Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery suffered a training camp injury and is expected to be sidelined for 2-4 weeks. This timeline means that Montgomery could miss the first week or two of the season and will probably be limited even if he is on the field. This leaves some combination of Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall, Artavis Pierce, and Cordarrelle Patterson vying for carries in Montgomery’s absence.
Before we get started, let’s acknowledge that Tarik Cohen will probably lead the team in snaps with Montgomery sidelined. However, he’s already owned in most leagues, so he won’t do much good for anyone that already drafted Montgomery. Additionally, his 5’-6”, 191-pound frame suggests that he isn’t capable of taking a full three-down workload, and he’s never recorded more than 99 rushing attempts in a single season. Somebody will have opportunities for early-down carries, but who will it be?
Fantasy Football: David Montgomery Fallout – Artavis Pierce, Ryan Nall, or Cordarrelle Patterson?
In order to determine the most likely replacement, we’ll need to look at a few factors. First off, let’s look at which running back (or wide receiver, in Patterson’s case) has the most experience working in a backfield. Continuity and scheme familiarity matter more than ever in this shortened offseason, so experience should play a huge role in seeing who gets the job.
Interestingly enough, Patterson actually has the most experience working in an NFL backfield. The wide receiver is a jack of all trades, master of none that has some history of running the ball. Last year, Patterson took 17 carries for 103 yards at a respectable 6.1 yards-per-attempt. Of course, this is a very small sample, and most of Patterson’s rushing attempts came on jet sweeps and other scheme-dependent plays.
However, Patterson does have some experience as a between-the-tackles runner. Back in 2018, Patterson stepped in and started at running back for an injured Sony Michel. In his two starts, Patterson recorded 21 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown, and his 4.7 yards-per-carry was actually better than Michel’s 4.5.
Ryan Nall spent the entirety of his rookie season bouncing between the practice squad and active roster. The Oregon State product recorded just two rushing attempts on the season, so he essentially has no on-field experience to speak of. That said, there is some value to being around the scheme for a full season. Artavis Pierce, meanwhile, is an undrafted free agent with no experience to his name. He recorded a career-high 146 carries during his Senior season, but that doesn’t mean he can handle an NFL workload.
From a fantasy football perspective, the most important thing a running back can do is catch passes and receive goal line carries. Cohen has a firm lock on the passing work, but the goal line job is very much up for grabs. With Cohen likely to lead the running backs in targets and carries, the fastest way to fantasy relevance is hoping one of the other three running backs happens to score a touchdown.
Cordarrelle Patterson has the build for the job. At 6’-2” and 238 pounds, Patterson should have what it takes to lower his shoulder and pick up those hard-to-gain yards. New England used him in this way back in 2018, both as a runner and a receiver. There were a handful of instances that season near the goal line where the team threw a quick screen to Patterson and trusted him to break his tackle and reach the goal line. More often than not, it worked.
Likewise, Ryan Nall has the physical profile to excel in this role. He’s essentially built the exact same way as Patterson, weighing in at 6’-2” and 232 pound at the NFL Combine. While he has yet to prove this skill can translate to the NFL, he had success as a short-yardage rusher in college. During his final two seasons, Nall recorded a combined 21 rushing touchdowns.
Artavis Pierce is the least likely guy to earn goal line carries. At 5’-10” and 209 pounds, the Oregon State product is built more like a change of pace back than a short-yardage bruiser. His film backs this up, as he’s not particularly great at breaking tackles.
Last, but certainly not least, is the untapped potential of youth. Whenever a starter goes down, a coaching staff will always put in the next-best player. However, when there isn’t a notable gap in talent between multiple options, coaching staffs tend to favor youth. After all, there’s truly no way to definitively know how good a player is without seeing them on the field.
At age 29, Cordarrelle Patterson is who he is. While his experience implies that he won’t singlehandedly mess up any plays, he doesn’t offer any long-term upside. Ryan Nall, on the other hand, is in the perfect situation. He already has one year in the system, so he should have a solid enough grasp of the playbook and the trust of the coaching staff. Additionally, he’s still young enough to offer some hope of untapped potential.
Artavis Pierce, meanwhile, might be too young. As previously mentioned, experience is important, and he has none. No matter how talented, a player won’t be able to see the field if they don’t have the trust of the coaching staff.
Bottom Line on Ryan Nall, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Artavis Pierce
If, through some act of God, Tarik Cohen is still in your league, grab him. Without Montgomery, the pass-catching specialist has top-12 upside if you’re playing in a full or half-PPR league. However, assuming you can’t grab him and you need some running back insurance, go for Ryan Nall.
While Patterson has the most experience, Ryan Nall has everything else going his way. The Bears are going to need a goal line back, and Nall’s build combined with his collegiate production implies that he should be the man for the job. Additionally, Nall’s year in the system combined with his young age makes him more likely to win the job in the event of a tie.
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