There may be a question about it in some places, but David Montgomery is the unquestioned No. 1 running back for the Detroit Lions.
The Detroit Lions made a surprising pivot in free agency, signing David Montgomery to replace Jamaal Williams. While the deal is not earth-shattering in the big picture of NFL contracts, the Lions have essentially committed to Montgomery for two years and his signing is bad news for D’Andre Swift.
Montgomery is a well-rounded back, sure to take some of the passing down role that has been Swift’s area of superiority in the Detroit backfield. We’re all the way in on Montgomery’s fantasy upside for 2023, but Pro Football Focus’ fantasy football account posed a question that fantasy managers may be thinking about.
Swift’s inability to stay on the field consistently is well-documented. The Lions had a plan to limit the wear and tear on his body heading into last season, and he literally did not last a full game before suffering an injury.
At the NFL Combine, head coach Dan Campbell’s comments about Swift were flush with frustration. In hindsight, it was a foreshadowing of the Lions making a notable addition if Williams left in free agency–which of course they did.
"We tried to do that last year. We tried to take care of him in camp….We thought we had a recipe going into the year, and it didn’t work out,…We’re going to start all over from scratch again. Let’s find another way to see if we can help him stay on the field, you know? I already know he’s doing that for himself, so we’ve got to do that on our end. What can we do better by him? Can we? Because he’s too talented. He’s too talented to not have out there. He’s an explosive athlete.”"
The Lions are clearly unwilling to lean on Swift as a workhorse back, not that they should be willing to do so. He’s entering the final year of his rookie contract, and extension to stay in Detroit is not coming.
Montgomery is not as explosive with the ball in his hands as Swift is, which isn’t breaking any news. But he is elusive, reliable, durable and a complete back. From a fantasy perspective Swift is on the radar as the handcuff to Montgomery, albeit a higher-end handcuff if you were to rank them, but not a whole lot more than that.
As long as he’s healthy, Montgomery will be the Lions’ No. 1 running back throughout 2023. There is no doubt about it.