A central theme of the Bears’ roster-building over the last 15 months has been the conviction with which general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy operate. Pace and Nagy had conviction on their vision for David Montgomery long before Friday night’s trade to move up 14 spots and draft the Iowa State running back. So that made the move to trade away some draft capital to land an offensive weapon in which the brain trust had conviction an easy decision.
“He's just a well-rounded back,” Pace said. “It's everything you look for in a running back, starting with his instincts, his vision, his ability to make people miss. He's just a well-rounded player. Good hands. He fits the offense very well.”
Balance what Pace said Friday night, in the aftermath of drafting Montgomery, with what Nagy said two months ago at the NFL Combine, when he was asked what he was looking for when scouting this year's crop of running backs in Indianapolis.
“In this offense, you want to be able to have a guy that has really good vision that can make guys miss,” Nagy said. “And at the same time, there's that balance of being a hybrid being able to make things happen in the pass game too, but yet to where you're not one-dimensional. That's not easy.”
And then compare that against what Montgomery said when asked to describe his skillset as a running back.
“My strength is, I'd say, my ability and my motor not to go down, being able to make people miss and being able to catch the ball,” Montgomery said.
So not only drafting Montgomery, but trading up for him, passes the smell test when all three of these evaluations line up. The Bears didn’t want to risk losing a guy who checked all their boxes.
Montgomery led all FBS players with 99 missed tackles in 2018, per Pro Football Focus, an impressive statistic Pace believes can carry over to the NFL. Making that tackle-breaking and tackle-missing skill more appealing is Montgomery’s ability to hang on to the ball — he only fumbled three times in 695 touches at Iowa State. Some of his best highlights are a masterpiece in shedding or juking opposing defenders:
Seriously, you can't tackle David Montgomery: pic.twitter.com/5mTQcFs0OT— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) April 27, 2019
I mean it. Montgomery broke all PFF records for broken tackles.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) April 27, 2019
His ability to make quick moves just before contact makes him the most elusive RB in the draft pic.twitter.com/Zmtqqk5xXN
While Montgomery doesn’t possess top-end speed (he only had two runs of 30 or more yards, and none going for 40-plus), his ability to generate 10-yard runs is important for an offense that moved on from Jordan Howard, who only had 18 such runs in 250 attempts (7 percent) last year.
Montgomery profiles as a more dynamic weapon, too, than Howard, who always felt like a sub-optimal fit in Nagy’s offense. Montgomery’s pass-catching upside is important to note here, from his “natural hands,” as Pace said, to the team believing he can develop into a good route runner.
The Bears need better production from their running backs in 2019, hence why the entire room save for Tarik Cohen has been turned over in the last two months (near the bottom of the depth chart, it may have been noteworthy that Pace mentioned 2018 practice squad’er Ryan Nall by name on Tuesday and not incumbent 53-man roster member Taquan Mizzell). The end goal is to give Mitch Trubisky more with which to work than he had last year, and in Montgomery and Davis playing next to Cohen instead, the Bears believe they’ve accomplished that.
“Any weapons we can surround him with and I think right now we continue to add weapons, they're all different, a lot of different variety and fortunately we have a coaching staff that can fully utilize those guys,” Pace said. “So already all the coaches are up there right now just talking about different packages they can use, so that's exciting.”
The last aspect of Montgomery’s fit with the Bears that deserves mention is the high character the Bears — and just about every draft analyst — sees in him. The Bears see Montgomery as an excellent fit in a strong locker room culture, the kind of guy who can thrive on and off the field in Chicago.
“There’s incredible stories about his work ethic,” Pace said. “Going up to the facility late at night and bringing teammates with him to watch additional tape and get extra work in. You just hear one thing after another about his professional approach to the game, how important it is to him and his work ethic is off the charts. And how infectious that was to the entire team (at Iowa State).”
The real work for Montgomery and the Bears’ coaching staff will begin next weekend for rookie minicamp, and then continuing into OTAs, minicamp and training camp. There’s a long way to go before Montgomery becomes a part of the Bears’ solution to the biggest question of the offseason: How does this offense improve from being an average-is one in 2018?
But for now, we’ll leave you with a tantalizing comparison/profile multiple draft analysts have drawn to Montgomery: Kareem Hunt.