Marlon Mack was drafted 143rd overall by the Indianapolis Colts with the second to last pick of the fourth round. The Colts fill a need for speed and pass-catching running back, and if Mack hits his ceiling, he’ll be in a great position to succeed Frank Gore, who turns 34 next month.
This is an ideal landing spot for Mack, who will compete immediately for snaps with Robert Turbin and Josh Ferguson in one of the league’s thinnest backfields. He will have a chance to prove his value as a playmaker without having to sink or swim on day one as an inside runner. Despite being the 15th running back off the board, Mack will be fantasy relevant for redraft leagues and joins the top of the RB class in dynasty, right behind the tier of expected starters.
We’ll get to more on the fantasy outlook in a minute. But first let’s take a comprehensive look at your new Indianapolis Colts RB, Marlon Mack.
Marlon Mack, South Florida, 5-11, 213
RB Prospect Lab Data
The Prospect Lab gives Mack a respectable score of 54 (ninth in this class), which rewards his combination of size and speed, but looks less favorably on his unspectacular counting stats.
The AAC’s all-time leading rusher, Mack broke 1,200 all-purpose yards as a true freshman and averaged 6.7 yards per carry over his final two seasons. As Tim Talmadge wrote in his pre-combine profile, Mack is one of 112 players over the last 16 years to total 3,000 rushing yards, 50 receptions, and 30 touchdowns, but one of just 24 players to do it with fewer than 600 carries.
Mack’s great efficiency numbers speak to his big play ability, but his overall volume was limited by South Florida’s three-headed backfield. Mack split snaps with the very good passing back D’Ernest Johnson, who collected 53 receptions over the last two years to Mack’s 44.1 And quarterback Quinton Flowers paced the team last year with a voluminous 1,530 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
Mack compiled an adequate-but-not-awesome 58 percent market share of rushing yards last year, and likewise scored a non-head turning 59.78 Workhorse Score (14th best in class). Looking at Mack’s comps in the Box Score Scout provides a similar picture.
Mack profiles as a consistent performer, who is good at everything, but possibly great at nothing. Although his comps include several recent RotoViz favorites, like CJ Prosise and Kenneth Dixon, there are no striking successes on this list.
Mack’s lack of volume simply makes him less projectable as an NFL star, but I believe there are reasons to be bullish on his combination of explosiveness, versatility, and efficiency, including a surprising comp that gives me confidence in his on-paper profile.
Before the combine, Mack had a reputation as a slim, tall RB that was probably limited to a scat-back role in the NFL. But he weighed in at 213 pounds and stood 5 feet 11 inches. And then he ripped off a 4.5 forty, 35.5-inch vertical, and 125-inch broad jump.
The RB Success Model gives Mack a solid 14 percent chance at a top-12 PPR ranking in his first three seasons, good for eighth best in this class. But what do his comps look like factoring in his explosion (broad, vert) and efficiency (yards per carry) and not just his speed and volume?
We’re talking about a different kind of beast altogether.
Of course, Mack doesn’t need to become one of the most rugged runners in recent memory to succeed. The point is that he is a similar sized package–his ceiling is higher than you might think. Lynch shared carries with Justin Forsett at Cal and is a good example of efficient college production from a medium-sized back scaling to the NFL.2
Mack won’t just be handed the keys to the kingdom, but Gore’s bags are packed and the gates are open. Colts RBs were able to convert 109 targets into just 592 yards last year, and neither Turbin nor Ferguson were able to hit on a passing play of 20 yards or more. Mack has a fantastic opportunity to establish a role doing what he does best as a pass catcher and play maker while letting Gore handle the work in the trenches. The Colts offer a prime spot to rack up valuable touches in a powerful offense, with little competition for either short-term or long-term opportunity.
In redraft leagues, Mack becomes an immediate Zero RB target, in the cohort of players like Tevin Coleman and Charles Sims last year, with an outside possibility that he takes on the more valuable share of a committee a la the Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones days in Kansas City.
In dynasty leagues, I think you can consider Mack as soon as Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Leonard Fournette are off the board. While prospects like Alvin Kamara, Jeremy McNichols, and Samaje Perine also seem to have found good landing spots, we are likely to find out what we have with Mack right away.
We can’t completely ignore Andrew Luck’s shoulder surgery, but assuming a full recovery the Colts have one of the most stable offenses in the league. They enter year two under Rob Chudzinski as offensive coordinator and added some much-needed depth at wide receiver with Kamar Aiken. Although Dwayne Allen is now a Patriot, Jack Doyle is back and so is Erik Swoope, and the Colts were able to add Zach Banner to the offensive line with the Patriots’ fourth round pick.
Mack’s addition should help shore up a primary weak spot from recent years, which will benefit the offense overall. And if you are a Gore, Turbin, or Ferguson owner, this is probably good news for you too. The Colts were certain to add an RB, but instead of spending an early pick, they actually traded down in the fourth round to 143 to get a prospect backed by about as little draft capital as possible. Obviously more moves could happen this offseason, but the market value of all Colts offensive players has risen slightly.
As a player without any singularly elite qualities, Mack has a wide range of outcomes, but he offers one of the best combinations of speed and explosiveness in this draft. He lands in a perfect situation to fill a role right away in PPR leagues and should have a longer leash than most rookies to prove himself, both as a change-of-pace and every-down back.
Find all of our 2017 NFL draft reaction content here.
The RB Success Model – Using age, production, and combine measurables, Cole builds on earlier regression tree analysis to build a model that predicts success within the first three years of a player’s NFL career. Odds of success are given for 28 RBs from the 2017 NFL draft class, along with commentary on the more prominent names.
The Mack Attack
- Johnson sports a career 12.2 YPR, same as Christian McCaffrey. (back)
- One criticism of Mack is that his success came versus a lower level of competition, but Lynch is also Mack’s top comp using his sophomore year production, when USF faced a comparable strength of schedule. Jay Ajayi and Melvin Gordon join that list of comps as well. (back)