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Along Radio Row in Houston a sea of humanity builds. Just days before Super Bowl 51, agents, product peddlers, talking heads and players, past and present, invade George R. Brown Convention Center to push athletic apparel, personal brands and hot takes.
Dressed, naturally, in an ensemble smothered in Packers green, Ty Montgomery, one of the most compelling and controversial stories of the 2016 fantasy season, smoothly navigates the circus. Different from media heartthrobs Von Miller and Tim Tebow, no entourage flanks him. He walks the tightly spaced aisles with an unassuming deftness as he struts onto the Yahoo Sports set. Once settled, the tape rolls as a balding blatherskite asks him about his transition from wide receiver to running back, experiences as Aaron Rodgers’ teammate and, of course, activities only individuals above a certain latitude know.
Suddenly, the conversation takes a sharp, unexpected turn …
“You familiar with sturgeon spearing?” Montgomery inquires.
Curious, I offer a response Walter Cronkite would’ve surely applauded, “Sturgeon spearing? What the heck is that?!”
With my attention captivated, Montgomery goes on to describe the winter pastime in explicit detail. It involves a frozen lake, shanty, four-by-three rectangular ice hole and a spear. The premise: Sit for hours on end and patiently wait for a sturgeon, a long, slender freshwater fish, to appear in the cutout. When visible, grab your sharpened weapon, hurl it at the creature and celebrate your good fortune. Primitive? Yes. An excuse to throw back multiple adult beverages? Absolutely.
As I delve further into the activity, Montgomery reveals he talked to dozens of fishermen and not one had actually seen a sturgeon cross their path. And most admitted they participated in the hunt for decades. Basically, it’s an exercise, up there with Bigfoot searches or loch combings for ‘Nessie,’ marred in fable. And it’s so Wisconsin.
In many ways, the story above parallels Montgomery’s 2017 fantasy prospects. Undeniably, he’s a soon-to-be legend who’s worth a stab at his 45.8 average draft position (RB17). Not convinced? Here are three reasons why I believe he turns a mega profit this fall:
Advanced analytics. Statistically, Monty is indisputably the best option on roster. His 6.7 yards per touch in ’16, which slotted No. 6 among eligible backs, wasn’t the only stat that bulged eyes. Glance at his secondary profile and several tallies are equally spectacular. He ranked top-five among running backs in juke rate (RB3) – he forced 17 missed tackles alone against Chicago Week 15 – yards after contact per attempt (2.8, RB1) and breakaway run percentage (RB2). According to Sharp Football, he was one of three backs (Ezekiel Elliott and Mike Gillislee the others) to rank top-10 in run success percentage, missed yards per attempt and yards above successful percentage (Definitions here). And he accomplished that level of production “acting on instincts.” With a full offseason to prepare, the sky’s the limit.
Offensive environment. Though the Green Bay offensive line is a work in progress (No. 30 in power run-blocking in ’16), Montgomery is a featured asset in a nuclear offense. Hello, exploitable opportunities. Recall last year, the rusher benefited from light defensive fronts an insane 89.6 percent of the time, averaging 6.6 yards per carry in those situations. Read that again, he only saw seven or more men in the box on 9.1 percent of his attempts. Playing alongside a future HOFer certainly has its benefits.
Limited competition. Naysayers argue Jamaal Williams is a viable threat, but all indications from local scribes and Mike McCarthy arrow to Montgomery starting the year as the primary carrier. Apropos. Williams is a north-south plodder with pass pro concerns, an inferior runner compared to James Starks who previously handled Green Bay’s complementary work. His athletic profile comps to Indy’s Robert Turbin. Yippee.
If there’s a young back who could press Montgomery, it’s UTEP product Aaron Jones. He’s adequately built (5-foot-9, 208 pounds), owns sticky hands, shakes off defenders and wrenches ankles in the open field. Last year in El Paso, he posted a 3.9 YAC/att and forced 41 missed tackles. I suspect he overtakes Williams on the depth chart in short order.
Bottom line, whether you’re a ZeroRB subscriber or a standard value-based drafter Montgomery is a must target at his current ADP. Yes his pass protection skills need to improve, but the bulked up back is the clear frontrunner entering training camp. Beat writer speculation arrows to 150-160 carries with an additional 40-50 receptions. Replicate his stupefying efficiency, or close to it, from 2016 and he churns out top-15 numbers.
Cast a line, gamer.
Fearless Forecast: 159 carries, 890 rushing yards, 48 receptions, 404 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns
Throw haymakers at Brad on Twitter @YahooNoise