In an offseason plagued by uncertainty, rookie fever has reigned supreme. More than ever, the new and shiny toys have stolen the spotlight over lackluster performers of seasons past. However, it’s the spots just outside of the light, not yet engulfed by shadows but no longer bathed in the glow of attention where TRUE VALUE lies.
Dramatic enough for you? Good. That’s right where I want you. On the edge of your seat, ready to pounce on this next profile.
A profile that covers none other than David Montgomery of the Chicago Bears.
In this edition of the Value Based Players: Teams A-Z series, we’ll explore his skills, upside, our predictions, and his price point to shine some light on this value buy who has faded from the forefront. So without further ado, let’s jump in.
We’ll start with his time at Iowa State. As a three year Cyclone, Montgomery tallied up 624 carries for 2925 yards and 26 TDs. A career that was capped off by a junior outing that saw highs in both rushing (1216 yards) and TDs (13).
During his tenure at ISU, Montgomery exhibited many characteristics of an NFL RB, paramount of which was his ability to force missed tackles.
He was a nightmare on contact and into the secondary. Demonstrating both power and elusiveness, he trucked and shook defenders to an NCAA record 109 misses in 2017 (1st) and 102 misses in 2018 (2nd), roughly forcing a missed tackle on every 3rd carry.
David Montgomery owns the @PFF_College record for most missed tackles forced in a season (109 in 2017) and his 2018 numbers were 2nd-best (102).
— PFF (@PFF) August 5, 2019
Unfortunately, this level of production didn’t exactly “carry over” into Montgomery’s rookie season. A season that yielded 889 rushing yards on 243 carries for 6 TDs equating to a mediocre 3.7 average yards per carry.
Even with that mediocre stat line, Montgomery was still able to show that he was a more than capable NFL back. Running behind a Pro Football Focus ranked 25th overall offensive line (a far cry from their #11 ranking in 2018), he was able to force the 2nd most missed tackles on carries amongst his rookie peers (47); bested only by Josh Jacobs. Similarly, he was able to evade 75 tackles, which ranks 13th amongst all NFL backs, showcasing the skills that made him an intriguing runner coming out of ISU.
Most missed tackles forced on carries by rookies
Josh Jacobs – 69
David Montgomery – 47
Devin Singletary – 36 pic.twitter.com/0IW1NuvewQ
— PFF (@PFF) March 2, 2020
I believe that these numbers are so high due to his skill, obviously, but also because he was FORCED to be elusive with his carries by the inefficiency of his OL. While they were bleeding defenders, he was juking and jiving his way to the 3.7 yards per carry as mentioned earlier. A number that seems more palatable when you put it into context.
Along with his production profile, Montgomery excelled in an aspect that is often overlooked by fantasy players but NEVER by coaches. Pass blocking. According to Pro Football Focus, he checked in as the 2nd best pass blocker in the league in 2019. This stat is so crucial because it affords him the confidence of the coaches and quarterback alike, keeping him fed with carries and on the field for passing downs. I believe that this particular skill set will lead to more opportunities in the receiving game, eating into Tarik Cohen’s 104 targets, causing an uptick in Monty’s fantasy points.
Needs to Succeed
Ultimately though, Montgomery’s success lies in the hands of Head Coach Matt Nagy and the efficiency of the offensive line.
Nagy will need to recognize Montgomery’s value. A value that made itself evident by the fact that of the eight games the Bears suffered losses, all 8 of them Montgomery saw fewer than 15 touches. Conversely, of the eight games, the Bears won, all 8 of them saw Monty receive more than 15 touches. To put it plainly… When Montgomery receives more touches, the team tends to win. The team tending to win makes Nagy look good. Therefore, in order to make Nagy look good, he has to feed Monty. The math is flawless. Okay… While not truly that cut and dry, it does seem that an emphasis on the run game has a positive impact on their offensive production. The recognition of this point is evident in the coaching staff’s actions this offseason. Nagy and GM Pace have replaced the Offensive Line Coach, bringing in Luis Castillo, hoping that he brings new life to this once great unit. An indication that they understand the woes of their running game relies largely on their big men up front and not the guy pounding the rock. A sentiment echoed by direct quotes of excitement from Nagy in this SI article penned by Gene Chamberlain.
They are combined with the possibility of a new, more efficient QB at the helm, which can only help the offensive efficiency.
All signs pointing in the right direction.
Now this is all great. The recognition from the coaches, the new direction of the offensive line and the pre-established positives in Montgomery’s game… But this is all for naught if the man can’t stand up to the rigors of the NFL and the need to be a leader in the locker room.
Worry not about David Montgomery though.
That’s this guy’s superpower. Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell has cited him as “the reason” their program turned around. His work ethic, moral code, and ability to stay humble have a profound effect on every locker room he steps into. This is largely due to his sense of obligation to his family. With a single mother and a brother in prison for murder, Montgomery had to become a man earlier than most, and that maturity has never left him. He is a hyper-focused athlete, concentrated solely on his game. I’ve first hand heard accounts of his demeanor in public settings. He’s described as “stone cold” and “singularly motivated.” Opting to keep himself fresh for morning workouts rather than partying with the boys.
A guy like that is a guy to bet on. Not only can you count on his determination on the field but you’ll never have to worry about his behavior off of it. Even further, I don’t see a scenario where a guy like that doesn’t come back for blood in year two.
Now that we’ve established that Monty is on an upward trajectory, we need to figure out where it lands him.
I believe that we will see better yards per carry this season, somewhere around 4.1. If that happens, then we will see 1,025 yards on 250 carries with, what I’m predicting to be, 9 TDs. Accompanying that, he should have an uptick in receptions. That should look like 39 receptions for 215 receiving yards and a pair of TDs.
With that level of production, he would have been seated at RB12 last season, which is a very realistic landing spot for him. With the ever-increasing talent pool in the RB position, I could see him landing anywhere from RB12-RB16. Regardless, a notable increase from his RB21 ADP in redraft and ADP of 51.01 in dynasty startups.
With predictions like that, it’s clear that Monty is not only a value but a buy.
So what’s he worth?
In startups, I’m drafting him at his ADP of 51.01, all day. As the 22nd RB off the board, he could drastically outkick that coverage if he hits his projections. Behind aged and injured vets like Gurley and Gordon, I’ll take the discount and youth.
In picks, my goal is a pair of (presumably mid-round) ‘21 2nds, if you’ve got them. I think the pair will be enough to get you over the edge. If that doesn’t get it done, then I might even consider a late round 1st.
It’s a big gamble to wager on a player who has yet to shine, but if you buy in this year before he pops? It’ll be the best decision you could have made.
Find me on Twitter @TripleDFFP