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Detroit Lions Team Preview: David Montgomery | Fantasy Football

David Montgomery Fantasy

If the NFL decided to officially crown the Detroit Lions as “America’s Team,” I don’t think anyone (besides Cowboy fans) would oppose it. Dan Campbell’s fiery pressers and the blue-collar, underdog attitude of the team have won over the hearts of many since Campbell took over as head coach in 2021. The best part about last season is that they actually won some games! Graduating from the “Loveable Losers” label, they were in the hunt for a wildcard playoff spot until the final week of 2022 but fell just short of a postseason bid after a 9-8 record.

The Lions now have proven they can win. They are going into 2023, hoping it all comes together with a few new pieces added into the mix. One of those more expensive pieces is running back David Montgomery.

David Montgomery 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook

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“Monty” spent his first four seasons with the Chicago Bears. He’s always been in the mid-RB2 range for fantasy, except for his peak season in 2020, where he finished as the RB4. Now he will head across Lake Michigan, about 300 miles east, to Detroit after signing a three-year, $18 million contract this off-season. 

The move to Detroit appears to be a complete upgrade to Montgomery’s situation. Jared Goff hasn’t recorded a rushing touchdown since 2020, making him much less of a threat to steal away those juicy scoring opportunities. Last season, Lion’s RB Jamaal Williams saw a league-high 25 rushing attempts inside the five-yard line, and we can pretty much guarantee that Monty will be the goal-line back in 2023. Montgomery is also getting a significant offensive line upgrade with his new team. According to Pro Football Focus’ offensive line rankings, the Lions are a Top 5 unit heading into this season. 

How does he compare to Jamaal?

So we know the situation looks good, but can Monty repeat what Jamaal Williams did? I would LOVE to project 17 rushing touchdowns for Montgomery, but he’s highly unlikely to match Williams in that category. Touchdowns can be a flukey stat from year to year, so we never want to put too much stock into it. However, he will undoubtedly be a candidate for double-digit scores. Vegas has his rushing TD over/under at 6.5. That’s the same number as backs like Joe Mixon and Rhamondre Stevenson to give you an idea of how bullish Vegas is on Monty’s projection.

The efficiency stats are similar if we compare Montgomery and Williams as rushers (Source: Pro Football Reference). Fun fact: They currently have the same number of career rush attempts (915). The glaring difference is Monty’s ability to break tackles and create yards on his own. Bringing that dynamic to this offense will lead to the best version of Monty that we’ve seen since his blow-up at the end of 2020.

CAREER STATS David Montgomery Jamaal Williams
Yards Before Contact/attempt 2.0 2.3
Yards After Contact/attempt 2.0 1.7
Yards/ Carry 3.9 4.0
Attempts/ Broken Tackle 9.8 21.3

Current Roster Competition and 2023 Projection

The presence of Detroit’s 2023 first-round running back, Jahmyr Gibbs, adds some complexity to the situation. We will probably get more clarity on how the split will look as the off-season progresses. Gibbs is a dynamic playmaker, but his small frame isn’t built for a heavy workload. I don’t see a scenario where Gibbs leads the backfield in carries over Montgomery. The two backs will work well together as compliments which is very common in modern times as we continue to see a decline in “workhorse” running backs. Every year, we see more running back committees yield top fantasy backs, so don’t be afraid of ambiguous backfields. 

Detroit shed three players that accounted for 403 carries last season, including Jamaal Williams, D’Andre Swift, and Justin Jackson. Williams carried the ball 262 times, so let’s project 240 for Monty for this exercise. I believe Gibbs will have his set role, so I won’t expect the exact same rushing volume that Jamaal received.

As mentioned earlier, both backs average similar yards per attempt. But when you compare team situations and other underlying metrics like broken tackle rate and yards created, Monty is the superior runner. Williams averaged 4.1 yards per carry in 2022. Montgomery’s career-high for a season is 4.3 yards per attempt, which was in a far worse situation than what he will step into this year. I’ll give him a conservative bump to 4.4 yards per carry on the projected 240 attempts.

His involvement as a receiver is tricky to project. Monty has always been underrated as a receiver, drawing an average target share of 12% over the last three seasons (been in the Top 12 among RBs each year). But Gibbs should excel as a pass-catcher and take over the receiving role, so I’ll put in an 8% share for Monty this season. The Lions attempted 588 passes in 2022, so the same volume would yield about 47 targets at an 8% rate. I’d expect 38 receptions based on his 79.9% catch rate. If we apply Montgomery’s career yards per target average of 6.4 (Pro Football Reference), that gives him 301 receiving yards. 

These oversimplified projections would probably offend ESPN’s Mike Clay, but they line up with historical data. The final stat line comes out to 1,056 rushing yards and 301 receiving or 1,357 total yards (career-high: 1,508). If he can score half the amount of times that Williams did, we’re looking at about 8 TDs. 

My 2023 projection: 222 total PPR points. That would have placed him as the RB14 in 2022. Even if you consider those as ceiling projections, it shows that a borderline RB1 season is within his range of outcomes. 

ADP Value 

Most drafters will be attracted to the shiny new toy in Gibbs, which will suppress Monty’s ADP. Based on Underdog Best Ball drafts, Montgomery is taken as the 26th running back off the board on average. His worst season finish is RB24! 

There is minimal downside to selecting Monty as your RB2-3, and he holds plenty of upside if he ever gets a chance to take over this backfield completely. Sometimes the boring pick can turn into a league-winner, and David Montgomery fits the bill perfectly. 

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A Look Inside the Detroit Lions

Editor’s Note: We don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Drew focused on David Montgomery in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the other fantasy-relevant Lions written by Ryan Weisse.

Jared Goff

The home/road splits for Goff last year were insane. In nine home games, Goff completed 38 more passes for 506 more yards and 17 more TDs than his eight road games. Yes, 17 TOUCHDOWNS! He was a completely different player. From Weeks 12-17, or what some call the fantasy playoffs, he was a top-5 QB. Another year in the offense should bring growth, but he is still only a streaming option and much better when he is in the Motor City.

Jahmyr Gibbs

He is expected to take the role vacated by D’Andre Swift, which netted 70 targets in 14 games last year. If he can claim more than Swift’s 99 carries, he should be in the RB2 discussion with a very high ceiling.

Amon-Ra St. Brown

  1. He is amazing!
  2. Who else is there?

The Sun God should again be peppered with targets and find himself in the fantasy Top 10. If Goff can figure out how to throw TDs on the road, Top 5 and a push to Top 3 are not out of the question. Amon-Ra St. Brown is a steal in fantasy drafts.

Jameson Williams

Williams missed most of his rookie year recovering from a knee injury. He didn’t do much when he played, but his lone reception was a 41-yard TD, precisely what we hope to see from the speedster. Now, he’ll miss six games due to Calvin Ridley Syndrome, but that should put the cherry on top of his rehab. He has a different skill set to any other DET WR and should immediately shine when integrated into the offense. His draft capital will be the final determination of his value. He is worth it if you can land him after Round 12 as a lottery pick. If your league wants him in the middle rounds, let them, and wait til they get impatient and cut him.

Sam LaPorta

TJ Hockenson was heavily targeted during his time in Detroit. After they traded him, the volume to the position plummeted, but so did the talent. LaPorta should fix the talent issue, but it remains to be seen if the volume will return. There is TD upside here, but rookie TEs take time and usually end up underperforming. LaPorta should primarily be viewed as a streaming option.

We will be covering every team this offseason. So check back here often for all of our A Look Inside articles