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The Buying Window on David Montgomery is Open

Off-Season Darling

In FFPC startups immediately following the NFL draft, David Montgomery was typically drafted in the fifth round, and sometime fell as far as the late sixth. In rookie drafts he was consistently taken in the early-to-mid first, foreshadowing the enthusiasm that would eventually drive up his ADP in startups.

By the end of the summer Montgomery was a staple of the dynasty top 40, sometimes being selected as an early third rounder. This price increase was driven by consistent training camp buzz with the Bears literally professing their love for their third round rookie.

Growing Pains

Then Week 1 happened. On a huge national stage, Montgomery owners watched a near worst-case scenario play out. Montgomery had just 27 snaps, far below Mike Davis (40) and Tarik Cohen (51). And although Montgomery did at least lead the team in carries, he was provided a pitiful six-attempt rushing workload. Furthermore, he saw just 1 target compared to seven for Davis and 10 for Cohen. Montgomery turned that target into 27 yards, but produced only 18 yards on his six carries. Overall his 5.5 fantasy points were quite a let down.

To make matters worse, Mitch Trubisky looked  completely overwhelmed, creating doubts about the offense’s ability to support a strong running game — much less to support multiple committee RBs.

And in the weeks since, the situation seems no better, with Montgomery turning in horrid efficiency and Trubisky going down with injury.

A Quiet Workhorse

But while Montgomery has only averaged 11.5 fantasy points since Week 1, his role in the offense has dramatically improved.

Over Weeks 2-4 Montgomery has seen 16 EP per game, the 12th most valuable workload in the the league. This shift has been driven by Montgomery completely supplanting Davis in the offense over the last two weeks. In Weeks 1-2 Montgomery saw 55 combined snaps to Davis’ 56. In the two weeks since Montgomery has logged 94 snaps to Davis’ 1. Cohen’s usage has been fairly steady over the last three weeks, fluctuating between 23-32 snaps, well below his Week 1 slot WR role with 51 snaps.

Despite taking over Mike Davis’ carries, Mongomery is just the PPR RB29 on the season, averaging just 10 points per game. The culprit for his underwhelming performance is poor efficiency. Actually poor is probably underselling it, because over the last three weeks Montgomery has been the 2nd least efficient RB in the entire NFL. Only Kalen Ballage has been less efficient. Adding in Week 1 to the sample doesn’t help Montgomery much either. He ranks 116 out of 120 RBs in FPOE per game this season.1

Put another way: in 2019 Montgomery has take a workload valued at 52.5 points and produced just 40.1.

This extreme inefficiency creates the following three risks for potential Montgomery buyers:

  1. Montgomery’s role could be scaled back
  2. Montgomery could be a bad at football
  3. The offense may be too bad to support high end RB production

Role Stability

In terms of workload, if Montgomery continues to leave points on the field at the current rate, he’ll undoubtedly lose playing time. But it’s worth noting that much of Montgomery’s inefficiency has come as a result of the highest variance part of fantasy football: Touchdowns.

On five carries within the 10 yard line this season, valued at a combined total of 13.1 PPR points, Montgomery has turned in just four yards and one TD — leaving 6.7 points on the table.

We could take this to mean that Mike Davis will imminently take over at the goal line. But given that Davis has yet to see a single opportunity within the 10 this season and has been so thoroughly supplanted by Montgomery overall, that seems highly unlikely. Instead we should bet on TD regression working its magic here. If Montgomery continues to see these high value carries, he has multiple TD games coming up this season.

Is Montgomery Good?

As Ryan Collinsworth recently noted, Montgomery ranks 39th out of 44 qualified RBs in yards after contact. And he hasn’t been facing stacked boxes at a particularly high rate either. So much of Montgomery’s inefficiency does appear to be his own doing.

But just four games into his career, it’s too early to know for sure if Montgomery is a good or a bad RB. However, I do find it hard to believe that he’s quite this bad.

And one thing that Montgomery does have going for him is that he’s been breaking tackles at a high rate. Among the 29 RBs with at least 50 touches, Montgomery ranks 11th in broken tackles per touch, with seven broken tackles on 66 touches. Mike Davis has yet to break a single tackle this season. And Tarik Cohen, generally praised for his elusiveness, is breaking tackles at the same rate with three on his 27 touches. It would be nice to see Montgomery create more yards after breaking these tackles, but at least he’s making guys miss in the first place.

It’s possible Montgomery is simply a bust, but given his pedigree and tackle breaking ability I’m comfortable betting on him to eventually deliver on his workload.

Struggling Offense

Trubisky’s injury is another red flag for Montgomery’s immediate production.

On the one hand, Week 4 seemed to indicate that the Chase Daniel Bears will continue to lean heavily on their rookie runner. Trubisky left the Vikings game before Montgomery had even logged a carry but the rookie ultimately finished with 21 attempts and five targets for 15.3 Expected Points.

But on the other hand, as Ryan Collinsworth noted, the Bears are mostly using Montgomery in the second half and when ahead. He could therefore fall out of the mix if the Bears get down early without their starting QB this week.

Thankfully Trubisky seems like he’ll be back after the Week 6 bye. And as Jack Miller noted in the Buy Low Report, the Bears have the sixth easiest RB schedule over the next month.

I’d add that the Bears are at home against the Drew Brees-less Saints, Chargers and Lions over the next 6 weeks. So they should be leaning on Montgomery to close out some of their upcoming match-ups.

All that said, Oakland does have the potential to be a bad game for Montgomery, so I’d be cautious about paying full price for him ahead of Sunday.

Price

For those in the playoff mix Montgomery is still worth paying a mid-late 1st for, even with the purported strength of this upcoming class. But given Montgomery’s fantasy performance thus far, I would see if you can acquire him without giving up a first round pick. I recently sent an offer of two seconds and Tony Pollard to the Ezekiel Elliott owner. We’ll see if that gets it done.

Additionally, one advantage we have in trying to acquire Montgomery is his Week 6 bye. If he struggles yet again against the Raiders, his owner may be willing to move off of him before the bye. This will be especially true in redraft of course, but even in dynasty this can provide an edge if his owner is on the playoff bubble.

Personally, I’ll be happy to take the discount provided by an inefficient London game with a backup QB. That’ll be the case even if the game script in Week 5 exposes Montgomery as game-script dependent. We already know that Montgomery is game-script dependent. His owner may not. And of course, Montgomery looks to have a nice run of game scripts starting in Week 7.

However, even with the potential for a larger discount on Montgomery in a week, I still recommend sending offers now. Even a single big game could evaporate the current discount. But if his owner plays hardball, I’d simply bet on the Raiders ninth ranked Football Outsiders Rush Defense, jet lagged Chase Daniel and an upcoming bye to knock down his price even further.

A Safe Buy

All in all, Montgomery appears risky but is actually quite a safe dynasty buy.

The team just traded up to select him in the third round, talked him up the entire off-season, eased him in for Week 1 and then handed him a top-12 workload from that point on.

And as a rookie with an established role, Montgomery has relatively little risk of his value collapsing. He should be a fairly easy sell this offseason even if he continues to under-perform his opportunity. In the meantime you get to benefit if makes good on the value of his role, providing low end RB1/high end RB2 production and supercharging his dynasty trade value in the process.

Image Credit: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: David Montgomery.

  1. Only Sony Michel, Joe Mixon, Adrian Peterson and Kalen Ballage have been worse.  (back)

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