Rookie running backs are always among the most interesting players in fantasy football. This year, Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs and Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery figure to be the first two rookie running backs off the board. As of this posting, Fantasy Football Calculator has both players getting selected in the late third of half-point scoring formats. While both players will be fantasy relevant this year, Josh Jacobs should be your preferred running back.
Draft Josh Jacobs Over David Montgomery in Fantasy Football
Josh Jacobs vs David Montgomery Opportunity
In the world of fantasy football, opportunity is king. Both running backs were drafted to lead their respective backfields, but Jacobs has an easier path to being a true three-down player. The only other running backs on Oakland’s roster are Jalen Richard, Doug Martin, and a handful of no-name backups. Richard is an unremarkable third-down back, and Martin isn’t taking carries from anybody.
Montgomery, on the other hand, faces a tougher task. Tarik Cohen was one of the most efficient running backs in the league last year and is a genuine mismatch out of the backfield. It’s going to be hard for Chicago to keep his pass-catching skills off the field. In a similar vein, the Bears signed running back Mike Davis in free agency. Davis isn’t challenging Montgomery for the starting role by any means, but he’s capable of playing on all three downs and the Bears gave him $3 million guaranteed, which is a decent amount for a running back. All three players are in Chicago’s plans, even if Montgomery will likely see the largest workload.
David Montgomery is going to have to earn a true starter’s workload, whereas Jon Gruden has already given Jacobs the three-down role. Jacobs said that Gruden expects him to win Rookie of the Year honors and that he’s been practicing as a wide receiver. As the unquestioned bell-cow, Jacobs is going to have one of the best opportunities in football. Fortunately, Jacobs has the talent to take advantage of this opportunity.
Breaking Down the Talent
Talent isn’t everything in fantasy football, but it’s still a factor. Nobody really debates that, in a vacuum, Josh Jacobs is more talented than David Montgomery. Selected with the 24th overall pick, Jacobs was the only first-round running back in the 2019 NFL Draft class. The film backs up that draft stock, as Jacobs was widely considered the best running back coming out of college. He’s great between the tackles, has the speed to go outside, and is a gifted receiver.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is a more limited player. According to NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, Montgomery has “below-average burst to open space” and doesn’t have the “pure speed” to outrun NFL linebackers. He’s still a good player, but his third-round selection is an accurate reflection of his talent. The Bears moved up to grab him, but he was still the fourth running back off the board. Montgomery is an NFL talent, but he’s not as good as Jacobs.
Josh Jacobs is a better talent with more opportunity, but Montgomery does have one thing working in his favor. Heading into 2019, Chicago’s offense should be better than Oakland’s. A better offense leads to more plays which, in turn, leads to more yardage and scoring opportunities. If Montgomery was in a significantly better offense than Jacobs, then he might have been able to close the gap between Jacobs’ superior talent and opportunity.
The Bears offense is going to be better, but not by a significant amount. Matt Nagy is a fantastic playcaller and is undeniably a better coach than Jon Gruden. The rest, however, is something of a toss-up. Derek Carr and Mitchell Trubisky are in the same tier of quarterback (sorry, Bears fans), and the wide receiver corps are similar. Antonio Brown is better than Allen Robinson, and Tyrell Williams adds another vertical element to Oakland’s passing attack. The Raiders also bolstered their offensive line with Trent Brown, so their offense should dramatically improve in 2019.
While the Bears will have the marginally better offense, it won’t be enough to cancel out Jacobs’ clear advantage in opportunity and talent. Josh Jacobs is already in line for a massive workload, and Jon Gruden clearly wants him to be a staple of the offense. Montgomery is going to have a role, but it probably won’t be as large as Jacobs’. Additionally, Jacobs is the better talent and has the ability to do more with his touches than Montgomery. Drafting Montgomery at the end of the third isn’t the worst decision in the world, but you should take Josh Jacobs if both players are on the board.
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