Bobby Back (@WKBobbyBack)
One of the biggest mysteries in fantasy football circles right now is the future of converted running back Ty Montgomery.
The Packers have one of the leagues most electrifying offenses, led by the enigmatic Aaron Rodgers and his cavalcade of receivers. Following the addition of Martellus Bennett, running back remains the only question mark.
After Eddie Lacy injured his ankle in week 5 of last season, Montgomery answered the call for the Packers and was plugged into their injury ravaged backfield. He went on to rush the ball 77 times for 457 yards at an impressive 5.9 YPC for 3 touchdowns.
Since then, the Packers have allowed Lacy to leave for the Seahawks, cut James Starks and UDFA Don Jackson and drafted three running backs. With excessive turnover in the backfield, Ty Montgomery remains the only constant.
Reports suggest that Montgomery is closer to his 2015 Combine weight of 221 pounds, after slimming down to play receiver. Prior to the draft, experts believed Montgomery was built like a running back and performed best with the ball in his hands. These traits made the mid-season transition smoother and put Montgomery in a position to succeed.
Montgomery is atop the depth chart for now but will he be able to make the most of his opportunity?
Montgomery started to receive more carries from week 7 onwards. The Packers made the move official after their week 14 clash against the Seahawks. Buoyed by this, Montgomery piled up 162 yards at a staggering 10.1 YPC with two touchdowns against their divisional rivals, the Bears. This was the only time the Packers gave Montgomery more than 10 carries.
Never fully trusting the converted wideout, he was limited in volume and only ran the ball more than 7 times on five occasions. Despite this Montgomery was incredibly productive:
|7 vs. CHI||9||60||6.7||0|
|9 vs. IND||7||53||7.6||0|
|13 vs. HOU||6||40||6.7||0|
|14 vs. SEA||9||41||4.6||1|
|15 @ CHI||16||162||10.1||2|
|16 vs. MIN||9||23||2.6||0|
|17 @ DET||8||44||5.5||0|
Excluding week 16 against the Vikings, Montgomery’s averaged 6.8 yards per carry and topped 50 yards twice, breaking 100 yards only once.
As a receiver he amassed 348 yards off 44 catches, lining up out wide or coming out of the backfield. He was targeted with a lot of short passes and looked to gain yards in catch and run situations.
Montgomery only rushed the ball 77 times as he transitioned to running back. This is a relatively small sample size and since week 7 he averaged 7.2 carries a game, only rushing 5 times in the first 6 weeks of the season.
Montgomery favored finding space on the edge and bouncing the ball outside; this occurred on 41.6% of his carries. He was able to find gaps and break for big plays across the line, totaling 7 runs of 15 yards or more.
He also showed the ability to run the ball up the middle, averaging 5.4 yards on 13 carries, and only gained zero or negative yardage twice. As a projected three down back in 2017, Montgomery will need to prove he can handle the increased workload.
Looking at this small sample size, Montgomery could be considered a ‘boom or bust’ runner. 10.4% of his carries went for negative or zero yards and 41.6% of his attempts went between 2-4 yards. His yard per carry average was helped significantly by his 12 rushes or more than 10 yards; 15.6% of his total.
Montgomery’s four rushing touchdowns, including a divisional round score against the Cowboys, highlighted his varied skillset at the goal line. His first, against the Seahawks, a head down pile moving drive contrasted well with his second a week later. Montgomery skipped out to the right before brushing past the onrushing defensive back, and accelerating to the pylon. Within the same game and receiving another red zone carry, Montgomery showed patience and allowed the offensive line to open up gaps for him to gratefully sidestep through.
|Runs Per Quarter|
|1st Quarter||2nd Quarter||3rd Quarter||4th Quarter|
The Packers preferred to used Montgomery early in the half and tended to move away from him as the game progressed. On a team who build first half leads, he can be used as a tone setter early and as the trust grows could be used to salt the game away late in the quarters.
Montgomery is a hard to tackle, patient runner with good balance. He should build on his transition season and could emerge as the undisputed starter in Green Bay. Playing with one of the best quarterbacks of all time, will keep defenses honest and provide the opportunity for Montgomery to succeed.
He will always be a threat coming out of the backfield and his experience as a route runner will keep him on the field in passing situations.
Although many fans are worried that bulking up will hinder Montgomery’s elusiveness, the difference is a matter of pounds and shouldn’t heavily impact the tough to tackle runner.
Worries surround Montgomery’s ability in pass protection, ranked at 66.3 in 2016 on Pro Football Focus (PFF) pass blocking metric. As a former wide receiver, this part of his game has largely been ignored but he has worked hard through the offseason to prepare himself mentally and physically to deal with defense blitz packages. This knock on Montgomery will also apply to the incoming rookies, who won’t have faced NFL quality pass rushers in college.
Currently, he is being drafted as the running back 21 and the 51st player overall. In a 10 team league that would put him firmly in the middle of the fifth round and on the RB2 fringes. He would be a perfect option for drafters who opt for wide receivers early.
Having drafted three other rushers, there will be fierce competition for snaps. But the opportunity to impress is there for Montgomery in an explosive offense lacking a feature back. He has a safe floor and should see a good number of carries and receptions. Big play potential makes him an attractive option as an RB2 and, with consistency, could move into RB1 consideration.