INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Gore is a grinder; he's built a Hall of Fame-worthy career out of being an extremely dependable, durable running back that churns yards carry after carry and wears down the opposing defense.
Robert Turbin proved in 2016 that he's the ideal third-down, short-yardage back. He converts first downs on the ground, catches the ball well out of the backfield and provides quality protection for the quarterback on critical downs.
Marlon Mack - Round Four - Pick 143 - Running Back - USF
Both Gore and Turbin have played — and will continue to play — very important roles for the Indianapolis Colts' offense.
What's been missing, however, is that "home run" back; the type of player that is handed the football and is a serious threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Enter Marlon Mack.
The Colts took Mack in the fourth round of last month's NFL Draft to potentially provide just that for their offense, much the way he was able to do in college at South Florida.
Pro Football Focus' Michael Manning recently provided a breakdown of why Mack and his explosiveness "could provide a new wrinkle to the (Colts') offense."
Last year, for example, Mack had a "breakaway percentage," which is the percentage of his rushing yards earned on plays 15 yards or more, of 52.3 percent. That mark was fifth-best among all NCAA running backs, and only two running backs who ended up being drafted ahead of Mack — Joe Mixon (57.3 percent) and Curtis Samuel (53.8 percent) — were better.
That big-play ability hasn't exactly been a factor for the Colts' running backs in recent seasons. Manning explains:
• Frank Gore and Robert Turbin each had a breakaway percentage of 11.0 percent or less in 2016. Gore ranked 49th out of 53. Turbin would have slotted just barely ahead of Gore if he had had enough attempts to qualify.
• The Colts have not drafted a RB who rushed for 1,000 yards in a season since Joseph Addai in 2007, with six RBs drafted since Addai.
• Mack has had a run of more than 55 yards every year in his college career. The last Colts RB to do so was Donald Brown in 2011.
For these reasons, it's no surprise that Mack was the top player on Around The NFL's Conor Orr's list of "third-day picks who can make an immediate impact." Orr likened Mack's scenario to that of the Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard, who last season wasn't expected to make much of a contribution early on in his rookie year, but ended up finishing second in the league in rushing yards.
The Bears, of course, couldn't boast the overall offensive firepower that the Colts could last year (and still can't), so that scenario would be more prime for a breakout season like Howard's. And every rookie running back responds to their first seasons differently; some catch on quickly, while others can be a little bogged down by all of the responsibilities beyond just running the ball.
How will Mack respond? That's obviously yet to be seen. But the obvious hope is that he can eventually provide the same type of explosive role that he played in college.
"I see myself as an all-around back, but I'll start off at third down," Mack said last month. "Wherever the team needs me, I'll come in and help. Whatever they need me to do, I'm coming in to help and help the best way I can."
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