Ty Montgomery's Stanford career got off to a good start. As a freshman in 2012, he emerged as a starter in the final four games of the season, catching seven passes for 120 yards in the Cardinal's Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma State. Sadly, torn knee ligaments derailed most of his sophomore season. Over the course of his first two seasons, Montgomery totaled 50 catches and 563 yards while serving as the primary return man, leading the team in kick and punt return averages both seasons.
As a junior in 2013, Montgomery stepped into a full-time starter role and had his best season as a collegian, with 61 receptions for 958 yards and 10 receiving scores. Adding in his rushing and return yardage, he amassed 2,208 all-purpose yardage, good enough for third-best in school history in helping the Cardinal finish 11-3 and earn a Rose Bowl berth. For his efforts, he was named the All-American team's designated kick returner.
The ensuing campaign, Montgomery failed to continue this upward ascent, due to injuries as well as inconsistency: a shoulder injury and several dropped passes. In total, he once again managed 61 catches, this time for 604 yards and three TDs, all of which came in Stanford's first four games. For his efforts, Montgomery was awarded Second Team All-Pac 12 honors as a kick returner, and Pac 12 Honorable Mention honors as a wide receiver.
As his awards resume suggests, Montgomery is a better kick returner than he is a receiver. Indeed, many scouts believe he's the best return prospect in the 2015 draft class. In 2013, he finished second in the nation in kick return average (30.3) and kick return scores (2), and averaged 27.4 yards per kick return and 18.3 yards per punt return over the course of his Stanford career.
Montgomery is built like a running bask; in fact, at 6'0" and 221 pounds, he's exactly the same size as two of the Cowboys' pre-draft invites, Jay Ajayi and Javorius Allen. As a receiver, he doesn't have terrific hands or deep speed, nor is he a deluxe route runner, but Montgomery does have a running back's short-area quickness, which he uses to be a difference-maker in the return game. Moreover, he decidedly an "RKG"; all reports are that he is an open, likeable guy with the highest character, and has impressed teams throughout the offseason process.
Now front offices just have to figure out where to use him...
Want to scout like a boss? Let's start by looking at his measurables:
|6' 0"||221||31"||10⅛"||4.55||1.59||-NA-||40½"||121"||6.97||4.21||127.1 (83.9)|
And here they are in the form of a spider graph, courtesy of the folks at Mockdraftable.com:
And over at Draft Breakdown, they have six of the Stanford product's games. Two from 20014 - Against U.C. Davis (5 catches for 77 yards and a TD; 1-8 rushing) and at Notre Dame (4-12 in the air; 5-14 on the ground) - and four from 2013. Watch him shine versus Utah (8-131; 1-5) and in the annual "Big Game" with Cal (5-160, 4 TDs; 2-31, and a score).
Let's see what our panel of scouting types has to say about Montgomery:
Gary Horton (ESPN.com) 13th-ranked WR; 72nd overall:
Separation Skills: Adequate feel as a route-runner and understands leverage/ spacing. Shows quick feet and hands gaining a clean release against press. Flashes tempo setting up defenders in stem. A bit choppy at top of stem but shows above-average burst coming out break. Does a nice job finding soft spots working against zone coverage.
Ball Skills: Adequate hand-eye coordination and flashes ability to pluck on the run without breaking stride. However, will allow throws into body on occasion and has some bad drops on tape.Shows quality body control adjusting to throws outside of frame. Adequate leaping skills. Can do a better job of using frame to shield defenders on contested catches. Inconsistent at tracking and finishing catches over his shoulder down the field. Fought the ball more in 2014 than he did in previous seasons.
Big play ability: Has enough top-end speed to get behind defenders as a vertical threat, but not a difference-maker in one-on-one, jump-ball situations downfield. Most dangerous with the ball in his hands. Runs under control and displays a strong combination of vision, balance and elusiveness to manufacture yards. Not an elite burner but flashes an extra gear to hit the home run when finding a seam both after the catch and in the return game. Strong runner after catch and will break attempted arm tackles. Could be a Josh Harris (Giants) or Joshua Cribbs (SFA) type that excels in the return game but has to improve in order to get more opportunities on offense.
Competitiveness: Willing to work the middle of the field. Shows good focus in traffic and shows the toughness to make catch while absorbing a hit. Effective run-blocker who takes pride in this area. Takes quality angles and does a nice job of breaking down to sustain. Allows ball to get away from from occasionally when regaining balance and starting upfield, but has done an adequate-to-good job protecting ball throughout (four fumbles lost on 211 career offensive touches).
Intangibles: Respectful and accountable. Strong work ethic. Leads by example. Impressive during interview process. On the reserved side by nature. Son of Ty Montgomery and Lisa Frazier. Mother Lisa was a pastor's daughter and has opened her home to more than 17 foster children throughout Ty's life. Has one step brother (Brandon) and one step sister (Addison).
Matt Waldman (Rookie Scouting Portfolio) 44th-ranked WR:
Montgomery is comfortable making receptions in tight coverage and can use his hands to catch the ball high or low. Montgomery has to refine his play in the vertical game against tight coverage. He has to learn not to tip off the arrival of the ball with his hands....Other than one spectacular play a couple of years ago, I have not seen Montgomery make a difficult adjustment on a vertical route. He doesn't make many effective plays in tight coverage or after contact.
The receiver has a quick enough first step to turn and create separation against a defender in the open field and the strength to deliver a stiff arm. Montgomery is a quality ballcarrier who reads the defense, presses holes, and sets up blocks in offensive packages and returns. Ball security is a little low and loose, but he shows strength and wherewithal to tighten up near the conclusion of the play.
Montgomery is not a hard-cutting ball carrier. He has to take extra steps to change direction and it means he's not elusive in tight spaces when cutting back on east-west runs. He has to rely on patience, burst, power, and changing up his running pace. When used as an outlet player on what amounts to an extended run play, Montgomery shines. He demonstrated decent location with chopping a defender during a release on a fade and he uses his frame to shield defenders from the ball.
While his punch needs to get harder and more focused, Montgomery delivers the effort as a blocker. He's willing to tie up his opponents and deliver a punch and second effort. He also showed good effort to work through a defender to deliver a hit to seal the edge on a key third down and then turn upfield to look for more.
The Stanford receiver is a pro caliber athlete with special team acumen, and potential to develop into at least a contributor in the receiving game because of his adequate vertical speed for a receiver (much better for a runner), fundamental understanding of stems, skill to catch with his hands, desire and effort as a blocker, and his overall strength and ball carrying skill.
Lance Zierlein (NFL.com) 17th-ranked WR; 120th overall:
Strengths: Built like a full-grown man. Body type resembles that of a running back with well-defined, muscular legs. Foot quickness to create separation on short to intermediate routes. Played outside, from slot, as a tailback and as a wildcat quarterback. Displays good lateral movement and balance with ball in his hands. Works to be a plus run blocker. Has size and determination to be used to crack-block ends. Good, not great run-after-catch potential. Scouts believe he can be a Pro Bowl returner. Scored four times over last two seasons as a returner. Strong personal character and considered an "accountable teammate" by coaching staff.
Weaknesses: Doesn't display natural wide receiver characteristics. Needs more than just polish with routes and must incorporate route diversity at some point. Averaged just 9.9 yards per catch in 2014. Extremely suspect hands with 16 drops and three fumbles over his last three seasons. Allows throws to get on top of him. Hands lack supple qualities and his catch radius is smaller than desired. His confidence has been questioned by scouting community. His body of work as a receiver hasn't matched his physical potential. Has had only one season of significant touchdown production. Tightly wound with scouts questioning if he's too muscled.
NFL Comparison: Cordarrelle Patterson
Dane Brugler (NFL Draft Guide) 20th-ranked WR:
Strengths: Coordinated athlete with smooth acceleration and long-striding speed...flexible ankles and rubber joints to make fluid cuts and weave through traffic, displaying good quickness at the top of his routes to create room to work...above average vision and improved feel for what's around him, anticipating lanes well and usually finding the crease quickly...passes the eye test with very good muscle definition - well conditioned and puts in the time in the weight room...outstanding balance and body strength for the position to keep his feet through contact and power through...deceptive strength as a ballcarrier and will lower his pads at the contact point, delivering blows with forward lean and keeping his momentum...not easy to bring down with a physical stiff arm...not overly sudden, but patient before turning on the jets...smooth body control to adjust at the last minute and make acrobatic receptions away from his body without breaking stride...physical blocker...lined up inside and outside at wide receiver in college and offers versatility offense - dangerous on end-arounds and at running back, also experienced taking snaps as the wildcat quarterback...impact potential on special teams with good experience as returner on both punts (13/238/18.3/2) and kickoffs (91/2,493/27.4/3)...coaches speak highly of his "quiet" leadership and strong football character on the practice field and in the weight room - accountable and intelligent off the field as well.
Weaknesses: Bulky frame, which causes some rigid movements...sometimes too patient and plays hesitant when the hole isn't immediately there...not a natural hands catcher and fights the ball often with too many double-catches and focus drops - thinking too much about what's happening around him or what his next move will be and needs to be more reliable finishing at the catch point...lacks savvy at the position and not a detailed pass-catcher, who routinely sets up and fools defenders with subtleties...a lot of comeback and shorter routes for catch-and-go opportunities on his game film and needs to develop his route tree...holds the ball too loose and needs to improve his ball security...needs to be more aggressive in contested situations and when finishing runs, escaping out of bounds too often...confidence seems to waver after mistakes...durability concerns with several past injuries including a torn MCL in 2012 (missed three games) and a sprained right shoulder in Nov. 2014 that caused him to miss the final two games of his career.
The first radical distribution of this draft profile season: our panelists are all over the place, rating Montogomery anywhere from the 13th-best to the 44th-best receiver in the draft. In terms of overall grades, we see him ranked anywhere from 72nd to 120th. This wide range may have to do with his dual function: as a receiver, he's a fifth- or sixth-rounder; as a return man, he's a third-rounder. Taking all of this in, and considering which of those traits the Cowboys would value (return ability, I'd think), I'll slot him in round four on my "little board," thinking that #91 is too high for a guy who projects almost exclusively as a return man.
One of the key positions lost in free agency and have not yet replaced is kick returner. Lest we underestimate how much this loss is capable of hurting Dallas, recall that Number 17 was courted by several teams before signing a contract with a goodly amount of guaranteed money. Other teams clearly valued Harris' toolkit: return skills, coverage demon, good blocker, dangerous in traffic and in the screen game.
Montgomery is the player in the draft best equipped to replace what was lost with Harris' departure. Not only is he built low to the ground like Harris, with powerful, running back-style thighs, but he's the best return man in this year's crop, and is dangerous in traffic, and a powerful, if not fully realized, blocker. If the Cowboys can get all that in round four? Heck yeah, that would make an old guy happy...
Next up: other late-round WR/ KR candidates