I have been plotting my fantasy football revenge since my team was unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs last season. It’s been years since I have won my friends and family league, and the drought needs to come to an end.
Perhaps Bears third-round pick David Montgomery can lend a helping hand.
NFL.com fantasy analyst Michael Fabiano places Montgomery as his second highest-ranked fantasy rookie for the 2019 season. Four running backs crack the top-10 of Fabiano’s list, but Montgomery is as close to the top as one can get without being at the top. The only player who ranks above Montgomery is fellow rookie running back Josh Jacobs. And as fate would have it, the Raiders drafted Jacobs with the first-round pick they received from the Bears in the Khalil Mack trade. Oh, what a tangled web the Bears and Raiders weave!
Fabiano projects Montgomery as a fantasy flex starter because of his potential role as an early-down featured back in Matt Nagy’s offense. And with Jordan Howard gone to Philadelphia, there are plenty of snaps (and fantasy points) to be had for a running back with Montgomery’s upside.
Let’s take a moment to break down how Howard was used with data from Pro Football Focus, which should help us figure out what kind of role Montgomery could carve out for himself in 2019:
- 269 run snaps
- 232 receiving snaps
- 95 pass-block snaps
- 50 run-block snaps
While your fantasy team won’t get points for blocking snaps, Montgomery could earn additional playing time by proving to be a serviceable blocker. And since you can’t score fantasy points from the bench, this matters more than you would otherwise think.
Moving on to where the fantasy points can be had – you know, rushing and receiving snaps – it’s worth highlighting that there are still plenty on the table, even if Tarik Cohen gets an up-tick in playing time.
Howard’s 269 run snaps led the Bears by a wide margin, as Cohen was in on just 103 run plays last season. And even though Howard was in on just 232 receiving snaps, that’s still a healthy total. Howard carried the ball 250 times last season and was targeted 26 times as a receiver out of the backfield. That’s still plenty of opportunities in which a player can make an impact, even one who is sharing time with a dynamic player such as Cohen.
There is a lingering narrative that Howard didn’t get the ball enough last season, though the numbers don’t bear it out. Howard snagged 270 touches in 2018. And while that was a career low for the former Pro Bowl back, it still ranked as the 10th most for a running back last season. That puts him in the ballpark with all-world talent Alvin Kamara (275) and on par with last year’s fantasy breakout James Connor (270). The difference between Howard and the other two backs is that Howard didn’t make the most of his opportunities, especially as a rusher out of the backfield averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.
There were seven rookies who were given at least 100 carries and averaged 4.3 yards per rush in 2018. If Montgomery is given the same number of carries and can reach that modest baseline number, we would be looking at a 1,075-yard rushing season from a Bears rookie. It wouldn’t topple the 1,313-yard season Howard put together in 2016, but it would be a step in the right direction – and something fantasy owners would embrace like a warm blanket on a cold night at Soldier Field.
But before you use your first-round pick on Montgomery, we still need to make note of one potentially minor hurdle – Mike Davis. The Bears signed Davis in the offseason to help fill the gaps Howard left behind. Last season, Davis was given only 409 offensive snaps – including just 126 rushing snaps. Davis is an established rusher who could vulture some points, especially early in the season. But since Davis was a free agent signing in March, it’s not like he is going to have a major leg up on an April draft pick when it comes to knowing the playbook.
Nagy and the Bears didn’t shy away from using receiver Anthony Miller early (and often) in his rookie season, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Montgomery fell into the same boat. Should Montgomery impress as much as Miller did during training camp and the preseason, then things should line up for him to be a contributor to your fantasy champion in 2019.