Don’t Worry About D’Andre Swift, David Montgomery 2023 Fantasy Outlook Ascends With the Lions

David Montgomery will run behind a mauling offensive line.

Coming off a 9-8 season in which they narrowly missed qualifying for the postseason, the Detroit Lions have been relatively quiet throughout the early part of free agency. Unsurprisingly, they’ve primarily focused on bolstering their defense which was fifth-worst in scoring and dead last in total yardage in 2022.

But, with Jamaal Williams, who led the league in rushing TDs last year with 17, headed to New Orleans, they’re replacing him with David Montgomery, who comes over from Chicago on a three-year deal worth up to $18 million.

Montgomery joins D’Andre Swift in Detroit’s backfield as Swift enters the final year of his rookie contract. Swift is talented in his own right as a rusher, and averaged 5.5 yards per carry last season, a mark that would’ve had him at second among running backs if he recorded enough carries. But, that’s been part of the issue with Swift — he’s missed at least three games in each of his first three seasons due to injury and only carried the ball 99 times in 14 games last season. That missed time opened up more opportunities for Williams and it’ll do the same for Montgomery, who’s missed just six games in his four-year career.

Will Montgomery pick up where Williams left off with a top-15 fantasy season? Or will Detroit suffer buyer’s remorse and see its rushing attack regress from its 11th-ranked showing a season ago?


Jamaal Williams rushed for over 1,000 yards last year, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. His 17 touchdowns obviously boosted his fantasy value, but these came due to some insane usage rates around the goal line. Williams had nine more carries in the red zone than the next closest rusher, and 28 of those came inside the five-yard line, which was eight more than Jalen Hurts. Fourteen of Williams’ 17 touchdowns came from inside the five.

On the flip side, Montgomery had just 31 red zone carries, a measly three attempts inside the five, and lost out on a possible eight rushing touchdowns to Justin Fields. Despite logging almost 50% fewer red zone carries than Williams, Montgomery actually beat him out in red zone yardage, showing that he’s more than capable of churning for yards between the tackles when his number is called.

Montgomery was also running behind arguably the league’s worst offensive line; he’ll benefit greatly now from a Detroit team that invests more money in its offensive line than every other team in football except the Houston Texans and finished as PFF’s eighth-best.

“Yeah, you salivate a little bit,” Montgomery said. “You get three Pro-Bowlers in an O-line, them having high expectations for themselves, and me having high expectations for myself, it’ll be really good.”

Montgomery and Williams are both listed at 224 pounds, and Montgomery’s mark of 1.9 YPC after contact in 2022 was well ahead of Williams’ 1.6. If Montgomery can stay healthy as he has thus far in his career and get even 75% of Williams’ 2022 red zone usage, he’s an easy candidate for a top-10 fantasy RB season.


Despite leading his team in rushing attempts every year of his career, Montgomery is no stranger to having competent replacements breathing down his neck. Tarik Cohen and Khalil Herbert both gave Montgomery a run for his money throughout his time with Chicago, but Montgomery always assumed the RB1 role and logged over 200 attempts and over 800 yards each year.

Thus, he’ll feel right at home with Swift as his partner in the backfield and should have no problem controlling the top spot in the backfield. His only other competition for carries, Craig Reynolds, has just 79 career carries and should only see consistent snaps if Montgomery or Swift gets hurt.

We already touched on Williams’ red zone usage last year, but his overall usage was an anomaly as well. Williams logged 262 total carries, over 100 more than his next-highest season total in his career. That’s also more carries than Montgomery has ever had in a season. Behind a much stronger line and with a decrease in competition behind him, Montgomery could thrive under a comparable usage rate, and considering his usage and durability in the past, it’s clear he could handle it.

Montgomery is also a capable receiver, as his 316 yards receiving last year ranked T-15th among backs. Williams was never much of a receiving threat and Lions OC Ben Johnson is likely salivating at the opportunity to add to his offensive game plan with less worrying about swapping to competent personnel.


In The Wolf’s current 2023 rankings, Montgomery is slotted at RB15, right at the bottom of tier 4 and eight slots ahead of Swift. If the Lions plan to use Montgomery how they used Williams last year, he could easily be in for a top-10 year and look like a steal at just $6 million per year.


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