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Drafting David Montgomery is the best decision you can make this year. Let's not mince words, there are only a handful of true value dislocations in a given draft season, and Montgomery ranks at or near the top this year. The blatant disrespect he's being shown in early ADP data is stunning, but it presents a rare opportunity to buy a diamond for the price of coal.
There is no better value in drafts
- His average draft position is currently RB19
- Montgomery finished last season RB4, despite an awful first two months
- He was the No. 2 back - behind Derrick Henry - after his Week 10 inactive
- He thrived with Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky under center
- Tarik Cohen isn`t a threat to Montgomery's role
- The offensive line can run block (pass blocking is another matter)
2020: A Tale of Two Seasons
David Montgomery's season splits are stunning. He missed Week 10 after being diagnosed with a concussion, and upon his return for Game 11, was a completely different player.
2020 Season Splits, Pre- and Post-Inactive, Pro-rated for 16 Games
Admittedly, it can be dangerous to cherry-pick a portion of a season that fits a narrative; every game counts. But there were reasons for the turnaround. First, Montgomery took his time off to re-focus and returned with the same violent, take-no-prisoners approach that made him a third-round pick out of Iowa State in 2019. He had become tentative, overthinking each play instead of reacting. Second, the Bears shuffled the offensive line with fantastic results. Third, Montgomery was playing hurt early in the season. He suffered a groin injury late in the preseason and was questionable to start the season. He then hurt his neck in Week 2 but managed to return to the game. Although he didn't miss time, he probably should have sat out and gotten healthy. His desire to be out there making plays hurt his team, and he acknowledged the imprudence of playing injured last year once he rounded into shape. Fourth, and most importantly – complementary players, including Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney, matured into critical roles, allowing the offense to sustain drives and create mismatches.
But what about Andy Dalton and Justin Fields?
Andy Dalton has never been a world-beater. And at 33 years old, he's not going to give the Bears much more than league-average production. But everyone understands Dalton is only keeping the huddle warm for Justin Fields – the Ohio State phenom – who will be the Bears starter before season's end, and likely many years beyond. While neither Dalton – who's average, nor Fields – a rookie, is likely to elevate the passing attack into the Top 10, both are demonstrably more appealing than last year's combination of Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. If Montgomery was able to thrive with Trubisky throwing ducks and defenses keying on the run game, why should he fare worse this season?
But Tarik Cohen is healthy!
Tarik Cohen missed 13 games last year with a torn ACL, and many mistakenly credit Montgomery's fantasy surge with Cohen's absence. The truth is Cohen was going to fill a different role as the team's de facto slot receiver. His absence was more of a boon for the third receiver and second tight end because it forced the Bears into different personnel groupings. Additionally, Cohen was the apple of Matt Nagy's eye upon his hire in 2018, but the head coach has undoubtedly soured on the young running back in subsequent seasons. Nagy publicly criticized Cohen's conditioning entering the 2019 season, and then in 2020, Cohen's role was significantly reduced from prior seasons before he got hurt.
Tarik Cohen, Per-Game Stats, By Year
Cohen's role has steadily declined under Nagy. He went from a valuable role player in 2018 (Nagy's first season as head coach) to a forgotten man by 2020. Yet his return is somehow going to keep Montgomery off the field? That would be the very definition of irrational coaching.
ADP of RB19 implies massive regression
Fantasy value isn't only about a player's stats. It's about how much you have to pay to acquire those stats. Montgomery's ADP is currently RB19. I don't think fantasy managers realize what a low bar they're setting for the young workhorse.
Here are the last five RB19 seasons:
|2020||Ronald Jones II||TB||14||192||978||5.1||7||28||165||1||190.3|
On average, the 19th-ranked running back has produced 190 fantasy points, a little more than 1,100 yards from scrimmage, and 7 touchdowns. Compare those numbers to David Montgomery's full-season total, his pro rata pace in the (bad) first half, (good) second half, and you'll scream "Eureka!"
A comparison of Montgomery's 16-Game Pro Rata Splits, Full Season, and the Average RB19 from 2016-2020
|Montgomery-Pre Week 10||232.9||839.1||3.6||1.8||53.3||376.9||7.1||1.8||196.3|
|Montgomery-Post Week 10||309.3||1,594.7||5.2||18.7||64.0||602.7||9.4||2.7||411.7|
Even if you're worried about Tarik Cohen, the quarterback change, Matt Nagy's play-calling, and the offensive line, do you think Montgomery can't maintain 50% of last year's breakout pace? That's illogical. Montgomery was on pace to finish higher than RB19 last year BEFORE THE LATE SEASON SURGE. Even if you think his first 10 games, and everything going wrong imaginable, is his baseline -- he's worth drafting at his current ADP. You're literally getting him with ZERO upside factored into the price. That's absurdly illogical. Bake in whatever concerns you want, and you're still getting Montgomery a round or two later than you should.
STATS AND PROJECTIONS
David Montgomery was on a 400-fantasy point pace after his Week 10 inactive. Only Derrick Henry was a better fantasy back. Now, if you choose to discount the late-season heroics as an outlier, fair enough. No one is expecting Montgomery to approach 400 fantasy points, or he would be coming off draft boards at 1.01 or 1.02 depending on how you feel about Christian McCaffrey. Expecting some regression from last year's late-season surge is reasonable, but fantasy managers have taken the discount too far. At RB19 -- his current ADP -- you're assuming Montgomery will be half as productive. You're also assuming the abysmal start to 2020 is his baseline, even though everything that could have gone wrong, did. He came into the season with a groin injury and added a neck injury in Week 2. His offensive line was bad to start and makeshift within weeks. At one point, the Bears only had one Week 1 starter left on the line. The Bears also dealt with horrifically bad quarterbacking, and a lack of explosive playmakers to keep defenses honest. While the Bears don't project as a Top 5 offense this year, there are reasons for optimism. The combination of Andy Dalton and Justin Fields is assuredly better than Trubisky and Foles. The offensive line got an infusion of talent in the draft and the interior returns after an encouraging showing down the stretch. Montgomery is healthy, re-focused, and confident. And Tarik Cohen is a bit player who had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff before his knee injury. He's not a threat. Roll all that up and you have, at worst, a player who will be better than we saw in the first two months of 2020. That guarantees he'll be worth more than his cost. But you also have a player who was truly elite -- a top-5 back -- last year for a significant stretch. The way you win fantasy championships is by targeting players with a high floor and higher ceiling. Montgomery epitomizes that paradigm.
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