David Montgomery Fantasy Outlook: An Underrated RB Plays a New Role With the Detroit Lions

    The longtime starter now plays second fiddle to rookie Jahmyr Gibbs. What is Detroit Lions RB David Montgomery's fantasy outlook in 2023?

    At PFN, we’ve researched more than 350 fantasy football players, trying to identify which ones are overrated, underrated, and priced right. With that in mind, here is Detroit Lions RB David Montgomery’s fantasy outlook for 2023.

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    David Montgomery’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook

    It’s not often that a 26-year-old starting running back leaves one team for a divisional rival — with both franchises in serious playoff contention. But Montgomery isn’t a typical 26-year-old RB. Or maybe he is because the modern NFL doesn’t have a lot of longtime RB starters who are still producing entering Year 5.

    Some fantasy managers knock Montgomery because of recent durability issues (five missed games since 2021) or because of his pedestrian running (3.9 yards per carry for his career). But a case could be made that he’s one of the most underrated RBs playing today.

    After finishing as the overall RB4 in 2020, he tied Elijah Mitchell as the RB15 in points per game the following year — just a hair behind Josh Jacobs and Aaron Jones.

    You won’t hear Montgomery mentioned in the same breath as Jacobs or Jones. Why? Perhaps because his career appears to be on the decline. People point to his RB28 in points per game last season, for example.

    However, we need to dig a bit deeper for context. Montgomery mustered only three touches before getting hurt in Week 3 of 2022. And with two weeks remaining and the Bears headed toward the league’s worst record, Montgomery earned his two lowest snap shares as a healthy starter, averaging out at 51%.

    In his other 13 full games, he averaged a respectable 13.0 fantasy points per game, which would have placed him just behind Najee Harris as the RB21.

    In the end, Montgomery is a more punishing version of Jamaal Williams without the massive 2022 touchdown total. Both are built similarly, possess similar efficiency metrics, and are adept in the passing game.

    But despite earning 235+ touches in each of his four campaigns, Montgomery has never been a huge TD guy. Even in his 2020 breakout season, he hit “only” 10 scores. The three guys ahead of him in the fantasy rankings had 17+.

    Montgomery is also one of the best tackle-breaking RBs in the NFL, period. Whether on the ground or through the air, his broken-tackle rate has been elite for three years and near-elite the other year (2021). With health, volume, and TD opportunities, Montgomery can enjoy a Williams-like campaign in 2023.

    Of course, there’s a catch. While Detroit let Williams walk and traded away the brilliant and often-injured D’Andre Swift, the team drafted consensus No. 2 rookie RB Jahmyr Gibbs.

    The young back is expected to take over this RB corps on Day 1, and he likely deserves to. While lacking Montgomery’s size, Gibbs possesses the skills to become a three-down NFL RB.

    The major question for Montgomery is whether he can be a 10-touch 1B option. He doesn’t need much more than that while operating in the best offense of his career. As the thunder to Gibbs’ lightning, Montgomery could play a Williams role to great effect.

    Craig Reynolds and Jermar Jefferson are bringing up the rear in this backfield. Neither poses a threat to Montgomery, who picked up $11 million guaranteed this offseason. The Lions didn’t just sign him; they really wanted him. They clearly plan to use him. We simply don’t know how.

    As a result, the veteran RB is the ultimate glorified handcuff. If Gibbs goes down, Montgomery could be a top-14 fantasy RB in this offense. And even playing behind Gibbs, Montgomery could have TD-dependent and catch-dependent appeal.

    It won’t be easy. And in three of Montgomery’s seasons, it hasn’t been easy. He’s fought through anemic offenses and injuries to get to where he is. A strong case could be made that he still has the juice to deliver.

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