The Chicago Bears running game has been the definition of slightly better than average the last few years. David Montgomery has showed flashes of greatness in hopes of joining an elite Chicago running back fraternity, but he has never displayed the consistency that would elevate him (and the team’s run game in general) to the elite level of the NFL.
In 2021, Chicago had the 15th-ranked rush offense. There’s a new coaching staff in place, including former Green Bay Packers quarterback coach/passing game coordinator Luke Getsy – who is known to favor a two-back system. He inherits a collection of running backs capable of being relevant fantasy football players, but players who haven’t earned spots near the top of the drafting tiers where they reside. They’ve been good, but not great. Here is a breakdown of the fantasy impact players in the Bears’ running game.
Montgomery has been a solid fantasy running back but not worthy of being a RB1 who can be counted on. He has posted 225 or more carries in all three of his seasons but has averaged fewer than four yards a carry. He has one 1,000-yard rushing season (and 889 and 849 in the other two), has caught 96 passes over the last two seasons for 739 yards, and scored 24 career touchdowns.
There’s nothing wrong with a fantasy running back who averages more than 900 rushing yards, approximately 50 receptions and eight touchdowns. They’re solid numbers — but not the kind that dominate fantasy leagues on a weekly basis.
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Herbert shined upon receiving the opportunity to be the featured back when Montgomery missed four games in October. In those four games, he rushed 78 times for 344 yards and a touchdown while catching 10 passes. However, when Montgomery was in the lineup, Herbert never had more than four rushing attempts in any of those games.
New head coach Matt Eberflus has spoken during the offseason about the need to have two quality backs working in tandem, and he has highlighted Herbert as being a player who he looks to take advantage of his speed and athleticism with an improved offensive line. As mentioned, Getsy’s preference is to incorporate more than one back. Green Bay did this at nearly a 2-to-1 ratio during his time with the franchise.
Injuries are what prevented Evans from having shot in Tennessee, but the release of speedy receiving back Tarik Cohen created an opening for Evans to kick-start his career. Evans played in just six games over two seasons after being selected in the third round of the 2020 draft and the Titans decided to cut ties in March.
He wasn’t unemployed long as Chicago claimed him off waivers. Evans will likely have a chance to challenge Herbert for the No. 2 running back because he has very good speed and burst and looks like a strong fit in the outside zone running game the Bears are expected to operate out of this season.
Ebner is a sixth-round pick out of Baylor, who will likely be looking to catch on as a receiving back – having caught 20 or more passes in all four of his college seasons. He ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and has a lot of positive intangibles.
Unlike Montgomery and Herbert, who came to the Bears under the previous organizational regime, Ebner was part of the first draft of general manager Ryan Poles and Eberflus at the helm. He won’t vault to the top of the depth chart without a calamity, but he will likely be given more of an opportunity to make the roster than a lot of sixth-rounders, because it’s clear the front office believes in him.
Fantasy football outlook
Montgomery has the ability to be an every-week fantasy starter but hasn’t made the climb to the elite status. He is solid RB2 with some upside, especially in a system that is likely going to emphasize a power-running game to take pressure off young quarterback Justin Fields. It doesn’t hurt that Montgomery is in a contract year.
Herbert proved last year he can be a solid handcuff to Montgomery and will likely be a flex option if the Bears employ more of a two-back system. For now, draft him as an RB4 or even a fifth regardless of whether you land Monty on draft day.
Evans and Ebner have no draft value at this point.