David Montgomery agreed to sign with the Lions on Tuesday night, teaming up with D’Andre Swift to form one of the better thunder-and-lightning running back duos in the NFL. This leaves Khalil Herbert as the RB1 on the Bears for the time being (Chicago did sign Travis Homer), although there’s still plenty of time for Chicago to add competition. Jamaal Williams — who was perhaps the most recognizable voice for the Lions last year, at least among the players — is an unrestricted free agent and will likely now sign elsewhere.
What does this mean for fantasy purposes? Let’s dig in.
Old projection: 189.0 carries for 765.5 yards and 4.7 TDs, 32.8 catches on 42.0 targets for 269.0 yards and 0.9 TDs
New projection: 207.9 carries for 853.2 yards and 5.82 TDs, 27.5 catches on 34.8 targets for 217.6 yards and 0.9 TDs
- Montgomery has averaged 53.0 targets over the past three seasons, a mark he’s unlikely to hit now that he’s sharing a backfield with Swift. Still, it’s easy to paint yourself a picture of how Montgomery delivers a strong fantasy season with the Lions; just look at the league-leading 17 TDs Williams had last year. He should inherit the bulk of RB carries for the Lions immediately.
- Detroit also paid Montgomery $11 million guaranteed, which certainly isn’t breaking the bank, but that’s no small price for a running back either. That level of investment indicates he’s a big part of their plans moving forward, and it’s fair to pencil him in for at least the role Williams held last year (if not an even higher share of early-down carries).
- The Lions demonstrated a couple of times last year they didn’t want to rely solely on Williams if Swift was injured. That philosophy could change with Montgomery considering he’s proven more as an every-down back than Williams, but it’s worth keeping in mind that they could factor in multiple backs if Swift gets hurt.
Old projection: 153.7 carries for 722.4 yards and 5.7 TDs, 61.0 catches on 80.9 targets for 459.3 yards and 2.4 TDs
New projection: 149.2 carries for 701.2 yards and 5.5 TDs, 54.7 catches on 72.6 targets for 412.0 yards and 2.2 TDs
- Swift topped a 28.2% carries share just once in his final 13 games. He was dealing with various injuries throughout the year, so it’s unclear how heavily we should weigh last year as a data point. Still, the decision to sign someone like Montgomery indicates they want to continue to lean on another back in the ground game while maximizing Swift’s ability as a receiver. We think Montgomery will be the primary early-down back (with Swift maybe factoring in slightly more, assuming he is fully healthy for the start of the 2023 campaign) with the Georgia product continuing to handle the majority of work on passing downs.
Old projection: 151.2 carries for 672.8 yards and 3.6 TDs, 14.2 catches on 18.9 targets for 107.9 yards and 0.4 TDs
New projection: 160.4 carries for 713.7 yards and 3.8 TDs, 20.8 catches on 27.8 targets for 158.9 yards and 0.7 TDs
- We were already somewhat bullish on Herbert’s rushing attempts knowing Montgomery was a UFA and that he could sign somewhere else, so his projection didn’t jump too much. Herbert is the clear lead back for the Bears right now, but there’s still the rest of free agency and the entire NFL Draft to get through before he’ll truly catapult up the ranks. We are currently baking in a fairly good chance that they add another back. Herbert also hasn’t been a big producer in the passing game through the first two years of his career, so a significant increase in production in that department is still a leap of faith.
- With that being said, Herbert’s role expanded throughout the year and the Chicago coaching staff was saying all the right things about the 24-year-old, so the expectation should be that he maintains a significant early-down role regardless of who else the Bears add.
- We are projecting Williams as a committee back wherever he signs with a respectable share of carries and a relatively low target share. He’s no more than a late-round flier in fantasy drafts now that he’s presumably gone from the Lions.