Opportunity Makes Marlon Mack a Fantasy Sleeper

Jun 04, 2018
Opportunity Makes Marlon Mack a Fantasy Sleeper

It’s a new era for the Indianapolis Colts with Chuck Pagano gone and Josh McDaniels Frank Reich taking over as head coach. This new change presents a great opportunity for second-year running back Marlon Mack.

It's true Mack underwent offseason shoulder surgery, potentially ceding practice reps to rookies Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, but one long-time beat writer recently said to expect Mack to be the “centerpiece” of Reich’s running-back-by-committee (RBBC).

Editor's Note: Find all our 2018 Player Profiles here.

That dreaded RBBC phrase shouldn’t scare us anymore if the situation is favorable and the player’s cost in drafts is reasonable. Which is what we find with Mack, who is currently being drafted in the eighth round of 12-team leagues.

Opportunity

There is an opening for a lead back in the Colts' backfield with Frank Gore now in Miami. He leaves a sizable amount of RB volume for the Colts to fill in 2018:

2017 Colts RB Touches
Player Touches Total Yds Rush TD Rec Rec TD RB Touch Share
Frank Gore 290 1206 3 29 1 65.17%
Marlon Mack 114 583 3 21 1 25.62%
Robert Turbin 32 109 1 9 0 7.19%
Matt Jones 5 14 0 1.12%
Josh Ferguson 4 21 0 3 0 0.90%
Total 445 1933 7 62 2



Even if Mack weren’t to assume Gore’s 290 touches, a 50 percent RB touch share from last year’s volume would mean 223 touches. Using our Player Touches App, we find Mack averaged 0.91 PPR points per touch. At 223 touches, Mack would have scored 202.5 PPR points in 2017, which would have been ahead of Devonta Freeman for RB13.

If we look at our Player Snap App, we’ll also find Gore, by far, played the most snaps on the team last year among RBs:

2017 Colts RB Snaps
Player Pos Team G Snaps Snap % STD/Snp PPR/Snp
Frank Gore RB 16 555/1030 54% 0.26 0.31
Marlon Mack RB IND 14 310/904 34% 0.27 0.33
Robert Turbin RB IND 6 124/381 33% 0.14 0.21
Josh Ferguson RB IND 10 30/649 5% 0.07 0.17
Matt Jones RB 4 9/262 3% 0.16 0.16

Offensive Line

The Colts have invested significant draft capital into the offensive line, with a top-10 pick on Notre Dame guard/crusher of souls Quenton Nelson, as well as former first-round picks at center and guard in Ryan Kelly and Anthony Castonzo, respectively.

Per Football Outsiders, the Colts' offensive line in 2016 actually had the lowest percentage of runs in the league where the RB was stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage. Yet, the line was near the bottom of the league in second-level and open field yards, likely showing the lack of dynamic playmakers at the RB position.

In 2017, it was more of the same at the second level and in the open field with the offensive line still near league average in percentage of runs where the RB was stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage, despite playing the entire season with a backup quarterback. They also ranked second in power rank last year, a measure of short-yardage success.

All of this only enhances Mack’s chances of fantasy success in 2018.

Frank Reich’s history

So what kind of volume has Frank Reich’s lead RB had in his past four years as an offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers? It’s a bit murky due to trades and injuries to his lead back.

Frank Reich Lead RBs
Player Year Lead RB Touch Share Touches/Game
Jay Ajayi* 2017 43.40% 12
Ryan Mathews** 2016 36.40% 12.9
Melvin Gordon*** 2015 42.90% 15.5
Ryan Mathews/Branden Oliver**** 2014 58% 16.1

*Weeks 11-16, after trade from Miami

**Missed three games

***Missed two games

****Mathews lead back six games, Oliver lead back in 10 games

The injury to Darren Sproles last year and the midseason trade for Jay Ajayi continually changed how the Eagles deployed their backfield. The 2014 season does show that Reich has been willing in the past to give a heavier workload to his lead back.

However, if we take the median RB touch share of 43.2 percent, that would have meant 192 touches for Mack last season in a year full of negative game script. At 0.91 PPR points per touch last season, that would have come out to 174 points, good enough for RB18 in PPR leagues.

If Andrew Luck is healthy and can provide more neutral or positive game scripts, Mack’s volume could still go up, even if he only gets around that 43.2 percent touch share.

Bottom Line

Mack presents fantastic value right now in the eighth round of drafts. Even if his price were to rise into the seventh round, it’s still good value for a dynamic back who projects to be at least an RB2 this year.

As the summer goes on, it will be important to monitor his rookie competition in this backfield, but Hines and Wilkins would only present even greater value in fantasy drafts. However, all signs point to Mack leading the way in Indianapolis.

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images.

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