Fantasy Court: The Case Against David Montgomery in 2022
There’s nothing better than rostering a running back that goes nuclear down the home stretch of a season and carries you to a fantasy football championship. That’s exactly what David Montgomery did in 2020 when he shredded subpar run defenses down the home stretch to finish as the RB4 on the season. Those blissful memories are the only reason I can fathom that fantasy managers are drafting Montgomery at his current average draft position (ADP).
But in fantasy football, we need to look ahead, not backward. All of the information we have screams that we should be avoiding Montgomery in the dreaded running back dead zone of drafts. In the following arguments, allow me to make the case against David Montgomery in fantasy football in 2022.
After limping to a 6-11 finish last season, the Bears overhauled their front office and brought in a new coaching staff. That new staff includes a defensive-minded head coach in Matt Eberflus and longtime Green Bay offensive assistant Luke Getsy to run the offense. As detailed in my recent article on under the radar changes that will impact fantasy football this season, the Packers consistently deployed a backfield by committee while Getsy was on staff. The uber-talented Aaron Jones has never seen more than a 61% snap share in a season and averaged just 53% over his five-year career. That’s in stark contrast to Montgomery’s 74% snap share over the last two seasons under Matt Nagy.
Khalil Herbert shined in Montgomery’s absence last season. He finished as an RB1 twice in the four games that Monty missed. There’s a real chance that the new coaching staff looks at the backfield and decides that Herbert deserves more carries in his second season.
The new regime didn’t make any blockbuster additions to the offense this offseason, but they did quietly add two speedsters to the backfield. Free agent signing Darrynton Evans and sixth-round draft pick Trestan Ebner both have 4.4 forty speed and pass-catching ability, similar to Montgomery’s former running mate Tarik Cohen. Unfortunately, Cohen has suffered season-ending injuries in back-to-back years, but he had a major role for Chicago when healthy. Just take a look at the table below, which shows Montgomery’s splits with and without Cohen from 2019-2020 (via Rotoviz)
|Games||Fantasy Points/Game||Rush Attempts/Game||Rush Yards/Game||Targets/Game||Rec/Game||Rec Yards/Game|
With Cohen available as a pass-catching complement, Montgomery’s receiving stats cratered, significantly dragging down his fantasy output.
Justin Fields is a Problem (for Montgomery)
For my next argument, let me present the evidence that a rushing quarterback hinders a running back’s fantasy output. Friend of The Ballers JJ Zachariason did a fantastic study on the subject and found that when a quarterback has 90 or more rush attempts in a season, his team’s running backs see a 12% drop in rush share and finish with the 20th most fantasy points at the position, on average. Keep in mind, that this is at a team level and, as I mentioned in my first argument, Montgomery is already likely to see a dip in snap share.
That 90+ rush attempt number is important because in just twelve games last season, Justin Fields rushed the ball 72 times. That was the fifth most attempts by a quarterback in the league. However, he played over 50% of the snaps in just ten games. If we take those ten games and extrapolate his rush attempts to a 17-game season, it puts Fields at 110 rushes, well over the 90 rush attempt threshold used in JJ’s study.
A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Offense
These volume-based concerns could be lessened if we expect Chicago to score a lot of points this season. However, there is no evidence to believe the offensive product the Bears put on the field will be any better than last season when they finished 27th in the league in scoring. In fact, the evidence suggests that their offense will actually be worse than it was last season.
The lack of offensive additions has been well documented this offseason, but usually from the lens of Justin Fields‘ year two potential. A more overlooked aspect is the negative impact the offensive personnel will have on Montgomery and the running game, especially when considering the offensive line.
Many football websites put out offensive line rankings every summer ahead of the NFL season. I looked at seven different sources (PFF, Sharp Football, FTN, FantasyPros, PFN, 4for4, The Huddle), and not a single one ranked Chicago’s offensive line higher than 31st in the league. As a reminder, there are only 32 offensive lines in the NFL.
David Montgomery was a league-winning fantasy running back in 2020, but he may never see that kind of upside again. He certainly won’t in 2022. He’s more likely to lose touches in Chicago’s new offensive system than gain them, especially considering rushing quarterback Justin Fields projects to be the full-time starter. As if that weren’t bad enough, the Bears will likely be one of the most anemic offenses in the NFL. I will be staying far away from Montgomery in fantasy drafts this season, and I suggest you do the same.