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Will Marlon Mack Take the Next Step in 2019? (Fantasy Football)

by Shane Manila | @ShaneIsTheWorst | Featured Writer
Jul 24, 2019

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Sometimes a player will sneak up on you in fantasy, proverbially of course. It would be really weird if they did so in real life. It could be a veteran that was mediocre their entire career who breaks out when they find a new home. Or, it might be a player that you initially liked as a rookie who underperformed in year one that you discarded. Today I’ll discuss the latter type of player, Marlon Mack.

After averaging 1,203 rushing yards on 6.2 yards per carry, 22 receptions with 166 receiving yards, and 10.66 touchdowns (15 in his final season) per season during his three seasons at South Florida and landing with the high-powered Indianapolis Colts, Mack was firmly implanted as a “sleeper” in 2017. His rookie draft ADP of 2.10 per Fantasy Football Calculator meant he was a favorite buy-low candidate in many leagues. His rookie season disappointed as he only had 93 rushing attempts for 358 yards while exceeding 10 rushing attempts just twice in 14 games. Frank Gore was able to hold onto the starting role largely due to Mack’s underwhelming 3.85 Yards Per Carry and penchant for attempting to bounce too many runs to the outside instead of following his blocks.

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The Colts did let Gore leave via free agency but added running back Nyheim Hines in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft and Jordan Wilkins in the fifth round. Though Mack was the incumbent, his fourth-round draft pedigree didn’t guarantee he would be the starter in 2018. Mack’s ADP reflected this concern as he was the 99th player off the board as the RB37. Wilkins and Hines both looked overmatched in the preseason last year. Hines carved out a role as a receiving back during the first five weeks of the season when Mack missed four of the first five games played, but Wilkins was unable to take advantage of his opportunity. This allowed Mack to step into the starting role once he returned Week 6.

In 12 games, Mack ranked 14th at running back in average weekly scoring with 14.8 fantasy points per game, doubling his rookie year average of 7.4 points per game. He was able to increase YPC from his rookie season by almost a full yard to 4.7 per carry and looked like an entirely different runner compared to his rookie season. He played to his 5’11”, 213-pound frame and ran between the tackles, running hard through contact while still displaying enough speed to hit the big play. Even with the addition of pass-catching specialist Hines to the roster, Mack was able to hold onto similar target and receiving shares from his rookie season. In his rookie season, he averaged 2.3 targets per game and 1.5 receptions, compared to the 2.16 targets and 1.4 receptions per game in 2018.

Most impressively, Mack thrived when his rushing attempts increased. In his 12 games, Mack had six games with 15 or more rushing attempts and six games with 14 or fewer carries.

Rushing Attempts  # of Games Average Attempts YPC Points Per game
 >= 15 rushing attempts 6 21.16 5.22 21.83
<= 14 rushing attempts 6 11.33 3.63 7.85

It makes sense that the more rushing attempts a player is given, the more their scoring should increase, as it did by a significant margin for Mack, but you would expect that the average yards per attempts would decrease. Instead, Mack averaged 1.59 yards per carry more per attempt when he had at least 15 rushing attempts compared to 14 or fewer attempts. The Colts over/under win total is currently 9.5 for 2019. This should provide Mack with plenty of games where he exceeds 15 rushing attempts. He’s ranked as the RB16 per our current ECR (PPR format). Aaron Jones, Le’Veon Bell, and Leonard Fournette are all ranked above Mack, and I’d prefer Mack to each of those players. If you don’t own Mack but do own any of those three players I’d look to the Mack owner in your leagues to trade. You could trade for Mack and pick up something extra on your side as well while getting the better player.

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Shane Manila is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Shane, check out his archive and follow him @DFF_Shane.

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