by Ryer Gardenswartz
As draft season continues to heat up, more questions need to be answered. Two rookies in particular could prove to be important pieces for 2019, and beyond for those that are rocking dynasty leagues. The consensus top two rookie running backs this season are Josh Jacobs and David Montgomery, who are rated as RB20 and RB24 on FantasyPros Expert Rankings.
Let’s start by looking at what Jacobs brings to the table. After being selected by Oakland with the 24th pick, he is already penciled in to be their starter ahead of Doug Martin and Jalen Richard. He has the physical tools to succeed in the NFL as a prototypical 3-down running back. His tough running style should translate very well to the next level, and he should be able to fill the Marshawn Lynch-void for the Raiders. My biggest concern with Jacobs is his college production. While it was very effective, it wasn’t much. He handled the ball 299 times over three seasons at Alabama, with an average just under 7 yards. Last season, he ended with 140 touches and 14 touchdowns. I project Jacobs to be a solid RB2 for the upcoming season.
Montgomery is coming into a very different situation. He was taken with the 73rd pick in the draft by the Bears. While he was a third rounder, this pick has the feel of a 1st rounder due to Chicago selling their first two picks in the draft. Montgomery figures to fill the Jordan Howard role in Chicago (Howard led the Bears in rushes, rushing yards, rushing-plus-receiving touchdowns and total touches last season). Tarik Cohen will likely be their starter, but the secondary role is open for some competition. Montgomery and newcomer Mike Davis will duke it out to become Cohen’s sidekick. Unlike Jacobs, Montgomery was a workhorse in college at Iowa State. Over three seasons, he finished with 695 touches, resulting in 3,507 yards from scrimmage and 26 scores. I’d be a little more cautious to have Montgomery as one of my top running backs, but I think he could be effective in the flex role.
Depending on your league’s structure, there are a couple of different thought processes when deciding between the two rookies. I’ll be looking at it from a ReDraft and a Dynasty approach.
If your league starts with a clean slate every year, then you’ll want to target Jacobs over Montgomery. For the 2019-2020 season, Jacobs figures to see more consistent action than Montgomery. It helps that he is already slated to start, even after a brief contract holdout.
He is also going to a scheme that fits his running style and a head coach that favors tough running backs. Jon Gruden has had a RB eclipse 1,000 yards 10 times in his career and a RB finish with at least 7 touchdowns seven times. Even with a lackluster running back corps last year, Gruden had rushers finish with 15+ touches in 10 out of 16 games.
Jacobs is also a decent receiver and can be weapon in the passing game. Jacobs should see a high volume of touches and little competition from the other RBs in the Bay Area. Assuming that he can handle a heavier workload than he was used to at Alabama, Jacobs should have a solid rookie season. Montgomery will have to work harder for his touches in 2019. Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen will both need the ball. I can see Montgomery carving out a niche role and having an effective season, but the path to a big rookie season favors Jacobs.
If you are willing to take a hit next year for a brighter future, then you should go with Montgomery. If Montgomery can handle Jordan Howard’s old role, then he should become a breakout player.
The Bears had a much better offense than the Raiders in 2018 and ran the ball nearly 100 times more than the Silver and Black. Matt Nagy has had success with RBs in the past, and there is no reason to believe that will stop any time soon. Montgomery is a more dynamic player than Jacobs and can do more on the field. He is a very good pass-catcher out of the backfield and hauled in 71 passes for 582 yards in college. This plays right into Matt Nagy’s offense, and could make him a better piece than Howard ever was.
Montgomery is also a really nice compliment to Cohen, who will likely get a production bump for year three. I think Montgomery will eventually jump Davis on the depth chart, but I’m not convinced it will happen this season, at least not early on. I believe that once Montgomery finds his footing in the NFL, he will be a standout player in the league.