So, you basked in the glory that was David Montgomery’s 2020 end of season schedule, congrats! Maybe that lead to you winning your fantasy football championship and now you have your sights set on a repeat in 2021, with Montgomery being the centerpiece yet again. After all, the lead Chicago Bears running back did finish as the RB 6 on the year in ½ PPR scoring. But before you go off and pencil in those plans you should probably ask yourself, “What is Montgomery’s actual fantasy value for 2021 and can he reproduce his success from the year prior?”
The reason we pose this question is because a lot has changed for the Bears this off-season, with the latest and maybe most significant event being the singing of former Kansas City running back, Damien Williams. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves though because we need the whole picture and that starts with understanding what made Montgomery successful last season.
Path to Success in 2020
· Feature Back – The Bears backfield usually features a mix of Tarik Cohen and Montgomery, but that changed in Week 3 when Cohen tore his ACL.
· Increased Passing Volume – Without Cohen, the pass-catching specialist, Montgomery saw a huge bump in passing work as he had 64 targets and 54 receptions compared to 35 and 25 the year prior.
· Friendly Schedule – In the five week span from Week 12 to Week 16 the Bears played the Packers, Lions, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars who were the 28th, 31st, 32nd, 27th and 29th ranked teams in rush defense respectively.
The reason we bring up these points is because they are all extremely variable on a year to year basis. Any given year you can’t predict injuries and don’t know how schedules will pan out. In addition this variability, the Bears will have a new QB in Andy Dalton, who per the Bears will be the starter over Nick Foles. This could mean a slower start to the season offensively as chemistry is built and Dalton learns the system. The reason for concern doesn’t end there however, as the Bears don’t exactly have a stellar offensive line. If Chicago doesn’t upgrade the line in the NFL Draft, then we might see more of early 2020 Montgomery than late. Specifically, prior to Week 12 and the friendliest RB schedule in all of football, Montgomery was averaging 14.6 rush attempts for 52.4 yards and 3.3 receptions for 23.6 receiving yards per game with only four combined TD’s though nine weeks.
The cherry on top of all of this though, is the addition of Damien Williams. While you might think Williams is nothing more than a depth piece, we urge you to reconsider that notion. Prior to opting out due to COVID-19 in 2020, Williams was going to be the starting running back for the Chiefs, who had just selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round of the 2020 draft. Williams also happens to be a player who had success in Kansas City, which is where head coach Matt Nagy came from. While the two didn’t overlap, it’s no secret Nagy has tried to duplicate what was done in Kansas City with the Bears. Hell, last season Nagy traded draft capital just to bring in Foles because he knew the Kansas City system.
Yes, Williams will be 29-years old, which is on the older side for a running back, but consider the fact that he enters 2021 with fresh legs after sitting out the year prior. On top of this, it’s not like he didn’t have success when healthy with the Chiefs. Just look at the below stats per Pro Football Reference of what Williams did after taking over for Kareem Hunt in 2018 and during the Chiefs’ recent playoff runs. Some might suggest Williams is just a Cordarrelle Patterson replacement but he’s more than just a gimmick player. Williams has proven he can get the tough yards and also excels as a pass catcher which will earn him even more playing time.
At the end of the day, as much as we might like Montgomery as a player, the writing is on the wall for his 2021 fantasy outlook. Simply put, the foundation for a repeat was already shaky to begin with, but the addition of Williams was the final nail in the coffin. Our advice is to put 2020 in the rearview mirror and objectively consider if Montgomery is set up for success in 2021. By doing so you can see Montgomery will likely struggle to duplicate his former stats and will probably belong in the low-end RB 2 range and even that might be optimistic.