It probably doesn’t feel like it, but after a year of confusion in their offensive backfield, I think the Green Bay Packers knew what they were doing when they let Eddie Lacy walk as a free agent. It’s true that not bringing back Lacy created a hole in one of the best offenses in the NFL, but that was arguably only in name.
Quite honestly, an argument can be made the Packers had their full-time replacement for an increasingly overweight, inconsistent and unreliable Lacy in former wide receiver, Ty Montgomery. While doing so in a limited role, Montgomery thrived as a receiver convert, piling on 457 rushing yards on just 77 carries – good for a gaudy 5.9 yards per carry average.
Green Bay wisely refused to put too heavy of a burden on Montgomery, who admittedly struggled with pass protection and other nuances of being an every down NFL rusher. He was appropriately used often as a receiver out of the backfield, however, tacking on 44 catches for 348 yards through the air. Through it all, Green Bay may have found a gem and in the fantasy football realm, a budding star was born. Montgomery finished 2016 as the 38th best running back in fantasy, even though he scored just three times on the year and didn’t rush more than three times in any game until week 7.
It doesn’t take long to look at Montgomery’s tape to see a guy who has the vision, short area quickness and decision-making to hit holes and eat up chunk yardage. He also has the compact build and toughness of a running back and was graded by many teams as a better rushing prospect than a receiver coming out of Stanford. That all remains true, with only a few hiccups to Montgomery’s fantasy football prominence; competition, pass protection and consistency.
We really don’t know what Montgomery can be yet, and perhaps that’s more troubling than anything else. He’s got the physical and cognitive attributes of a successful NFL runner, he’s got the soft hands, timing and elusiveness to be effective as a receiver and he appears to have the work ethic and drive to strive to improve where he has flaws. Still, this is a dude that has a career high in carries of just 16 and topped even 9 carries just one time.
There is work to be done to iron out any minor flaws, to really get Montgomery ready for a big load and to make sure there aren’t any other hidden flaws that could pop up. Of the glaring variety, we know he hasn’t been as good as the Packers would like at helping with blitz pickup. Montgomery is said to be improving in that regard, but that’s going to end up being rather crucial to his time (and success) on the field.
Montgomery isn’t a pushover and he’s working on this aspect, so there is hope that he will figure things out in time to secure the top job. That hopefully will take care of the competition aspect, but as we touched on earlier, the Packers did a great job of not just moving on from a guy that wasn’t the answer anymore, but making sure they had several viable options that could end up replacing him.
Green Bay clearly hopes Montgomery is that guy any by all accounts, the 24-year old seems to be the player they want in the backfield with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers did draft Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones to at worst provide depth and versatility, and at best give Montgomery a serious run for his money.
I’m just not sure it matters for us in fantasy football. You are not risking that much right now for a talented and versatile option in one of the league’s best offenses, as Montgomery can be had at the end of round 4 or early in round 5 in most 12-team fantasy football drafts (based on ADP at FFC), or the middle of round 5 in 10-team leagues.
Montgomery is being drafted as a potential RB2 or Flex option and you still have plenty of time to load up with other running back fliers, including possibly handcuffing Jamaal Williams to him. This is the route I’d suggest, although if you feel you can get Montgomery closer to round 5, that’s ideal.
The point here is you’re getting a primo piece of the Green Bay pie at a discount, yet we all saw what this kid could do in a limited role a year ago. Simple math could tell us just how much upside he has, and if we’re enhancing his role, Ty Montgomery’s fantasy outlook could be through the roof:
Ty Montgomery’s performance in limited snaps at running back suggests he could be in for a big year in 2017 pic.twitter.com/c71HGoAuht
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 5, 2017
There are no guarantees here. Perhaps Montgomery won’t hold up as a lead rusher. Maybe he will regress due to his shaky pass protection concerns, or it’s even possible Green Bay just rolls out a full blown running back by committee approach.
Any of that could happen, but in rounds 4-5, the running back pool starts to thin out fast. If you’re not taking Montgomery, you’re banking on LeGarrette Blount seeing a huge load with a new Eagles team, Mike Gillislee being a monster in a loaded New England backfield, Adrian Peterson not being washed up or Ameer Abdullah producing and staying healthy.
There are more options and there are other concerns. You’re taking a risk with some possible reward one way or the other, and at that point in fantasy drafts, Montomgery is shaping up as one of the better gambles to roll with. Just make sure you snag Jamaal Williams in rounds 10-11 just in case it doesn’t work out.