This has undoubtedly been a strange fantasy season with the number of injuries and surprise performers. However, the stranger things plaguing 2016 fantasy football have reached upside-down levels of weird with the great Ty Montgomery debate of 2016. With Packers running backs falling apart in rapid succession during Weeks 6 and 7, the team was forced to deploy Montgomery (a wide receiver) out of the backfield on a surprising number of snaps. This usage led to ESPN bestowing RB/WR eligibility on Montgomery for the remainder of the season, while Yahoo! had each of its analysts weigh in on the issue as well (they kept him as a WR, for now). And I'm writing this now to give you NFL Fantasy's official stance on the issue.
As has been the case for years here at NFL Fantasy, we will not change a player's positional designation in the fantasy game unless the team changes it first. During my time here, this issue has mostly come up in regards to individual defensive player (IDP) leagues, when the line between OLB and DE is often blurred depending on scheme. However, Montgomery's sudden and significant role change has brought the issue to the mainstream fantasy community.
Now, we considered several factors when deciding to keep Montgomery as a wideout. First of all, his usage is an extremely small two-week sample, and doesn't speak to an outright positional change. Good teams use their good players in a wide variety of positions all over the field to create mismatches. Where players line up at a given position in football isn't black and white like in other sports. For instance, in baseball, a shortstop is (almost) always between second and third base, where as a RB/WR/TE will lineup all over the field in a wide variety of formations. This is part of the beauty of the constantly evolving strategy that makes football eminently watchable.
Secondly, let's not forget that this new role for Montgomery was brought about as a result of a series of insane cirumstances crammed into a brief window of time, especially for an NFL team. The Packers had the misfortune of playing two regular season games in five days as this was happening:
» James Starks rather surprisingly missed practice the Wednesday before Green Bay's Week 6 game against the Cowboys. All of a sudden he had knee surgery that Sunday and was out multiple weeks.
» Eddie Lacy, who injured his ankle in Week 5, was practicing on limited reps and his ankle seemed "good" as of that Thursday, and he gritted his way to 71 total yards against the Cowboys. After playing on the injured ankle, by Tuesday it became clear he would miss several weeks (including Thursday night). He later landed on IR.
» The team quickly made two roster moves, trading for Knile Davis and promoting undrafted rookie Don Jackson from the practice squad. However, with minimal time to prepare either back, they couldn't turn to them for a featured workload in Week 7.
» Making matters worse, Jackson saw work early against the Bears but injured his hand in the second quarter and missed the rest of the game (after seeing roughly 20 percent of the snaps). The team worked in Davis late, but would have been foolish to trust him with valuable snaps when the game was still competitive.
Why do I bring all of this up? Because it speaks to the unprecedented buildup of extenuating circumstances that forced Montgomery into the backfield, as well as this overreaction from the fantasy community. Yes, he played 74.2 percent of his Week 6 and 7 snaps out of the backfield, but that's largely as a result of the series of unfortunate events detailed above. It is not the team issuing a massive positional upheaval for a young, developing player. For these reasons, NFL Fantasy will keep Montgomery as a wide receiver ... for now.
In the off chance the members of the Packers backfield continue to go down like the red shirts in "Star Trek" and the team switches Montgomery to a running back on their official roster, then we will make the corresponding change in the game. Until then, he's officially a wide receiver with the team and will officially remain a wide receiver in NFL Fantasy.
If you don't like it, you can follow Justin Timberlake's advice and "Cry me a river." Despite what some insane, archaic rules on this site might allow, we aren't going to change things in the middle of the game/season. After all, that's why the flex position was created in the first place.
Until next time ...