Anyone that has followed me on Twitter or has been in a league with me knows about my love for Marlon Mack. As I prepared for my 2017 rookie drafts, I recall one particular phrase from a scouting report catching my eye: “Mack, a potential home-run hitter once he gets out in space”. Running backs are often cheapest during the rookie draft, as I’ve generally found productive running backs to be pricey via trade, if they’re even available for trade. As I watched some of Mack’s film two years ago, I found myself agreeing with many of the scouting reports on three key points:
- Mack possesses a good blend of size, speed, power, and agility.
- He is a smooth runner who uses subtle cuts, quick feet, and good balance to navigate through traffic.
- Mack is an explosive play-maker and tremendous home run threat.
Mack’s college tape at South Florida shows a talented runner who rushed for 32 touchdowns over the span of his collegiate career and cracked 1,000 rushing yards every season during his three years there. One concern as I researched Mack was that he tried to take every run outside, and when he did run between the tackles, the results were hit or miss. Mack also didn’t catch a lot of balls in college, totaling just 65 receptions for 498 yards and one touchdown during his tenure at South Florida. My conclusion in 2017 was that while Mack might not be a three-down back in the NFL, he had a workable skill set that would make for a great change-of-pace back. Though I wasn’t sure about Mack, his rookie ADP at the time in the late-second or early-third round of most drafts was palatable given my hope that he could develop into a productive fantasy starter.
As a rookie in Indianapolis, Mack spent the year playing second fiddle to Frank Gore, a between-the-tackles bruiser that I could only hope would take Mack under his wing and help him develop. Mack finished the 2017 season with 93 carries for 358 yards and three touchdowns and added 21 catches for 225 yards through the air. Though it was disappointing that Mack didn’t get more work in 2017 considering that the Colts weren’t in playoff contention, Mack finally got his chance as the starter last year with Gore’s departure to Miami. While Mack battled some minor injuries and only started 10 games, he finished the season with 195 carries for 908 yards and nine touchdowns. Receiving opportunities were limited with the Colts’ addition of Nyheim Hines, but Mack still contributed in the passing game with 17 catches for 103 yards and a score.
Though Hines’s presence still limits Mack’s ceiling, Mack has RB1 potential going into the 2019 season. While Mack seems to get nicked up a bit each year, when he is on the field, he is one of the most consistent backs in the league. Bob Lung’s Consistency Guide states the following:
“When Mack is healthy and gets at least 15 carries, he has averaged 22.17 FPG. That would annualize to 354.67 total points and rank fifth. Let’s say he’s a solid RB2 with upside!”
Another reason for my optimism that Mack will finish as a fantasy RB1 this year is that most Vegas sportsbooks have the Colts win total for the year set at 10 wins. NFL teams projected to win the majority of their games generally have more incentive to run the ball in the fourth quarter of games when leading to keep the clock moving. Mack has little competition in the backfield to handle the extra carries.
Finally, the Colts have vastly improved their offensive weapons from last year. The addition of rookie dynamo Paris Campbell, adding a productive veteran receiver in Devin Funchess, and the return of a healthy Jack Doyle will allow Andrew Luck to spread the field and stretch out defensive alignments, making it harder for opponents to stack the box against Mack. I would also project for more designed draw plays that will open up holes for Mack to exploit.
As the primary running back option on good Colts offense with a dominating offensive line, I am projecting Mack to finish the year with around 250 carries for 1,085 yards and 10 touchdowns. Based on ADP and rookie rankings, Mack is currently worth around the 1.04 rookie pick, which often times is either David Montgomery or D.K. Metcalf. I’d much rather take Mack over these rookies, as I want the home-run threat on a great offense who has shown that he can produce at the NFL level. Mack Daddy will make you JUMP, JUMP, for that fantasy championship.