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What You Need to Know:
- Montgomery ranked 13th among RBs in carries and 12th in opportunities (carries + targets) last year.
- But he finished just 24th in PPR points and 21st in non-PPR due to poor efficiency.
- He appears locked into a similar role in 2020 after Chicago made no backfield additions this offseason.
2019 in review
Underwhelming is the best word to describe Montgomery’s rookie campaign.
The volume was there. Only 12 RBs topped Montgomery’s 242 carries. He ranked just 40th at his position with 35 targets. But his 277 total opportunities (carries + targets) were good for 12th among RBs.
Still, Montgomery finished just 24th in PPR points and 21st in non-PPR. He provided a decent weekly floor, scoring 9.7+ PPR points in half of his games. But ceiling games were rare. Montgomery reached 14 PPR points just 3 times and 17 just twice.
He just didn’t do a whole lot with his touches. Montgomery’s 3.67 yards per carry ranked 38th among 44 RBs with 100+ attempts last year. His 2.33 yards after contact per attempt ranked 43rd. He finished 31st in Pro Football Focus’ Elusive Rating and 40th in rushing grade.
Montgomery didn’t get much beyond what was blocked. And there were very few big plays. Only 5 of his 242 carries went for 15+ yards — a rate of 2.1% that ranked 40th among those 44 RBs.
Montgomery wasn’t much better in the passing game. He hauled in 71.4% of his 35 targets and averaged 7.4 yards on his 25 receptions. His 5.3 yards per target ranked 35th among 42 RBs with 30+ looks. He finished 40th in yards per route run and 22nd in PFF’s receiving grades. Montgomery was at least stout in pass protection, ranking 3rd in PFF’s pass-blocking grades.
He didn’t improve as his rookie year went along, either. His yards per carry nudged up from 3.6 to 3.7 from the 1st half to 2nd half of the season — but his Elusive Rating actually sank. His yards per catch stayed flat at 7.4 — but his yards per target (5.5 to 4.7) and yards per route run (1.06 to .46) both plummeted.
Montgomery’s rushing volume did grow from 14 carries per game over his first 8 to 16.3 over the final 8. But his targets per game dropped from 3 to 1.4.
Despite the disappointing rookie season, the Bears didn’t make any backfield moves this offseason. So it’ll again be Montgomery and Tarik Cohen atop the depth chart.
That makes Montgomery a safe bet for a similar ball-carrying role. Cohen is a 5’6, 191-pounder who’s averaged just 5.2 carries per game through 3 NFL seasons. That dropped to a career-low 4 carries per game last year. And Cohen hasn’t even been efficient on that limited volume, averaging 4.1 yards per carry, including a career-low 3.3 last year.
So Montgomery should tote the rock plenty again in 2020. He’s just 1 of 12 RBs we have projected to reach 240 carries.
The big question is whether he can do more with those chances than he did last year. Montgomery averaged a mediocre 4.7 yards per carry across 3 seasons at Iowa State, although he played behind bad offensive lines. He ranked 4th in his RB class in PFF’s 2018 Elusive Rating, so there’s at least potential for him to be more efficient this season.
He might not get much help from his offensive line, though. The Bears are projected to have 4 of the same 5 starters as last year, when they ranked 20th in PFF’s run-blocking grades and 29th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards. The new guy is Germain Ifedi, who struggled at RT for the Seahawks last year but will move inside to G for the Bears. He’s unlikely to be a major upgrade.
The other big question with Montgomery is whether his passing-game role will grow. Although he wasn’t great in that department last year, Cohen was even worse, ranking behind Montgomery in yards per catch (5.8), yards per target (4.4) and PFF receiving grade. That’ll be a situation to monitor in training camp and preseason action.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Montgomery is a tough evaluation. On one hand, he’s coming off an inefficient rookie season. On the other, he appears safely locked into another big ball-carrying role in 2020.
That at least makes him a high-floor RB3 pick in fantasy drafts. If he improves that efficiency and/or captures a bigger passing-game role this season, he could vault into the top 20 at his position.