Narrowing the Field to Find 2021’s David Montgomery (Fantasy Football)

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Rewind the clock to Week 15 last year.

I was in my fantasy playoffs semi-final and I just survived my opponent’s fearsome trio of Alvin Kamara, Davante Adams, and DeAndre Hopkins. Heck, I was somehow in the lead thanks to some Josh Allen magic and the only player standing in my way of a victory and a berth in my home league finals was David Freaking Montgomery.

Welp. You probably know the end of this story as Montgomery went nuts over the final two months of the season and many (including my friend) rode him to a fantasy championship.

But what made Montgomery so special last year? And can we take advantage of that info for 2021 and identify players similar ready to breakout?

This article is the first in this annual series of “Narrowing the Field“. Over the year’s we’ve been able to identify some major breakouts including Mark Andrews, Chris Godwin, Calvin Ridley, and Curtis Samuel.

The goal of the exercise is to identify 4-5 player-specific criteria and then “narrow the field” by eliminating the players at that position that don’t fit. At the end, we’ll have a couple of candidates and weigh their cases to go  “Full Monty” in 2021. Whoa there.

For the Footballers’ official sleepers, breakouts, and busts at the RB position, check out the Ultimate Draft Kit.

1. Outside the Top-40

This first group should seem obvious but all of the RBs in the top-40 need to be crossed off our list. Montgomery went off the board last year in the late fourth to the early fifth round of drafts and part of that dip was due to a groin injury in training camp that kept him out of the preseason.

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Players Eliminated: Any RB in the 1st three Rounds aka the studs

2. Ambiguous Backfields

One of the key components that drive down the ADP of any RB is a backfield that feels ambiguous. Even if we are bullish on certain players, the feeling of competition gets us nervous. As J.J. Zachariason of numberFire recently penned, the Ambiguous RB Theory gives us a picture of where breakout RBs can be found and he used Montgomery as one of the prime examples from 2020. His value came from where he was being drafted (78th overall) and the fear was that his groin injury coupled with Tarik Cohen‘s presence was going to give us another year of hopes being dashed.

We need to eliminate players that do not have an RB teammate being drafted within the top-13 rounds. While you might like these guys and they can provide major value as your team’s RB2/FLEX in 2021, they aren’t fitting the same profile we’re looking for. Buh bye.

Players Eliminated: David Montgomery (yes, he needed to be crossed out… lol), Miles Sanders, Myles Gaskin, Darrell Henderson Jr.

Getty Images / Icon Sportswire

3. Non Rookies

Sorry kiddos. Montgomery’s sophomore season was his breakout while you might remember how hyped he was coming in as a rookie in 2019.

Rookie RBs tend to rise in ADP as we get closer to the season and camp hype reports come out. Don’t get me wrong… I love some of these rookie RBs including Javonte Williams, who is one of my highest rostered RBs in Best Ball. But for this exercise, let’s stay focused on RBs who might have some of the shine rubbed off through either disappointment or sheer time we’ve seen them on the football field.

Players Eliminated: Javonte Williams, Travis Etienne, Trey Sermon, Michael Carter

4. Chance to See 70+ Percent of the Workload

Montgomery benefitted greatly from Cohen’s injury in Week 2 but in a draft season that had yet to occur. In other words, the hope was that Montgomery would build off his 2019 campaign where he averaged 19.1 opportunities per game from Week 8 on. Seeing 70+ percent of the workload is entering into RB1 territory even if you didn’t realize it. You could be dead last in the NFL in rushing attempts like the Jaguars were last year at 21.1 per game and still produce an RB capable of posting monster fantasy numbers ala James Robinson.

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This is where a lot of the candidates are going to get the ax. Apart from injury, it’s hard seeing these guys getting 15+ touches per game. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Players Eliminated: James Robinson, Kareem Hunt, Raheem Mostert, Leonard Fournette, Zack Moss, A.J. Dillon, Latavius Murray, Kenyan Drake, Jamaal Williams

5. Killer End of Season Schedule

The final factor that boosted Montgomery was that ridiculous run at the end of the season; in other words, it wasn’t just talent alone but also a little bit of luck from the schedule makers. Here is the Bears schedule during that hot streak and Montgomery’s corresponding fantasy points:

Week Opponent RB FPts Allowed Snaps Opportunities Total Yards Fantasy Pts Fantasy Finish
12 @ GB 27th 85% 17 143 22.8 RB7
13 vs DET 31st 75% 21 111 25.1 RB1
14 vs HOU 32nd 67% 15 155 23 RB7
15 @ MIN 28th 88% 34 162 28.7 RB1
16 @ JAX 30th 83% 25 121 19.1 RB9
17 vs GB 27th 83% 31 132 23.7 RB6

What made Montgomery a “league-winner” was being set up to absolutely smash at the end of the year against arguably the easiest RB fantasy schedule ever assembled. Seriously, you couldn’t have asked for much better than that. It’s even more astounding when you consider the end of the year is when many RBs’ reps are managed and injuries start to mount up. Now we likely will never find a schedule like that again but after studying the NFL schedule like a hawk for a few months, I think we can eliminate our last couple of RBs and find our candidates.

Players Eliminated: David Johnson, Josh Jacobs

The RBs with the Best Chance to Go “Full Monty”

Mike Davis– Current ADP: 48th Overall, RB24

I cheated a bit on this first one as Davis’ competition is a bit non-existent unless you find yourself on Twitter with a couple of UDFA Javian Hawkins truthers or in a secret Qadree Ollison fan club. But his situation, workload, and style are so reminiscent of Montgomery that he checked almost every single box in this exercise. We’ve seen what he could do when he was the guy last year so there is precedent. From Week 10, Davis faces five teams in the bottom-10 of rushing yardage allowed in 2020 including Dallas (24th), Jacksonville (30th), and a glorious Week 16 matchup versus Detroit (32nd) at home. His ADP is a bit rich but if you believe new head coach Arthur Smith can rectify the run game and introduce Davis in zone schemes, then he looks like the guy in this backfield to jump on as your team’s RB2.

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Chase Edmonds– Current ADP: 57th Overall, RB26

Edmonds might not be the big bruising back that Montogmery is but he fits the criteria we’re looking for. If you think James Conner is dust or any injury waiting to happen, you can easily envision Edmonds as a dynamic back with room to move up in the end-of-season fantasy finish department. He had the 6th most total targets and 3rd most snaps in the slot among RBs so you know there is a floor there. He’s relied on efficiency and has only one goal-line rush attempt in his career. But if he falls into the 6th round, he seems like a back that can make his money on 12-15 touches a game.

Damien Harris– Current ADP: 68th Overall, RB30

The 3rd year back reportedly is the “decisive RB1” in New England according to reports. The Patriots RBs have ranked in the top-10 of fantasy points as a unit six years in a row but the New England backfield is notorious for its ambiguity. Harris’ usage is frustrating considering his role in college as a pass catcher but he’s above 5.0 yards per carry as a runner and looks like if he adds in 25 receptions we could be cooking. After their Week 14 bye, the Patriots have a home matchup in Week 16 versus Buffalo and finish Week 17 against Jacksonville. Harris’ ADP is also affordable where taking a shot on the upside won’t hurt your team too much.

Getty Images / Billie Weiss

Ronald Jones II– Current ADP: 71st Overall, RB31

Rojo! Ok maybe that name doesn’t instill a ton of confidence in anyone but before Playoff Lenny showed up down the stretch, Jones was having a solid fantasy season. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and 16.7 opportunities per game. His pass catching is the only part of his game that is lacking. He also played with a ton of positive game scripts which makes sense when you upgrade from Jameis Winston to Tom BradyOver the last seven years (as far as I went back), Tom Brady’s teams have scored double-digit rushing TDs inside the 5-yard line every single year. In 2020, the Bucs had 13.

  • Rojo’s career inside the 5– 16 attempts, 10 TDs. 63% TD rate
  • Lenny’s career inside the 5– 40 attempts, 20 TDs. 50% TD Rate

Buying into Rojo is buying into the Buccaneers, positive game scripts, and the fact he can easily find the end-zone 10+ times in 2021.


Kyle Gilbrech says:

Does James Robinson now re-enter this conversation based on the injury to Etienne?

Ben says:

Is anybody really drafting one of the other Atl RBs in the top 13 rounds? I feel like Davis should’ve been eliminated with that one.

jasongalon says:

Mike Davis is where it’s at this year, folks!

Zane Shaw says:

Poor David Johnson had to be eliminated twice

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