Every year fantasy pundits throw blows over who they like/dislike in drafts. Yahoo’s cast of characters is no different. Throughout the picking season, we’ll provide two sides to the story to help you decide between Player A or Player B. Read. React. And choose a winner.
Today’s showdown: Hyped rookie running backs, David Montgomery (46.5 ADP, RB22) vs. Josh Jacobs (42.7, RB20).
Brad bears down with David Montgomery
In his preseason debut, Montgomery instantly delivered on the hype leaving viewers with mouths agape. Elusiveness, vision, power, balance, hands — all of his tricks were on display. His jump cut on a 7-yard TD gallop was a graduate-level move. Head coach Matt Nagy, who’s steadily gushed about the rookie this summer, continued to talk him up. Franchise legend Matt Forte came away impressed. And my pants mysteriously vanished.
The rookie possesses the necessary tools and environment to blast box scores starting Week 1 against Green Bay. He’s the only RB in the advanced analytics era to accumulate 100 missed tackles in a college season, and he did it twice behind a pair of questionable Iowa St. lines. His 0.37 missed tackles forced per touch outpaced Saquon Barkley and Kareem Hunt. Suffice it to say, he embarrasses defenders at the point of attack, leaving them hugging air. Also an accomplished receiver, he’s a legit three-down back with a similar athletic profile as Hunt, who recall exploded under Nagy’s tutelage in Kansas City.
Ignore the cowards who steadfastly claim Mike Davis poses a meaningful threat or Tarik Cohen will limit Montgomery to early-down only work. On 270 touches last season, a far less talented Jordan Howard finished RB20 in .5 PPR. The youngster’s superior skills will dwarf Howard’s pedestrian efficiency, likely on 15-plus touches per game. Toss in Chicago’s solid offensive line and positive game scripts due to an elite defense, and the sky’s the limit. Conservatively, 1,300 total yards with 7-9 TDs are on the horizon. Grabbing him in Round 4 isn’t an overreach. His ceiling is top-10.
The volume for Jacobs is obviously there, but Oakland’s suspect line, vulnerable defense and Antonio Brown drama cap the RB’s potential.
Mount up Monty and you won’t regret it. The kid will be a gale force in the Windy City.
Matt makes the case for Josh Jacobs
Here comes a boring, mostly volume-based argument. One that’s overall a nitpick since both of these players are fine selections at current cost.
Jacobs was the lone running back taken in Round 1. The Raiders telegraphed his selection to the point he was a consensus mocked pick at he 24th pick, right where he went on draft night. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden clearly wanted to find a foundation running back for their offense and identified Jacobs as that guy. The Raiders wanted to be a run-heavy team last year. While they finished with a paltry 38.9 run play percentage in 2018, that bumped to 44 percent when the score was within three points. Now the 21-year-old rookie now walks into a near barren depth chart occupying solely by veteran vagabond Doug Martin and middling pass-catching only option Jalen Richard.
The same cannot be said for my colleague's client. Montgomery is talented enough to be a feature back and I have him projected to push 250 touches but when we’re splitting hairs, the presence of Tarik Cohen especially, and yes even Mike Davis does matter.
Cohen was the team’s most efficient pass-catcher last year and the second-most efficient receiving running back in the league (minimum 40 targets) with a 57 percent success rate. He might not clear 90 targets again but 80-plus is well within the range of outcomes. Making matters worse for Montgomery, Cohen will be the preferred option in negative game scripts. The Bears will be in those situations more often this coming season due to natural defensive regression. As for Davis, he was a thorn in the side of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny’s volume last year. The Bears brass didn’t pay him $3 Million per year to just sit around.
The opportunity edge goes to Jacobs. While we’re all caught up in the verifiably impressive performance Montgomery offered up in his preseason debut, let’s not forget the talent advantage should also go to Jacobs. Even with a light college resume that we explored in the fourth episode of “Rookie Orientation,” we saw monstrous potential. Jacobs’ 39.2 broken tackle percentage ranked second in college football last year among backs with 100-plus carries, per Sports Info Solutions. He’s cleared 11 yards per catch for his college career.
Explosive and granted all the opportunity a young feature back could hope for. The slightest of slight edges here goes to the first-rounder, as we all should expect.