While expectations shifted after Jahmyr Gibbs was drafted, being in on Lions running back David Montgomery as a fantasy football commodity has been consistent here. Simply being in a better situation, running behind one of the league's best offensive lines, sets him up for success this year on his new team.
The fantasy buzz around Gibbs, at least for those who are all-in on it, leads to Montgomery being set aside or even dismissed. That vibe is shifting a bit recently, with plenty of touches and production to go around in the Lions' backfield and the Gibbs' hype reaching iffy territory.
On a recent list of 2023 fantasy breakout candidates from Pro Football Network, analyst Kyle Yates tabbed Montgomery.
"David Montgomery has put some solid seasons on display in the past, but fantasy managers seem to be completely out on the veteran RB now that he’s in his new offense in Detroit. However, this could easily be the season where Montgomery defies expectations and dramatically outperforms his ADP.
Jamaal Williams was a fantasy star last season due to his role in this high-powered Lions offense. While he was known for his touchdown production in 2022, Williams also put up over 1,000 rushing yards running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL."
"Montgomery now slides into Williams’ vacated role, and he’s expected to be the thunder to Jahmyr Gibbs’ lightning. With Gibbs expected to be moved around the formation as a receiver to compensate for the thin WR depth chart, Montgomery should easily see 15+ touches per game this season.- Kyle Yates, Pro Football Network
If that’s the case, in an offense that spent a ton of time in the red zone last season, Montgomery could surpass all of our expectations and be a league winner in 2023."
Is 2023 set to be David Montgomery's fantasy breakout?
Montgomery has been an RB2 (top-24) in fantasy in each of his first four NFL seasons, all with the Chicago Bears of course. In 2020, he had what qualifies as a breakout season. He finished as RB6 in standard scoring, and RB4 in full PPR as well as 0.5-point PPR.
Here's what his numbers looked like in 2020: 247 carries for 1,070 yards, eight touchdowns; 54 receptions for 438 yards, two touchdowns
Montgomery's 301 touches in 2020 were the fourth-most in the league. His 44 red zone carries were eighth-most in the league, with a two-thirds share (66.7 percent) of the Bears' red zone carries that year.
With the Lions this year, if only because he will be hard-pressed to get to or top 50 receptions due to Gibbs' receiving prowess, it's hard to see Montgomery getting to 300 touches. But a heavy dose of work in the red zone is certainly in the offing, and that puts double-digit scores in play for him.
It's fair to say Montgomery already had a breakout fantasy season, even if feels like longer than three years ago as the Bears dissolved into a rebuild. But if you're looking for a back who has a great chance to outperform a mid-round, RB3 level ADP when you draft, and fits a "zero running back" draft strategy very nicely, Montgomery is a poster boy.