David Montgomery Fantasy 2020
Of all the running backs drafted in the 2019 NFL draft, few came into their rookie campaign with expectations like David Montgomery. This new back in Matt Nagy’s offense was thought to be a weekly option for fantasy lineups that would, hopefully, produce like another third-round selection who previously worked with Nagy.
Those expectations, like many in life, fell flat.
Montgomery finished as the RB25 in 0.5 PPR leagues last year with 889 rushing yards on 242 attempts and six touchdowns. He also added 25 receptions on 35 targets for 185 yards and one touchdown. His rushing attempts were 14th in the league but was unable to find consistency, rushing for only 3.7 yards per attempt.
Now, these numbers alone would not get many fans outside of the Chicago area excited, especially when you consider some other options on draft boards this year. But, when you look at the Bears’ upcoming season with some context, it is easy to see why Montgomery would be a great RB2 option with RB1 potential in 2020.
It is no secret that running back is the most cut-throat position in the NFL. Teams will have no problem shredding the contract of a former All-Pro (like the Rams did for Todd Gurley) or spending high draft capital year after year to find their man (like Detroit did for Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift). Even in trying to find consistent depth pieces, the running back landscape in the NFL is one of the most fluid in sports. So, when a running back has a less than fantastic season, it is nice to see a team stick with him and allows him to maintain and even further grow his role.
This is what Chicago has done for Montgomery.
The Bears did not bring in any other running backs via free agency or the draft this offseason. They were only one of eleven teams to not add to their running back group this offseason.
And it is not for a lack of choices. Chicago has around $12 million in cap space currently and have very solid options on the market. Players like Lamar Miller or Bilal Powell could easily be brought in to snatch carries away from Montgomery. But the fact that the Bears have not made a move like this has to be inspiring for prospective Montgomery owners, as well as the player himself. It is nice to know the team has his back and a role for him each and every Sunday.
That being said, there is hope that his role in the offense can make some improvements in 2020.
One glaring omission from his production compared to the top fantasy running backs is in the passing game. His 25 receptions were among the lowest in top 25 running backs last season. In fact, only four running backs (Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, Marlon Mack and Raheem Mostert) finished better than Montgomery on the season in 0.5 PPR formats with fewer than 25 receptions.
The major culprit in this missing production is fellow running back Tarik Cohen. Cohen has been a major asset for Chicago in both the rushing and receiving game in his tenure but he yielded more rushing work to Montgomery towards the end of the 2019 season.
From Weeks 8-17 in 2019, of the 336 snaps that Cohen was on the field, he only rushed the ball 44 times; meaning when Cohen was on the field he was only rushing the ball approximately 13% of the time. Montgomery, on the other hand, rushed the ball 171 times on 411 snaps in that stretch, meaning he rushed the ball 41% of the time. If you take that percentage for an entire season, that puts the ball in Montgomery’s hands quite a bit and gives him a chance to have productive fantasy performances.
With both the receiving ability of Cohen and the rushing power Montgomery brings to the Bear’s offense, there should be a way for Nagy and his offensive staff to use both he and Montgomery effectively in 2020.
Another part of the plan for Chicago’s offensive woes is a potential quarterback change.
With the acquisition of Nick Foles, the Bears are making an effort to improve their passing game next season and going forward. This may not completely fix all of Chicago’s problems behind center but it gives them more options to run the best possible offense. While this will obviously help the passing attack, it will also pay dividends for Montgomery and the rushing attack.
The Bears had the 4th worst offense in the league in 2019 for yards gained and points scored. When you look at the top 16 offense in the league, each team had an RB2 or better on their team, with the exception of Kansas City, Houston and Tampa Bay (who all used a running back by committee). If the combination of Foles and Mitch Trubisky can even bring the offense to a league-average level, there will be enough improvement to elevate Montgomery’s status in 2020.
No matter the role of your running back, one key factor in fantasy success is favorable matchups. It works for both streaming positions like tight end and quarterback but should also be taken into effect when drafting your major contributors.
Chicago has a very encouraging schedule for 2020 in regards to fantasy running backs, assuming all games are played this season.
In fact, for Weeks 12-16 the Bears will play teams that ranked in the bottom third of the league against running backs in 2019 in Green Bay (24th), Detroit (29th), Houston (27th) and Jacksonville (31st). The only exception during that stretch is Minnesota, who was ranked 12th against fantasy running backs. But Montgomery should be familiar enough with that defense that he can make a positive impact in fantasy lineups that week.
But, as important as it is to finish the season strong, you must also put your right foot forward at the beginning. Montgomery will be able to do that in 2020. He will get two solid matchups in Weeks 1 and 2 against the Lions and Giants (17th against running backs in 2019) respectively. This will give the Bears time to get their entire offense in order and will personally give Montgomery room to build some momentum he can carry throughout the season.
All in all, there are lots to like about Montgomery going into 2020. He will have a defined role in the backfield next season, he will be a part of a new offense that should have some upside and has a schedule that will make things as easy as possible for him. Montgomery’s 2019 campaign gave him a lot to build on for 2020. Keep your expectations high for Montgomery this year, he will not fall flat.
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