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2020 Fantasy Football: Don’t Sleep on Tarik Cohen

There’s a running back that’s finished top-10 in targets, receptions, and receiving yards the last two seasons. Any guesses on who that is? His name is Tarik Cohen. Christian McCaffrey, James White, and Alvin Kamara are three other running backs that show up on this list as well. 

In 2018, Cohen showed extreme efficiency finishing 14th in fantasy points per game. Then last year the efficiency and production dropped although he received more targets and catches. One would think that more volume would lead to more production, but the offense struggled mightily last season. The Chicago Bears added Nick Foles in the offseason, which should be a slight upgrade from Mitchell Trubisky. 

It’s important to note that new offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor, and quarterbacks coach, John DeFilippo, are familiar with Nick Foles. Although head coach Matt Nagy still calls the plays, the Bears’ offense could improve in 2020. If the offense as a whole takes a step up, then Cohen’s stock will rise as well. Let’s dive into why Cohen’s underrated coming into the 2020 season.

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Take a Shot on Tarik Cohen

2018 & 2019 Chicago Bears’ Offense & Defense

Let’s first look at the team offense and defense the last two seasons.

Passing Yards Per Game Rushing Yards Per Game Run Plays Per Game
2018 226.8 (20th) 117.8 (14th) 28.6 (8th)
2019 205.7 (26th) 91.1 (27th) 24.7 (21st)

We can see that their offense took a step down in the passing and run game last season. It’s hard to support offensive skill players when they’re in the bottom five of the league on offense. Outside of Allen Robinson in 2019, most of the offensive skill players underperformed. The reduced offensive production and efficiency led to the same for Cohen last season.

Opponent Yards Per Game Defensive Ranking Game Script
2018 299.7 (3rd) 1st  +3.50 (2nd)
2019 324.1 (8th) 10th -1.65 (14th)

This second table highlights the defensive struggles and its relation to game script. The defense took a slight step down after being one of the most dominant defenses in 2018. With the dominant defense in 2018, the Bears were often playing with a lead. The game script metric comes from Player Profiler. The positive values indicate the team often played with a lead and negative values indicate the team often played from behind. It was a down year across the board and there’s a chance for an increase in production and efficiency in 2020.

Cohen’s 2018 & 2019 Production

In 2018, Tarik Cohen finished with 99 carries for 444 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. He added 71 catches on 91 targets for 725 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. Cohen ranked 6th in targets and receptions and ranked 3rd in receiving yards amongst running backs. When sorting by running backs with 80+ targets, Cohen’s 17% target share put him in between Ezekiel Elliot and Todd Gurley. Cohen’s 14.6 fantasy points per game ranked 14th at running back in 2018. The only other running back with more fantasy points per game with less than 100 carries and 100 catches was James White.

Now let’s look at his 2019 production. Last season he finished with 64 carries, 213 rushing yards, zero rushing touchdowns. He received 104 targets, 79 receptions for 456 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns. So last year he received less carries and rushing production, but increased targets and receptions in the receiving game. Cohen wasn’t as efficient although we saw an increase in target volume. Cohen’s 18% target share ranked 5th amongst running backs last season in between Leonard Fournette and James White. He finished with 10.1 fantasy points per game that ranked 36th at running back.

Advanced Metrics

Now let’s look at a few metrics that show evidence of Cohen’s inefficiencies. First, let’s look at the production premium on Player Profiler that evaluates a player’s efficiency. In 2018, Cohen finished as the most efficient running back according to that metric. Then last season, Cohen ended as the 20th most efficient running back. 

Another efficiency marker to look at is yards per touch. In 2018, he finished with 6.9 yards per touch that ranked 3rd. Then last season he finished with 4.7 yards per touch that ranked 33rd. Overall Cohen went from one of the most efficient running backs in 2018 to less efficient, but still decent.

David Montgomery’s Inefficiencies

I’ll touch on David Montgomery’s inefficiencies and why the Bears should use Tarik Cohen more often. We know Montgomery’s the lead back in Chicago and received a ton of touches but struggled with efficiency. The Bears’ offensive line didn’t help on offense either. Their offensive line ranked 29th in run blocking and ranked last with 58 sacks allowed according to Football Outsiders. That’s awful. 

Last season he finished with 242 carries, 889 rushing yards, and six rushing touchdowns. He chipped in with 25 catches, 185 receiving yards, and one receiving touchdown. In terms of opportunities and production, he ranked in the top-20 in carries, red-zone touches, rushing yards, and total touchdowns. He will probably continue to get most of the carries and rushing production, but lack efficiency with the offensive line struggles. Also, Montgomery’s not involved much in the receiving game, and that’s where Cohen eats. Cohen could help the quarterbacks as a pass-catcher with the poor offensive line play.

In terms of fantasy points per game, Montgomery ranked 32nd with 10.7 points per game. That’s barely a half-point better per game than his teammate, Cohen. Montgomery ranked 51st in yards per touch, but ranked 13th in evaded tackles and juke rate. He also ranked 69th in production premium, which further explains the inefficiencies. 

2020 Outlook

Cohen’s 99 ADP on Fantrax makes him the 35th running back drafted going around Matt Breida, Kerryon Johnson, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn. I put a poll up on Twitter to see how people were viewing these backs coming into 2020. 

Surprisingly the votes were pretty even. However, I think Cohen’s underrated with the target volume he receives, particularly in PPR leagues. If it’s a non-PPR or half-PPR, then I might go with the other three backs in the poll. His most likely outcome would be somewhere in between his 2018 and 2019 numbers. A projected 2020 line for Tarik Cohen would be 800-900 total yards with 85-90 catches and six total touchdowns. 

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