INDIANAPOLIS — With Andrew Luck returning from shoulder surgery, a handful of new offensive players (including a shiny, new line) and a new, offensive-minded coaching staff, there is plenty to be optimistic about regarding the Indianapolis Colts' offense.
Today, we continue examining the fantasy football profiles of the primary fantasy-relevant Colts players.
Average draft position and positional rankings from FantasyPros. Projections are based on traditional lineups with PPR scoring.
RB Marlon Mack
- Current ADP — 79
- Current Positional Rank — RB30
- Games missed last season (2017) — 2
- 2017 — 14 games, 93 carries, 358 rush yards (3.9 avg), 21 receptions (33 targets), 225 receiving yards (10.7 avg), 4 total touchdowns
- Average per game — 6.6 carries, 25.6 rush yards (3.9 avg), 1.5 receptions (2.4 targets), 16.1 receiving yards (10.7 avg), 0.3 total touchdowns
- Prorated to 16 games — 16 games, 106 carries, 409 rush yards (3.9 avg), 24 receptions (38 targets), 257 receiving yards (10.7 avg), 5 total touchdowns
Mack had an inconsistent rookie campaign, but did show a ton of potential in the process. Although there were times he failed to find a crease and had plenty of zero or negative-yard runs, he routinely made big plays.
Of Mack's 114 touches, 22 of them (19.3%) went for at least 10 yards. Among those 22 plays, 12 of them went for at least 15 yards, 10 went for at least 20 yards and two for at least 30 yards. He was a big play threat every single time he touched the ball.
Outside of running the ball, one area of focus for Mack's game moving forward is pass protection. Frank Gore and Robert Turbin were excellent pass protectors for the Colts, and it was something that was new to Mack last year.
Gore is now gone, and Turbin is suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season. Can Mack step up and be that complete back?
According to 4for4 Fantasy Football, 69% of the Colts' 2017 backfield touches were vacated as a result of Gore's departure, so the opportunity is there for somebody to take.
If Mack can show improvement in pass pro and more consistent hands (had some concentration drops) then it should earn him more playing time during the season.
Before anything, though, we need to figure out what Mack's role might be.
Although many assume that Mack is supposed to be the Colts' starting running back this year, he was unable to participate with the team in offseason practices after undergoing shoulder surgery.
The Colts report to training camp on July 25, and we should find out shortly after whether Mack will be cleared yet or not.
The Colts drafted Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins this April to go with Mack, Turbin, Christine Michael and Josh Ferguson.
The coaches and front office are big on both newcomers Hines and Wilkins. They have talked at length about Hines' traits and all the ways they can use him going forward. General manager Chris Ballard even said that Wilkins reminds him of recent legendary Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.
With an emphasis on competition and the best man winning every spot on the depth chart, there is no guarantee that Mack will be the starter, although it does make sense for him to be the front runner.
If the team chooses to carry four running backs at a given time during the regular season, the ones they choose to keep on the 53-man roster will be expected to fill out all of the basic duties of a running back group — running inside the tackles (including short-yardage) and outside the hashes, pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield.
Without there being a clear-cut ball-dominant back on the Colts roster, it is likely that we see backfield touches distributed similarly to how head coach Frank Reich did when he was offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Reich's first year as coordinator in Philadelphia in 2016, they had three running backs — Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood — make up 86.1% of their running back touches. By year's end, six total backs had touches.
Things were similar in Reich's Super Bowl-winning season with the Eagles last year. Four running backs — LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Jay Ajayi and Smallwood — accounted for 90.4% of the backfield touches. Sproles tore an ACL three games in, likely throwing off the distribution. Like 2016, six total running backs had touches on the season.
If things go similarly for Reich with the Colts like they did with the Eagles, then we're looking at three, maybe four backs dominating the touches with the top two having the most substantially.
The good news for Mack is he seems like a good bet to be among that group, especially among the top two.
Just as good of news for Mack is that the Colts' offensive line should be a much improved unit to run behind after adding Austin Howard, Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith and Matt Slauson this offseason.
Between the flashes he showed last year, being a veteran in the backfield compared to Hines and Wilkins, and Turbin's absence, the Colts will likely need to rely on Mack early on.
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