David Montgomery has been one of the most debated players of the 2021 fantasy football offseason. Montgomery finished as the RB4 on the season in half PPR formats last year. But, over his first nine outings, he averaged a frustrating 10.6 fantasy points per game; however, he exploded back onto the scene with a 22.8 average over his last six. At his current average draft position (ADP) of RB18 (according to Fantasy Football Calculator), which running back should fantasy managers expect to see out of the Chicago Bears third-year workhorse?
2021 Fantasy Outlook: David Montgomery
What Will Be Different in 2021?
Many of the arguments against Montgomery start the same way. The run defenses the Bears faced in the last six weeks of the regular season were not incredibly intimidating, hence ‘inflating’ his stats. The Bears phenomenal defensive play continuously masked their poor quarterback play. That allowed them to feed Montgomery the ball more effectively. But will that be different, or even matter, in 2021?
Some will also argue that with the addition of such a dynamic rookie quarterback, that Montgomery will lose touches to Justin Fields (whenever it is he takes over the reins in Chicago). Others will see the upside the Bears new franchise quarterback can bring to this otherwise stagnant offense and consider this more of a ‘win-win’ situation for both the passing and rushing games alike.
Fields, while incredibly speedy, has many experts believing he will be more of a pocket passer long-term, who uses his mystifying athleticism to make plays with his arm on the move rather than a designed option running-style quarterback (think more of a Russell Wilson than a Cam Newton-style gameplay).
David Montgomery is keeping receipts. (I have him higher than 25 for the record.)
— Adam Rank (@adamrank) July 1, 2021
Volume is Key
Fields is destined to include some big rushing plays and goal line attempts in his highlight reel. Still, Montgomery’s value is more correlated with his constant volume than his touchdown totals. What’s that old saying? A running back is a rookie signal caller’s best friend? Even as the young quarterback snags some of Montgomery’s carries – along with the pending return of Tarik Cohen, and the additions of ex-Chief Damien Williams and rookie Khalil Herbert – expect Montgomery to be a 20-touch back in an offense that should begin clicking better in a do-or-die year for the Bears front office.
Montgomery definitely took advantage of seeing 68 targets in Cohen’s absence (which could be prolonged to start the 2021 season) as the primary receiving tailback as well, finishing fourth in total touches (301) and fifth in all-purpose yards (1508) amongst running backs last season. But his bread and butter is still in the ground game. His finishing fourth in rushing attempts (247) and fifth in rushing yards (1070) through his 15 games in 2020 highlights his production capabilities all the more.
There could be a slight regression in Montgomery’s touches or production. But rating him as the 18th best running back still seems incredibly low for someone primed to, at worst, clock in with high-upside RB1 volume potential again in 2021.
Are people sleeping on David Montgomery? pic.twitter.com/jDP59Ftguz
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) July 13, 2021
ADP vs Value
The argument can still go both ways. It is understandable to feel unsure about ‘which David Montgomery’ to expect throughout 2021. Do fantasy managers get the one who averaged just three and a half yards per carry and scored just a single touchdown on the ground through the first nine weeks of 2020? Or is he a steal at his current overall ADP of 32 because of his final six-game performance that included a six yards per carry average and a whopping seven scores on the ground?
One comparison to ease some doubts is to look at the 8th overall-rated player in this year’s upcoming fantasy drafts. That is Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor. There are other circumstances with each of these players’ respective teams. There is still an incredible difference in draft position for two players with similar 2020 seasons. Taylor also had a similar underwhelming start followed by a climactic end to 2020, but his targets seem to be in much more doubt for the foreseeable future due to his pass-catching mate out of the backfield, Nyheim Hines.
Even with the question at the quarterback position and overall inconsistency of the Bears offense last season, expect volume and late-season upside to make selecting Montgomery in the third round an incredible value in your fantasy drafts.
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