With a better situation as the Detroit Lions’ lead back, David Montgomery’s fantasy upside for 2023 goes way up.
The Detroit Lions made a notable move late on Day 2 of free agency, signing David Montgomery to a three-year deal to become their new lead running back. He’ll replace Jamaal Willams, who topped 1,000 yards on the ground last season and set the single-season franchise record with 17 rushing touchdowns on his way to being RB7 in fantasy (standard scoring, through Week 18).
Montgomery topped 200 carries and 800 rushing yards in all four of his seasons with the Chicago Bears. In his best season, 2020, he rushed for 1,070 yards with eight touchdowns while adding 54 receptions for 438 yards and two more scores.
That season, Montgomery was RB6 in standard scoring and RB4 in full PPR.
Montgomery followed with finishes of RB20 in 2021 and RB21 in 2022 (standard fantasy scoring). That also correlated with missing four games (2021), splitting work at times with Khalil Herbert and having a mobile quarterback in Justin Fields vulturing some production.
David Montgomery fantasy upside goes way up as a Detroit Lion
A bad Bears offensive line has to be noted. But Montgomery’s missed tackles forced (number and rate), yards created, etc. numbers have always been quite good going back to college. Behind the Lions offensive line, one of the best in the league, he could turn what were shorter runs by Williams last year into bigger chunks on the ground.
Repeating Williams’ red zone rushing volume (57 carries) and proficiency (16 touchdowns) from last year is not realistic for anyone, Montgomery included. But he would be stepping into the broad role in terms of percentage of Detroit’s red zone carries, so double-digit rushing scores is in play. And a stray receiving touchdown or two wouldn’t be out of the question.
The potential fly in Montgomery’s fantasy boom ointment next season is D’Andre Swift. But he has not shown he can stay on the field. Lions head coach Dan Campbell has also said they’d effectively be going back to square one with ideas to keep him healthy.
Montgomery should have no trouble getting 230-250 carries next season, and when it comes down to it he’ll take more passing game targets than Williams did.
260-270 touches, with 1,300-1,400 total yards, 30-40 catches and 10-12 total touchdowns is well within range for Montgomery next season. Those kind of numbers would’ve easily been a top-10 fantasy running back last year.
Montgomery’s fantasy floor for 2023 is what he’s been in three of his first four seasons–a top 20-24 back and an RB2 for his owners. But he’s got a path to being the top-10 fantasy running back he was in 2020, and his ADP when draft season really ramps up will be interesting to see.