The Colts’ running back position has been discussed quite a bit as the regular season came to a close and then into this offseason.
First, there was Frank Gore hitting some nice milestones, becoming the first Colts running back since 2007 to top 1,000 yards rushing in a season.
Second, the Colts re-signed Robert Turbin, who had a really nice year in 2016 as the team’s short-yardage and goal-line back. Turbin was brought back on a two-year, $2.7 million deal.
And third, a running back has been a relatively common pick in the first round of mock drafts for the Colts, whether it be Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey. The running back position certainly is a big need this offseason.
Those three realities - which have all been discussed quite a bit already - give a nice summary of the state of the position for the Colts. Frank Gore is coming back and, while he was productive a year ago, he’s also lost a step - something that Brett Krosky pointed out on Friday. So it’s quite clear that the Colts need to complement Gore in the backfield and that it can’t just be solely dependent on the soon-to-be 34-year old. Part of that help could come from Turbin, who could see more first and second down touches, according to Chris Ballard. It seems quite possible that the Colts will use Turbin a bit more in 2017 than they did last year, giving him a bigger role than simply as a short-yardage guy. But it also seems likely that the Colts will be adding a running back in the draft, too.
Owner Jim Irsay even made it clear what the Colts are hoping for, too. “We would love to be able to, in the end, come away, like we had Vick Ballard in 2012 - that type of impact from a later running back draft pick,” Irsay said recently, according to Colts.com. “We would love to get a young back that can come in and help us offensively.
What should we make of that? Well - and I know this seems quite radical - it probably means that the Colts ideally want to use their early picks on defensive help while finding a mid-to-late round running back to come in and contribute. Irsay’s example was a recent one, Vick Ballard in 2012, but there are plenty of examples around the NFL of those types of backs. In such a deep running back class, too, it seems like the Colts could be able to find one of those guys this year - but it will mean doing the hard work of scouting and finding those players.
So ultimately, here’s where the running back position stands heading into the draft: Frank Gore is still around, but he’s not going to be able to carry the whole load. Robert Turbin will likely see an increased role, but at the same time the Colts will likely add a back through the draft. It’s possible that it could be an early round addition, but it’s also just as likely that it will be a bit later. Ultimately, what’s clear is that the Colts need to add a young back who could step in and contribute right away but who could develop into a long-term option too. It’s not as big of a need as some defensive positions, but it’s the biggest need on the offensive side of the football for the Colts in this year’s draft.