dollar to be a starting QB.  Cutler doesn’t seem to have the qualities you look for in a backup so the worst case could be he ends up out of football altogether.



Re-Draft Playoff Update:  I made the playoffs in only one of my two one-year leagues, and won last week so I’m in the finals.  I have some nice match ups and some decisions to make:

Matt Schaub or Colin Kaepernick at QB (I had Mike Vick and Jay Cutler but got rid of them both when the concussions hit).

 

Matt Forte against Arizona is nice, but do I play my stud Marshawn Lynch vs. San Fran(probably) or go with Mikel Leshoure and his nice match up vs. Atlanta?  I’m a firm believer of NOT simply going with your top guys, but Lynch put up 100 yards in Frisco earlier, and he’s averaging just over 100 per game with 6 TD’s at home.  Leshoure has been scoring TD’s but his yardage is not that impressive and the chance he could lose the majority of carries to Joique Bell mid-game is too high I think.

 

Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez vs Jacksonville is really nice and Hakeem Nicks vs Baltimore is also pretty good.  I think it’s time to bench Denarius Moore vs Carolina and go with TY Hilton and his great match up against KC.  I also dropped Malcom Floyd when he went on IR and just picked up

 

Danario Alexander so maybe he’s the play against the Jets weak pass defense?

 

I had the Giants D most of the season but recently dropped them and played the match ups with some success.  This week I’m going with San Diego, although surprisingly the match up got worse when they decided to bench Mark Sanchez.  Still have to like they’ll be facing a rookie QB with little in the way of receiving help.

 

I have Matt Bryant as my kicker so no need to worry about switching him for anyone.


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