NFL free agency is one of fantasy football’s best times of the year. Players switch teams all around the league, changing the fortunes of NFL teams and dynasty squads alike. These days the players that have the hardest time getting paid in this market to switch teams are unquestionably the running backs.
Despite this difficulty, that exact situation played out this year as former Chicago Bears starting running back David Montgomery moved within the division to the Detroit Lions on a three-year $18 million contract with $11 million in guarantees. That is a sizable deal in guaranteed money for this market. For this article, we will look at the player and how this move affects the Bears, Lions, and your dynasty squads. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the newest Lion, Montgomery.
Montgomery came to the NFL after a highly successful career at Iowa State. He was a 247Sports three-star recruit from Mount Healthy High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. After a moderately successful freshman year at Ames, he exploded onto the national scene during his sophomore campaign. During that season, he put up his first 1,000-yard season, but more impressively, he shattered the forced missed tackles season record. His 104 forced missed tackles bettered the previous mark of 89 held by Dalvin Cook. Despite dealing with a one-game suspension in his senior year, he repeated this feat by posting the second-highest total ever as well. You can see his college stats below.
|2016||Iowa State||Big 12||FR||RB||12||109||563||5.2||2||13||129||9.9||0||122||692||5.7||2|
|*2017||Iowa State||Big 12||SO||RB||13||258||1146||4.4||11||36||296||8.2||0||294||1442||4.9||11|
|*2018||Iowa State||Big 12||JR||RB||12||257||1216||4.7||13||22||157||7.1||0||279||1373||4.9||13|
Heading into the NFL combine, Montgomery generated a significant amount of buzz. He was seen as one of the top rushers in the class. This praise led to one of the most unfortunate exaggerated player evaluations ever. Dubbed the Frankenstein RB, he was said to have Saquon Barkley’s feet, Le’Veon Bell’s vision, Ezekiel Elliott’s strength, and Sony Michel’s athleticism. We knew from his tape that he was an excellent prospect, but these types of hyperbolic praise were over the top. Despite the elevated praise, Montgomery showed up in Indianapolis and went through the drills at the combine. While not the Frankenstein-like numbers some anticipated, he put up decent numbers nonetheless.
Montgomery’s testing was certainly not on par with the running backs he had been compared to. To get a better understanding of why he received such praise, it is best to take a look at his college highlights. They are some of the more impressive you will find, especially from the standpoint of making defenders miss.
The Chicago Bears traded up in the 2019 NFL draft to select Montgomery in the third round. Throughout his four seasons in Chicago, he put up over 1,000 total yards every year. He displayed a tough running style that fits with and ingratiates him with his new coach Dan Campbell. Montgomery also showed a three-down skill set, catching at least 25 passes yearly. You can see his Bears numbers below.
NFL numbers are all good, but we are in the business of ‘fantasy football.’ On the fantasy side, Montgomery has been a consistent asset for your dynasty squads. Over his four seasons in Chicago, Monty has been at least a PPR RB2 in every single campaign. In those seasons, he came in as the overall RB24, RB4, RB21, and RB24. Now let us look at his fit with his new team and the situation he left on his old squad.
The departure of Montgomery leaves some pretty big shoes to be filled in the Windy City. Say what you will about his efficiency; Montgomery was unquestionably a workhorse over his four years. He never received less than 235 total touches. As things currently stand, Khalil Herbert is the biggest winner on the Bears roster. The third-year running out of Virginia Tech has flashed big-play potential across his first two years while spelling and working in tandem with Montgomery. His YPC has been much higher than his departed teammate. This is the result of big plays like the one below.
Before I continue, I fully expect the Bears to add another running back, either in free agency or the draft. The reason for that is that Herbert, for as good a runner as he is, struggles in the passing game. Currently, the Bears will have a competition between newly signed Travis Homer and 2022 draft pick Tresten Ebner to fill the third-down role. Watch for the Bears to add a running back in the middle rounds of the upcoming draft to fill out the room. Depending on how highly said runner is selected, this situation could change. The one thing for certain is that the Bears will be a highly successful running team with Justin Fields at quarterback. Whoever wins the job will receive significant help from his signal caller in the running and passing game.
The Lions were a pleasant surprise during the 2022 campaign. Under the guidance of Head Coach Dan Campbell, the team enjoyed its first winning season in years and put an exclamation point on it by eliminating their hated rival packers in the final week of the season. The team took off, with Campbell taking a more significant role in calling the plays and shaping the offense. Quarterback Jared Goff saw a career resurgence, and more importantly, for our purposes, running back Jamaal Willims had a career season.
Fast forward one season and Williams is a free agent who is likely out the door. Montgomery will almost certainly take over as the team’s primary early-down and goal-line back. For my money, Montgomery is a younger and more talented player than Williams. Montgomery is a gritty player who fits the Dan Campbell personality to a T. His ability to force missed tackles will be a nice change for Detroit. According to @FantasyPtsData, Montgomery was tied for the league lead last season for the rate of forced missed tackles at 0.31. The man he replaced was one of the worst at this stat finishing at 0.12. His new HC will be enthused to have a player who runs with the determination and talent you see below.
The Lions do still have former Georgia star D’Andre Swift on the team. Let me be clear; I do not expect Swift just to be pushed aside in Detroit. He possesses an explosive play element that Montgomery does not have. However, the same could be said about Swift compared to his former teammate Williams. I believe that Swift will play a prominent role in the passing game. Campbell came from the New Orleans Saints coaching tree. He believes in using multiple running backs and playing to their strengths. He has done an excellent job re-creating the Saints backfield duo of Mark Ingram (Montgomery) and Alvin Kamara (Swift).
It can be hard for running backs to find a fit when leaving the team that initially drafted them. Montgomery found a soft landing spot with his former division rivals in this instance. The Lions are a perfect match for Montgomery’s running style. Both he and Swift should be playable running back assets for your fantasy and dynasty squads. Montgomery is a good comparison for a prime-age Mark Ingram. Swift has a very similar skill set to Alvin Kamara. Campbell was on the New Orleans staff from 2016-2020 for the best years of that duo. He has done his best to recreate that magic in the NFL North. If owners in your league are down on either player, I recommend scoop them up at a discount.
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