As we continue to race toward the start of training camps, we’ll keep seeing lists ranking the league’s best players at various positions. But not all lists are built the same. Take for example the ones ESPN, whose preseason player rankings is a result of polling of NFL players, coaches, scouts, and front office executives. This isn’t to say we should be taking ESPN’s list more seriously than others. However, the power of ESPN’s brand and rankings coming from votes by folks in the NFL’s inner circle gives it a bit more gravitas than others. In other words, I’m giving these a bit more runway when taking it in.
With that being said, part of me was gobsmacked when I saw ESPN’s running back rankings not name-check David Montgomery. At all. No spot in the top-10. Absent from the honorable mentions. Didn’t even garner a single down-ballot vote to garner a spot in the “also receiving votes” category. Nary a mention whatsoever. Ultimately, it is pretty wild to see that — in a poll in which 16 different running backs get *SOME* mention — Montgomery is nowhere to be found. Yikes.
On the one hand, it is jarring. Montgomery has been the Bears’ most consistent offensive contributor since his arrival on NFL Draft weekend in 2019. Between his hard-nosed running style, willingness to use the offseason to round out his game, endearing personality, and uncanny ability to gut it out in coming back early from injuries, Montgomery has carved a niche as a fan favorite. I suppose being Chicago’s top rusher in each of the last three seasons doesn’t hurt his case either. Even still … none of that registers nationally, as he got absolutely no love from the players, coaches, and executives participating in ESPN’s poll.
Sometimes, I wonder to what extent people in these situations actually go against what they truly believe to drum up something. We tend to see this type of tact in the build-up to the NFL Draft. The subterfuge and misdirection that comes via NFL sources cloaked in anonymity tends to throw draft valuations for a loop. There is probably some of that in Montgomery not making an appearance here.
But on the other hand, I’d struggle to fit Montgomery in the top-10. Oof. That pains me to write.
After all, Montgomery – for all his abilities – has just one 1,000-yard rushing season under his belt. No, it isn’t his fault the previous regime’s offensive braintrust didn’t know how to best utilize him. But that bit of nuance probably makes little difference to the players, coaches, and NFL execs voting in ESPN’s exercise.
Moreover, I can’t help but feel that Montgomery’s snub further gives us perspective regarding the Bears’ bigger picture. I’ll admit to overrating my own favorite players every now and again. But that can’t be the sole reason for Montgomery’s complete absence from the list. Maybe some of it comes from the churn-and-burn nature of the position. It feels like every offseason features the injection of a handful of quality running backs entering the league via the draft. The influx of fresh faces is one way for Montgomery to get lost in the shfufle. Even still … Montgomery not getting any regard in a poll where 16 rushers got sort of recognition speaks volumes. And, frankly, I don’t love what I’m hearing.
If these feelings are indicative of how folks feel around the league, then perhaps that best explains why nothing has come in terms of a Montgomery extension (which felt like was coming earlier in the offseason, but has yet to gain traction).
Montgomery strongly believes the Bears will shock some folks in 2022. But for that to come to fruition, it might begin with Montgomery pulling a surprise of his own and proving why he was deserving of a top-10 spot.