David Montgomery Should Be a Fantasy Football Factor as a Rookie
With just pass-catcher Tarik Cohen and free agent signing Mike Davis on their roster heading into the draft, the Bears were one of the more appealing landing spots -- from a fantasy perspective -- in the league for a running back. So what can their new ball-carrier bring to their offense, and what does it mean for fantasy?
Tale of the Tape
Let's just get this out of the way before we dig any further into his profile: Montgomery is slow. His 4.63 40-yard time ranks in the 37th-percentile among running backs on PlayerProfiler.com, and he had just two games in 2018 in which he averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry. We can't expect him to break off long runs in the NFL, and that's disappointing for fantasy.
But just because he isn't that kind of running back doesn't mean he's a bad running back. In fact, Montgomery is quite good at what he does.
He led college football in forced missed tackles per touch in each of the last two seasons, per Pro Football Focus, and holds the top two seasons in forced missed tackles in the Pro Football Focus database. His ability to evade tacklers wasn't just a product of his heavy workload in the running game -- though he did force a ridiculous 211 missed tackles in his final two seasons. His 0.39 forced missed tackles per touch in each of those seasons still tops the leaderboard.
He's as elusive a running back as we've seen, and he's a clear upgrade over the aforementioned Howard, whose 10.7% juke rate on PlayerProfiler.com ranked 58th among qualifying running backs last year.
Montgomery has the stereotypical build and profile of a workhorse running back in the NFL. At 5'10" and 222 pounds, he's built to stand up to the heavy beating running backs take at the professional level. Despite his very large workload with the Cyclones -- he had a shade under 300 touches in each of his final two seasons -- he missed just one game in his collegiate career, and that was for an arm injury.
He also demonstrated some chops in the passing game, catching 71 passes for 582 yards in his collegiate career. He won't be displacing Cohen as the team's designated pass-catching running back, but his demonstrated ability to catch passes bodes well for him in fantasy and for the Bears in real-world football. Howard's inability to catch turned him into a tell for opposing defenses -- if Howard was on the field, the Bears were likely running the ball. Montgomery is capable enough as a pass-catcher coming out of college to keep defenses honest.
Success Despite a Bad Situation
It's worth noting that Montgomery played through some truly debilitating offensive line play at ISU and was supported by a weak passing offense that averaged just 240.9 passing yards per game in 2018. Per Rotoworld's Thor Nystrom, a just-plain-silly 3.5 yards of his 4.4 yards per carry last season came after contact, which means his offensive line, on average, blocked just under a yard for Montgomery on each of his carries.
He's accustomed to adversity at the line of scrimmage -- which should serve him well in the NFL -- but fortunately he may not see nearly as many defenders behind the line of scrimmage in Chicago as he did in college. Chicago had a solid, if not great, offensive line last year, boasting the 11th-highest run-blocking grade in PlayerProfiler.com's database and the 11th-best grade overall in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
With decent run-blocking for the first time in his career, it's not unreasonable to think Montgomery will perform more efficiently in the pros than he ever did in college.
At the end of the day, Montgomery's lack of top-end speed shouldn't be an immediate disqualifier for him as a fantasy option. Mark Ingram (4.62) and Kareem Hunt (4.62) ran similar 40-yard dashes at their respective combines, and they have been productive -- at times, elite -- backs for fantasy.
While Montgomery's new offense isn't one of the league's best, the Bears are a solid enough attack with an offensive line capable of guiding a running back to fantasy relevance. If Montgomery can beat out Davis for the starting job -- and given that the Bears traded up for him, it seems likely Montgomery will get every chance to do so -- he's in line for good volume as a rookie.
Cohen is going to do his thing in the passing game, but Montgomery looks like a safe bet to get on the field plenty on early downs. Volume is king in fantasy, and Montgomery will have a great chance to be an RB2 or flex option as a rookie. numberFire Editor-In-Chief JJ Zachariason projects Montgomery for 213.3 carries, 897.9 rushing yards, 5.4 rushing touchdowns, 26.4 targets, 121.6 receiving yards, and 0.6 receiving touchdowns in 2019.