Jul 5, 2017
A topic that has come up recently has been a comparison of Ty Montogomery versus Christian McCaffrey for this upcoming season. On the surface there are similarities, beyond both being Stanford alums and therefore smarter than me, both are primed to produce for their teams this year in the NATIONAL…FOOTBALL…LEAGUE, but who is a better draft target? Let’s take a look.
Christian enters the league as one of the most highly regarded college running backs of the last several years and has the kind of pedigree that most RBs would kill for. Montgomery was a guy, and unless you were a big PAC-12 fan, you probably didn’t really notice when he was taken in the third round, 94th overall, by Green Bay. Here’s how some of their combine numbers stack up:
Realistically, we won’t be able to learn too much from just these numbers, but I wanted to point out that they are similar in terms of their raw athletic ability. McCaffrey was a top performer in almost every category during the combine, and his performance was matched by his draft position. Montgomery is in a very different situation here. As a college receiver, his numbers didn’t stand out as much during his combine and his college career wasn’t nearly as prolific as McCaffrey, but looking at the numbers when stacked up to the RBs who tested in 2017, Montgomery does quite well in the group. McCaffrey has an advantage in his top speed, but in the 20 yard Montgomery actually tested faster with both possessing great acceleration. They also both displayed above average explosive power with above average broad jump numbers and Montgomery in particular displaying an excellent vertical leap. The one place where either player really distinguishes himself is in McCaffrey’s 3-Cone Drill, which showcased his excellent footwork and body control. While Montgomery’s footwork was questioned during his combine, it was with regard to him coming in and out of cuts on routes down the field. In fact, most of the concerns raised about Montgomery fade when viewed through the lens of a prospective RB. The following comes right from the player combine profiles from NFL.com:
“Doesn’t display natural wide receiver characteristics. Needs more than just polish with routes and must incorporate route diversity at some point. Averaged just 9.9 yards per catch in 2014. Extremely suspect hands with 16 drops and three fumbles over his last three seasons. Allows throws to get on top of him. Hands lack supple qualities and his catch radius is smaller than desired.”
Basically the book on him was that he was a good physical specimen but there were questions about his potential production as a WR in the league. Concerns about his hands and route running aren’t as important for a RB. He was a guy that needed a chance and took advantage of it when he got it last year.
Neither player has any major red flags here, meaning no history of knee problems, recurring soft tissue injuries to the muscles in their legs, or the modern day scourge of fantasy football: concussions. They both have missed some time with injuries related to smashing your body repeatedly into large men intent on stopping you from moving, so nothing big here. McCaffrey does have some usage concerns as his varied skill set led him to log over 300 touches both of of his last two seasons in college, but his age makes him a relatively safe bet in redraft leagues.
Really, with these two, the health concerns come down to their teammates and particularly the quarterbacks handing them the ball. You might be inclined to give Montgomery a slight edge here but Aaron Rodgers has actually missed more games in the last three years than Cam Newton. Running QBs will always be at a higher risk for injury, but Cam has already curbed his running a bit last year and talked of continuing to do so.
So here’s where we can start to make the case for one player over the other. Carolina has been one of the most run happy teams recently, ranking 8th in rushing play percentage and only 25th in passing play percentage. Their defacto #1 receiver is Greg Olsen and their top WR has been making more negative headlines for his weight than Eddie Lacy. What I’m saying is, there will be a lot of opportunities, but there is also an established veteran in Jonathan Stewart. Granted, he has never been the avatar for health, but he knows the system and the coaches know exactly what they have in him. Over at Pro Football Focus, they had a post recently discussing Stewart’s Elusive Rating, stating that by that metric he was the third best of all qualified RBs. The main takeaway for me is that he will be their main option at RB, especially in the red zone, where Cam has also feasted on rushing opportunities. In fact, those two combined to account for just over 77% of the red zone rushing attempts last year (Stewart: 54.1% and Cam:23%).
So where else can McCaffrey make an impact? Maybe the passing game, except Carolina has not traditionally featured the RB position in their passing offense. Their leading receiver out of the backfield last year, in terms of targets, was Fozzy Whitaker with an eye-popping 33 in 16 games, the year before that it was Mike Tolbert with 22. The same Mike Tolbert who the year before joining the Panthers had 54 receptions on 79 targets while playing for the Chargers. This isn’t a case of the team not having the personnel to pass out of the backfield, they just don’t like to do it.
Montgomery, on the other hand, is on a team with a consistently excellent offense and no other significantly experienced RBs on the roster. The Packers took three running backs this year, but waited until the third day of the draft to start the process. Looking at the profiles of the players taken, it seems like GB is taking a “throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks” type approach, with all three players displaying different styles and makeups. The best thing you can find about any of the three guys taken is that they hope they can complement Montgomery. With little prior experience, Montgomery was able to carve out a role for himself on the fourth highest scoring offense with an elite QB. The Packers as a team still managed to finish higher in rushing offense than the Panthers did in passing offense relative to the rest of the league, despite having a rash of injuries and ineffective play early on. Montgomery has a role in the offense moving forward and has a head start on McCaffrey as far as experience playing RB in the NFL.
So what am I trying to say? I think in a redraft league, paying the price for McCaffrey is something that I will not be confronted with because I doubt he will fall to me. Currently McCaffrey is going around pick 31, while Montgomery is going two full rounds later at 51. To me, if I haven’t secured a RB in the first two rounds, I’d rather wait and take a bunch of fliers later than to reach for an unproven rookie without a clear role on his team. Don’t let the recent success of first round RBs like Elliot and Gurley (in his first year) cloud your judgement. At the end of the day, what do all smart fantasy players look for in their picks? Value. Montgomery is simply a better value at pick 51 than any of the other rookie RBs going in front of him.More Articles