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Once a Bear, Now a Lion: David Montgomery

The Lions revamped their running back room with David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. What role will Montgomery have in the backfield?

The Lions signaled their unhappiness with the running back situation when they brought in David Montgomery, signing the veteran back to a three-year, $18 million contract. They let Jamaal Williams go, then drafted Jahmyr Gibbs twelfth overall, following it up by trading D’Andre Swift during the draft for a fourth-round pick which could become a third. 

For a team on the rise, a total overhaul of the running back room was a bit of a surprise. The team had the fifth most points per game in the NFL last season, with 26.6, but the passing attack was one of the ten best. The Lions had the 13th most rushing attempts, 11th most yards, and rushed for 4.5 YPC, 15th most in the NFL.

With the drafting of Gibbs, it appears that Montgomery will be used more like the Lions used Williams last season. Williams rushed for 1,066 yards at a 4.1 YPC clip but reached the end zone 17 times. Any fantasy owner with Montgomery would be super happy with even 75% of that. 

Will Montgomery reach those heights with Gibbs on the roster? Or will the Lions rely more on Gibbs and not give Montgomery those carries fully? 

Montgomery’s Career

Rushing & Receiving Table
GameGame RushRushRushRushRushRushRushRush ReceReceReceReceReceReceReceReceReceReceRece TotaTotaTota
Year Age Tm G GS Rush Yds TD 1D Lng Y/A Y/G A/G Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD 1D Lng R/G Y/G Ctch% Y/Tgt Touch Y/Tch YScm RRTD Fmb AV

After a solid rookie season, Montgomery had a career year in 2020 with 1,070 yards rushing, 54 receptions, and ten scores. He has been reliable, only missing four games in four years, and has been remarkably consistent, albeit unspectacular. 

Last season, his numbers remained similar to his career production profile, but the Bears’ offense passed him by. Justin Fields rushed for 1,143 yards and eight scores. Khalil Herbert rushed 734 yards but at a 5.7 YPC clip. Herbert and Fields added dynamic playmaking ability from a rushing standpoint, rendering Montgomery as the plodding two down back, although he did add 34 receptions.

The Bears After Montgomery

Herbert is still there, but the team added a few backs to help and is trending toward being a true running back by committee team. Veteran D’Onta Foreman was added and will seamlessly fill the void left by Montgomery. Foreman is a bigger back but not a pass-catching option. He’s a two-down back and has averaged 4.3 yards a tote over his career with three teams. 

They drafted Texas back Roschon Johnson, adding another back who can fill a role similar to what Montgomery did. Check out our profile here, Johnson is another big back but runs with contact balance and power. He’s a solid gap runner and would have been a great fit with Detroit, ironically. 

Foreman and Johnson give the Bears two great options to fill the first two-down role vacated by Montgomery, and Johnson is a solid pass-catching back as well. Herbert gives them a “lightning” element, a back with more juice, who should be more involved also. It leaves all the Bears’ backs in a precarious position for fantasy and makes all three less valuable.

The Lions With Montgomery

After a successful running attack, the Lions traded their top two options for younger players that will fit what they are trying to do. Gibbs is now the “lead” back, replacing Swift, and Montgomery will take over for what Detroit had in Williams. But each back is also different, and it will be interesting to see how the Lions work each in. 

Swift was not healthy enough and only started 16 games over three seasons, and he had his best season in 2022. He rushed 99 times for 542 yards and five scores but added 48 receptions and three more scores via pass-catching. That was in 14 games, with eight starts. If Gibbs can stay on the field, he will likely blow those numbers out of the water. 

Gibbs is much more dynamic and will likely see 125 carries or so, but I expect him to see close to 75 catches. But where he varies if what he will do with those 200 touches, Gibbs is explosive, and I have him projected for 1,230 total yards if he can get 200 touches and reach the end zone ten times. I feel like those are conservative numbers, too, and if Gibbs could do more due to how good he is as a pass-catcher. 

Williams had 262 carries, I don’t see Montgomery getting that much play with Gibbs being the top option and having such high draft capital. Montgomery should see more than 150 carries and add 15-20 receptions, and if he maintains his career efficiency, that would give him roughly 600 yards rushing and another 150 yards receiving. I definitely don’t see Montgomery replicating Williams’ 17 rushing touchdowns, but I could see him reaching the end zone ten times. 

If Montgomery can get 175 touches and score ten times, he’s an RB3/4 and a solid bye-week starter and depth piece. Which most owners would be perfectly happy with and doesn’t affect his overall value much. He’s signed through 2025 and will be 26 entering the season, and the Lions have an inexpensive back with an easy out after 2024. Williams got a similar contract and was wildly popular with Lions fans, but he is 28 years old. 

Montgomery Value

His value has taken a massive hit after the drafting of Gibbs, and he’s valued similarly to a low 2024 second-round pick or a throw-in player in trades. Here are a few of the trades I recently found. 


If I can get Montgomery on a contending team for the value listed above, I would be really happy with that. He holds almost no value to a rebuilding team. He has a clearly defined role with the Lions, and the Lions know how to use a back with his skill set. There are far worse situations he could have landed in, and if Gibbs has to miss time, Montgomery has shown he can handle a three-down workload.

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