In this series, Jeremy Schwob and John Di Bari present the optimistic and pessimistic sides to significant changes in the dynasty landscape. Consider both sides, as the goal is to find somewhere in between.
The old adage that there are two sides to every coin could never be more true than when circumstances change for a player. That is especially true when surprising information is thrust upon us. Psychological difficulty and distress can be encountered when individuals hold rigid views that are strictly one-sided (i.e., split) or alternate drastically from one to the other.
A therapeutic concept called integration is a healthier structure for holding both sides together and tolerating the benefits and flaws simultaneously. Relationally, this could involve being frustrated or angry with them while at the same time being able to maintain that you care about them. Such emotional difficulties can parallel our view of players on dynasty rosters amidst changing circumstances.
The goal of this series is not to have you pick a side or a winner of the argument. Rather, it is to consider both sides and not select one entirely in the absence of the other.
In a world where we are often told the running back position is undervalued, David Montgomery managed to get himself a three-year, $18-million contract with the Detroit Lions following a four-year stint with the division-rival Chicago Bears. This was the second-biggest running back deal in free agency this year and the third-largest in the last five seasons.
With that type of commitment, you’d think the Lions would have a plan in place for Montgomery. However, the Lions then drafted Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round of the NFL Draft, and now nothing is certain in Motor City.
Montgomery’s appeal has changed since his days as a devy and rookie pick darling, based on his all-around college production and elusiveness, despite his below-average speed and athleticism. He received adequate draft capital as a third-round pick (73rd overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft, which has kept him with lead back duties throughout his career thus far.
Following a significant three-year, $18m contract with $11m guaranteed, he leads the Lions backfield to start the 2023 season. This is particularly exciting within the context of Detroit coming off a top-five-scoring offense in 2022. Much of the structure of the offense remains the same, with a strong offensive line protecting quarterback Jared Goff. Defenses will be kept honest with young, exciting weapons, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta leading the aerial attack.
To attempt to quantify the opportunity available for Montgomery in the potentially top-five offense, Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analytics notes the significant gap that former Lions running back, Jamaal Williams, had versus the rest of the NFL in goal-to-go plays last season.
carries on goal-to-go plays in 2022:
38 – Jamaal Williams
22 – Ezekiel Elliott, Joe Mixon
21 – Dalvin Cook
19 – Miles Sanders, Saquon Barkley
18 – Najee Harris
Jamaal Williams out…
Jahmyr Gibbs & David Montgomery in
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) June 21, 2023
It is expected that this cavern between the Lions’ running backs and the rest of the league’s running backs would shrink significantly due to regression. However, Dan Campbell’s Lions have displayed an inclination toward pounding the rock when the team is in close. I don’t envision that tendency evaporating.
The biggest impediment to Montgomery having a Williams-esque performance in 2023 and beyond is first-round rookie running back Gibbs, who was inexplicably taken with the 13th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Even though the team will absolutely be more excited to play him in the role they envisioned for DeAndre Swift, there still appears to be a defined passing game and lightning role that Gibbs will take on. While Montgomery feels fairly safe in the thunder role, churning out yards and touchdowns between the tackles. Finally, Montgomery is also not a total zero in the passing game like Williams demonstrated, the latter catching just 12 passes the entirety of last season. Montgomery has produced seasons of 25, 54, 42, and 34 receptions across his 4-year career thus far. Therefore, he provides even more versatility in the offense, despite the passing game likely not being a featured aspect of his role.
While Montgomery’s contract initially makes you think that the Lions are heavily invested in him, a closer look reveals that this is likely only a two-year deal. Following the 2024 season, Montgomery can easily be cut, turning his contract into a two-year, $12-million deal, and he would only have a dead cap hit of $2.225 million. And truthfully, they could dump him after one year, as only $3 million of his 2024 salary is guaranteed in 2024. Now that the contractual obligations are out of the way, what about the player himself?
During his four-year run in the Windy City, Montgomery only topped 1,000 yards rushing once. For fantasy purposes, barring that single 2020 season, Montgomery has been a low-end RB2. He was RB24 his rookie season in 2019, was RB19 in 2021, and a season ago, he was again RB24. Keep in mind, he was the unquestioned lead back in Chicago at that time, averaging nearly 18 touches per game for the Bears. Over that same span, the Lions never really had a true “feature back,” as their top ball carrier averaged just over 12 touches per game.
If you were a gamblin’ man, who would you bet on leading the Lions backfield in touches in 2023; the new first-round pick or the four-year vet who was allowed to walk away from the team who made him the fourth running back off the board in the 2019 and has only finished higher than RB19 once in four seasons?
– Di Bari
Ultimately, you must make decisions in a dynasty but confront that which does not fit your desired perspective. As uncomfortable as it is, it’s essential to work diligently to integrate the alternative into your overall concept to make more informed decisions.
The conversation around David Montgomery is emblematically polarizing and displays a mixture of preferences with which dynasty managers must grapple. Second-contract running backs are definitely not the target for a dynasty manager seeking an increase in the player’s value in the future. However, solid production can help maintain a contending dynasty team’s title pursuit. It remains to be seen whether the change of scenery to Detroit will be an upgrade for Montgomery and whether the role Jamaal Williams possessed a year ago still exists. What’s likely is that Montgomery will be battling the most substantial competition he’s had in a backfield yet. We’ll see who will be roaring at the end of the coming season: those who did or did not invest in Motor City Montgomery.
- Optimisery: The Case For and Against David Montgomery in Detroit - August 14, 2023
- Optimisery: The Case For and Against Miles Sanders in Carolina - August 9, 2023
- Optimisery: The Case For and Against DJ Moore in Chicago - August 2, 2023