Ty Montgomery Has Massive Fantasy Upside
After reaching the NFC Championship game in two of the past three years, the Green Bay Packers will enter the 2017 season as a championship contender yet again, but their running game will look a bit different. The team decided to move on from Fat Eddie (who signed a contract with the Seahawks with more weight incentives per month than most fantasy analysts make per year), and sent Christine Michael packing as well. Guard T.J. Lang also left town for the division-rival Lions, though he was ultimately replaced by six-time Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans.
At least in the short term, Ty Montgomery -- a converted slot receiver who had never been a full-time running back at any level until taking over for an injured Lacy in Week 6 last season -- looks like he'll get the first crack to be the Packers' solution at running back. Last season, they finished 29th in run play percentage, opting to feature a high-percentage, short passing game that served as an extension of the run game. While the offense suited Montgomery, he was no stranger to Mike McCarthy's doghouse for pass protection issues. Nevertheless, he still ended up playing a key role in the playoffs with the season on the line.
On the surface, it looks like it’s still Montgomery's job to lose. After failing to land a running back in free agency, the only notable additions the Packers made to their came on day three of the draft: Jamaal Williams (fourth round, BYU) and Aaron Jones (fifth round, UTEP). Williams and Jones complement each other very well; Williams has a solid overall skill set in addition to strong pass-blocking ability, while Jones has exceptional acceleration, and became the pass-catching darling of the draft community this offseason.
Will Williams and/or Jones pose an immediate threat Montgomery's workload in their first year? Can Montgomery even handle a heavy load over a full season? Does he even need to?
Montgomery's Rushing Expectation charting, which balances metrics with film evaluation (one of the toughest things to do in fantasy football) will provide some clues as to how to attack the Packers’ backfield in fantasy drafts.
Rushing Expectation: Ty Montgomery
Montgomery is built like a feature back, yet pairs rare receiving ability with elite vision in the open field. It's surprising how natural he made the transition from wide receiver to running back look, consistently showing patience and maturity between the tackles.
In charting Montgomery, I saw a runner with rare elusiveness and balance (96th percentile in yards after contact), as well as very good power and physicality at the point of attack.
In the receiving game, Montgomery catches the ball with his hands. He can catch with his back to the quarterback and consistently makes plays in tight coverage.
So far, it’s hard to be anything less than impressed with Montgomery. He passes the eye test and looked especially impressive when he was used as a receiver.
But what do the numbers say -- did Montgomery exceed or fall below expectation in 2016 from an efficiency/metrics standpoint?
The Packers' overall Expected Success Rate in '16 on rushing attempts was 43.2 percent, slightly below the 46.3-percent NFL average. Surprisingly, the offensive line provided below-average Adjusted Reception Yards as well, setting the bar low for Montgomery’s expectation in the receiving game.
Despite limited help from his blocking, Montgomery was successful as a receiver, particularly on routes from out wide or in the slot. This probably gives him a safety net in terms of usage even if Williams or Jones dig into his rushing attempts; if he takes on a larger passing-game role at the expense of carries, Aaron Rodgers will have no problem getting him the ball in space.
If Montgomery has a glaring weakness, it is his acceleration, which is relatively average among the backs I have charted (his burst is probably good enough, though). To compensate for mediocre acceleration, he relies on his understanding of pace and shows good patience approaching the line of scrimmage. Albeit in a limited sample, it’s not surprising that many of his best runs were through the middle.
Continue reading for Ty Montgomery's success rate versus expectation and overall analysis of the rest of the Packers' backfield . . .