Before I get started, let me make this perfectly clear: David Montgomery was a league-winner last year, there is no denying that. In the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16), he was the RB6, RB2, and RB8. That’s a championship waiting to happen, especially considering where you drafted him last year. However, this isn’t a happy article, so wipe that smug look off your face. Today we are going to look at why you should be putting Monty on the block as soon as possible. Let’s take a look.
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Cohen The Barbarian
When Tarik Cohen tore his ACL back in the 4th quarter of Chicago’s Week 3 game, it made a huge impact on David Montgomery. Despite not being the most efficient running back, when it comes to the passing game, Tarik Cohen demanded volume. From 2017-2019, Cohen shared the Chicago backfield each year, twice with Jordan Howard and once with David Montgomery. His target totals from those seasons are as follows: 71, 89, and 104. That’s an average of 88 targets-per-year, and that’s only the beginning. His impact is incredible to Monty’s overall playing time. Let’s look at Cohen’s actual effect on Monty with some splits. With Tarik Cohen getting injured at the end of their Week 3 game against Atlanta, we don’t have a large sample size from 2020 to look at, but it is interesting to see the difference:
David Montgomery Passing Volume
|Time Span||Fantasy PPG||Avg Snaps||Passing Snaps||Targets|
|2020- Weeks 1-3||12.5||51.6%||20 per game||3 per game|
|2020- Weeks 4-17||18.9||80.1%||35 per game||5 per game|
|2019||10.7||57.5%||17 per game||2 per game|
As I said, 2020 is a very small sample size but it brings up the question: how much did Cohen affect David Montgomery in 2019? Now, take into account that this was David Montgomery’s rookie year, so his snaps were limited to start the season. However, even as he got more involved, Cohen stayed a part of the game plan, like he does every year.
In PPR leagues, pass-catching matters, and 3-down roles matter. Finishing as a top-10 RB with little passing work, outside of Derrick Henry, is a hard feat to accomplish. It has been shown that Tarik Cohen getting hurt affected how often Monty was put into a position to catch passes. The team even targeted the RB position in 2020 less than it had the past three years. From 2017 to 2019, an average of 26.5% of Chicago’s targets went to the RB position. That dropped to 19% in 2020. In 2019, RBs were targeted on 29% of passes, the same year Monty shared the field all year with Cohen and Monty only received 33 targets. Despite his improvement as a runner, he still needs the passing work to break the mold. Last season, 41.3% of Monty’s fantasy points came from receiving, totaling 109.8 points. If he were to lose 60% percent of that, he drops from the RB4 to RB15.
Side Note: This year saw a dip in RB targets across the board, the average targets among top-10 fantasy RBs dropped from 80 to 56. The average from the last three years was 85, so if that jumps back up, it’ll make it even more difficult for an RB with low volume in the passing game to return to the top-10. The crack in Montgomery’s armor doesn’t stop there.
Surprisingly Soft Schedule
While studying David Montgomery’s season, something felt off. Earlier in the year, I would’ve sworn Monty was not meeting expectations. Was I going crazy? No, I’m already there, so it must have been something else. So I took a deeper look. What if I told you his average weekly finish from Weeks 1-9 was only RB25. He only finished in the top-15 three times, was outside the top-20 in the other six games, and even outside the top-35 three times. Then, like a cheesy Disney movie, this man gets clocked and becomes the hero we all needed. From Weeks 12-16, his average weekly finish was RB5. WTF dude? How, Zach? How? Here are his RB finishes so you can see for yourself:
Wk 1-17 in order: RB38, RB8, RB41, RB25, RB13, RB14, RB21, RB21, RB48, DNP, BYE, RB6, RB1, RB6, RB2, RB8, RB31.
For one thing, he scored just one rushing TD before their Week 11 bye and scored seven from Week 12 on. It also helps that he faced GB (x2), DET, HOU, MIN, and JAX. One defense that bleeds to RB, three rebuilding teams, and MIN, where Monty had 34 touches. Funny enough, when he faced other poor run defenses, DET and ATL, earlier in the year, he flopped. It was that hot run at the end of the year that won you leagues and created my final point: Move on from Monty now for max return.
Perfect Storms Create Treasure
With Cohen getting hurt and Monty getting just about the best schedule you could ask for to end the season, it seems like the perfect storm was created. This was an even bigger storm than when Philadelphia won the ‘ship in 2017. However, perfect storms sink ships…but then, treasure can be found. Hot streaks at the end of the year create a fun opportunity to sell an asset that may not be able to repeat. Yes, Montgomery is in a contract year — he’s eligible for an extension after 2021 — but Cohen is coming back and the schedule, on paper, is much more difficult (CHI faces SF, BAL, NYG, CLE, LAR, SEA, and TB in 2021). The Bears will have to rely on Nick Foles, Mitchell Trubisky, or a rookie QB to run this offense with an offensive line they don’t have the money to fix. The offensive line was pretty decent in 2020, despite injuries to a couple of players, but consistency has always been its issue, an issue that could occur again in 2021. The Bears are currently 23rd in available cap space and have positions that need that money more than their line.
It’ll be a few years until Chicago gets going again and by then, it’ll be contract time for Monty. It reminds me of Jordan Howard. There was a time I tried to trade away Keenan Allen for Howard and was turned down. Don’t make the same mistake my league mate did. Cash in now. You won’t be able to get as much for him this time next year. Maybe pair him with some picks to land a couple of 1st rounders, or even use him with another asset to get a truly elite player. Seize this opportunity quickly, his flame gets smaller every day and eventually, his price tag will be a solid hold. Stagnant in a dynasty is never a good idea.