Stanford’s Ty Montgomery better suited to play safety


Stanford’s Ty Montgomery is one of college football’s most gifted athletes in the country.  The Cardinal senior is listed at 6’2″ 220lbs and can reportedly run a 4.4 40 yard dash, which has drawn comparisons to Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals.  With a defense like Stanford’s where they consistently boast one of the nation’s best front sevens and have tough defenses overall, Montgomery is put in as many spots to get the football as possible.  In addition to being a wide receiver and a threat as a returner on special teams, Stanford will use him as a tail back in the I-formation and snap the ball right to him in the shotgun.  While Stanford needs Montgomery’s physical gifts as an offensive weapon, Montgomery’s skillset and variety of tools suggest he could be a great safety in the NFL.

Strictly in the Stanford offense, which is a pro style look, Montgomery’s skills as a wide receiver are pretty marginal.  He has not really excelled at that position and despite size, strength and quickness, has not been the overwhelming offensive weapon that Stanford needs and NFL teams are always trying to find.

Montgomery’s route running is inconsistent and too often keys defensive backs as to what he is doing and drops too many passes.  He can still be an electric athlete with the ball in his hands, but on 51 offensive touches through six games, Montgomery has 3 touchdowns on 37 receptions at an average of just 9.7 yards per reception and 1 touchdown on 14 carries for 76 yards.

Montgomery could end up in a great situation in the NFL and continue to refine his game and become a far better, more complete receiver at the next level, but his overwhelming athleticism may simply be better suited for the other side of the ball.  He is a physical football player and more than willing to hit and deal with contact while still having his speed and quickness as showcased by his willingness and strength as a blocker as well as being to carry the ball from tail.

His size, speed, strength and overall athletic ability could be extremely attractive to NFL teams looking for players that are able to help against the run as well as being able to cover as the NFL varies from teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns who will line up and pound the football to the New Orleans Saints that can spread teams out wide with smaller, quicker athletes.

Montgomery, assuming the listed measurables are close to the ones listed, is bigger and as athletic as Kenny Vaccaro of the New Orleans Saints.  Vaccaro was selected 15th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft.  Phil Savage, the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl, has suggested that Montgomery could end up going in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.  Based on his polish as a receiver, that seems unlikely, but it is certainly not impossible if his athleticism is as advertised.  Cordarrelle Patterson was selected 29th overall by the Minnesota Vikings despite how incredibly raw he was as a receiver out of Tennessee; even rawer than Montgomery.  Montgomery is not the natural threat with the ball in his hands that Patterson has shown to be; not yet anyway.

The most fitting example of a player making this type of switch might be Chris Gamble, formerly of the Carolina Panthers.  Gamble played his entire 9-year career at corner and could have played longer but opted to retire.  At Ohio State, Gamble spent his collegiate career as a receiver, but in his sophomore and junior seasons with the Buckeyes, he was also utilized as a corner.  Gamble totaled 7 interceptions in the final two seasons in Columbus and was a big contributor in the 14-0 National Championship campaign in the 2002 season.

Gamble never played a down of wide receiver while in the NFL.  He caught just 35 passes during his collegiate career, but much like Montgomery, he never really took off at that position.  When he was able to play corner, while he was raw initially, he was a natural because of his overall athleticism and his ball skills as a receiver paid off in a big way as a corner with his ability to cause turnovers.

Montgomery will have his share of growing pains in learning the position, but his experience as a receiver combined with the fact he has extraordinary physical tools for the safety position could pay off far more than any potential career he might have as a wide receiver at the next level.  Have him return kicks and keep him available as a threat with the ball in his hands in that part of the game, but let him be a weapon on the defensive side of the ball.

The current landscape of the NFL has made it so the safety position has never been more valuable and Montgomery’s range of skills, from being someone who shows the ability to hit, to the range to fly around and experience catching the football could enable him to be a more valuable player at safety than he ever could have been as a receiver.  Perhaps Montgomery will go on to a great NFL career as a receiver, but I am far more intrigued at his potential as an NFL safety.