Fantasy owners cashed in on their investment last year by selecting Chicago Bears’ running back, David Montgomery, at his 3.03 average draft position as the second-year RB finished as the RB6 in standard-scoring leagues and the RB4 in PPR leagues.
Montgomery was one of just eight running backs to eclipse 1,000 yards on the ground last season and his 54 receptions exceeded everyone’s expectations, especially when considering the fact that Tarik Cohen was slated to be the Bears’ primary pass-catching back last season.
However, Cohen going down to injury in just the third game of the season thrust Montgomery into a larger role as a complete running back, which he didn’t shy away from as he paced Bears’ playmakers with 10 total touchdowns on the season.
Fast forward to the 2021 NFL offseason and we now have a new hurdle standing in the way of Montgomery being able to repeat the fantasy success he found last season. That hurdle comes in the form of former Dolphins and Chiefs running back, Damien Williams.
Williams signed a one-year deal with Chicago on Wednesday, March 24 as he now joins the Bears’ running back room that still features Cohen alongside Montgomery.
So what does the signing of Williams mean to the fantasy value of Montgomery who just posted the RB1 production that fantasy players crave? In my opinion… very little.
Due to Williams opting out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19, the last memory fantasy players have of him is his 133-yard, two-touchdown performance against the San Francisco 49ers in the Chiefs’ 31-20 comeback victory in Super Bowl LIV.
This recency bias may factor into your league mates overdrafting Williams while pushing Montgomery down in their rankings, which if ends up being the case, you should take advantage of.
Williams entered the 2019 season as the Chiefs’ lead running back and with that came an abundance of hype as the preseason RB14 with a 3.02 ADP. However, Williams failed to live up to the hype, due in at least some capacity to injury (played in 11 games), finishing as the RB34 in standard leagues and the RB38 in PPR leagues.
There’s no denying Williams’ importance as a role player on his actual NFL team. Despite not being the focal point of any NFL offense he’s played for, we all know there was a case to be made for Williams as the game’s MVP in Super Bowl LIV, which was ultimately taken home by Patrick Mahomes.
Williams was the recipient of a five-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass from Mahomes with 2:44 remaining, and he sealed the team’s 31-20 victory with a 38-yard touchdown run with just 1:12 left on the clock.
You can even go as far back to his days in Miami with the Dolphins where Williams was rarely called upon to handle the bulk of the team’s snaps at running back, but when his number was called, he produced and filled his role nicely. While he’s been able to contribute positively for his actual NFL team throughout the six seasons he’s played, the results have never been there for him when it comes to fantasy football.
His 2019 campaign has proven to be his best fantasy season as it’s the only season he’s accumulated more than 90 fantasy points, which still placed him as a backend RB3 for the year.
Will he eat into Montgomery’s workload? Yes. Will he be seen as the team’s primary pass-catching RB alongside Cohen? Sure. However, Montgomery will undoubtedly be seen as the team’s primary ball carrier and should once again flirt with 260-300 total touches, which is the range he’s fallen into in his first two seasons in the league.
Williams will likely rotate in every once in a while to handle first- and second-down work, but more often than not those downs will belong to Montgomery and he’ll remain the team’s goal-line back and touchdown producer.
Hypothetically, if the Bears would have been able to land a quarterback this offseason other than Andy Dalton – let’s use Russell Wilson for this example – then I could see Williams putting a bigger dent into Montgomery’s fantasy production.
I say this with the belief that despite applying the franchise tag to Allen Robinson, and with the potential jump in production from second-year wide receiver Darnell Mooney, the Bears are more likely to implement a clock-control style of offense with Dalton where the running game remains the team’s focal point.
Had Wilson been brought in to be the team’s signal caller, then it’s fairly safe to say that they’d be more comfortable relying on the passing game, likely increasing the number of snaps Williams may see as a pass catcher out of the backfield.
Don’t turn your back on Montgomery this upcoming fantasy season. He may not finish in the top five in fantasy scoring once again at the position, but he’ll remain in store for the type of workload that will produce backend RB1/top-end RB2 numbers.
With a current ADP of 3.09 as the 19th running back off the board you’ll be receiving plenty of return on investment from a guy that accumulated at least 18 fantasy points in each of the team’s final five games of the season last year while totaling eight touchdowns over this time span.
Be sure to check out our 2021 NFL Draft podcast episodes as we’ve recently covered the draft’s top QB’s, RB’s, WR’s and reviewed our latest mock drafts!