INDIANAPOLIS — Going into this year's NFL Draft, various league experts and pundits listed what they believed to be various "positions of need" for the Indianapolis Colts.
On defense, there were many perceived needs; should the Colts pick from a plethora of available pass rushers? Should they take an tackling machine at inside linebacker? Or how about going after many, many weapons available in the secondary?
The Colts' offense, meanwhile, appeared pretty solid moving forward, with one exception: at running back. Many experts believed Indianapolis needed to use this year's draft to find a potential future replacement for starter Frank Gore, who would be entering his age-34 season in 2017.
And, in the fourth round, general manager Chris Ballard and the Colts did just that, taking Marlon Mack with the 143rd overall pick out of South Florida, where he finished his career as the program's all-time leader in rushing yards (3,609) and rushing touchdowns (32).
At 6 foot and 210 pounds, Mack immediately provides the Colts with a change of pace from Gore and Robert Turbin, who had a very successful season as Indy's backup running back last season and re-signed with the team this offseason.
But some believe Mack could possibly be in for an even larger role, even earlier than expected.
After the completion of the draft, Around The NFL writer Conor Orr compiled a list of "10 third-day picks who can make an immediate impact" on their teams. At the top of Orr's list?:
1. Marlon Mack, running back, Indianapolis Colts (South Florida)
As NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks previously noted, USF record-holder Marlon Mack has the best chance to potentially pull a Jordan Howard this year and come out of nowhere. Heading to the Colts, he could easily nestle into a role where he's sharing snaps with the now-33 (and soon to be 34-year-old) Frank Gore. The Colts played it fast and loose with Gore's backups last year, especially when it came to a dependable, pass-catching option on third down. As one scout told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Mack is more of a spread-type of running back anyway, but has the frame and power to thrive at the next level.
Could Mack have a Jordan Howard-type impact his rookie season with the Colts?
Howard was a fifth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in the 2016 NFL Draft, and went on to finish the year second in the NFL in rushing yards, finishing with 252 carries for 1,313 yards and six touchdowns.
And, much like Mack this season, Howard wasn't expected to be an immediate starter for the Bears in 2016. In fact, through his first three games, Howard had just 12 total carries.
So while the Colts appear to be set atop the depth chart at running back heading into the season, head coach Chuck Pagano is champing at the bit to see what Mack can do once the pace picks up a little bit during training camp and the preseason.
"He looks good," Pagano said when asked his initial thoughts of Mack during rookie minicamp and OTAs. "He's a quick learner, a quick study. He's picking up things extremely fast. He's got good hands and he's got good vision. He's got a nice jump cut. He's explosive and he can burst. He's good in traffic and he's learning the protection part of it.
"Again, we're not going to know – hitting bags and things like that is one thing and learning who to get on is another," Pagano continued. "Once we get into pads and we get into the preseason, we'll figure out if he can stop and block the guys that he's going to have to block in pass protection. But he's showing some good things out there to this point."
The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.