The Indianapolis Colts haven’t exactly been the best at finding running backs in the draft in recent years.
Yes, if you go back to 2006 Joseph Addai in the first round turned out ok, and if you go all the way back to 1999 the selection of Edgerrin James with the fourth overall pick was a home run. But more recently, the Colts have largely tried to find mid-round successes at the position, and it hasn’t really worked out.
In the last ten drafts (prior to the 2017 NFL Draft), the Colts had selected six running backs. Among that group: one first round back (Donald Brown, 2009), one fourth round back (Delone Carter, 2011), one fifth round back (Vick Ballard, 2012), two sixth round backs (Mike Hart, 2008; and Josh Robinson, 2015), and one seventh round back (Kerwynn Williams, 2013). Those guys averaged just 676 yards and 4.3 touchdowns during their time with the Colts, which spanned just over two seasons on average. If you remove Brown, a first rounder, from the picture, it’s even worse: the other five backs averaged just 335.8 yards and 1.8 touchdowns rushing with the Colts, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, and played in just 14 games on average (starting an average of 3.4). None of those five backs even reached 900 career rushing yards with Indianapolis.
So in recent seasons, the Colts haven’t exactly been great at finding mid-round successes at running back. They’re hoping that Marlon Mack, whom they selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft, breaks that trend.
“We debated back-and-forth between a couple backs,” GM Chris Ballard said last weekend, “and at the end of the day we went with Marlon just because of the speed and the explosive playmaking ability.”
Mack had a very successful collegiate career at South Florida, rushing for 3,609 yards and 32 scores while averaging 6.2 yards per carry, topping 1,000 yards rushing in three straight seasons. He also caught 62 passes for 498 yards and a score. It’s that breakaway speed that made him especially intriguing to the Colts, and that home run ability can be demoralizing to a defense.
“It takes away their confidence,” Mack said last Saturday. “They probably have all the momentum right now and we need a big play. And I come in and hit a long run. It takes away the momentum and it changes the game. We can take off from there.”
That’s what the Colts are hoping from Mack right away, as the rookie can play in a backfield that already features Frank Gore and Robert Turbin. Gore will likely remain the starter, but Mack could carve out a role as a change-of-pace back with Turbin being the short-yardage and goal-line guy.
“I see myself as an all-around back, but I’ll start off at third down,” Mack said. “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.”
There’s a lot to like about Marlon Mack, even though he was a fourth round selection. The Colts think he can have a significant impact on their offense, and he should at the very least be an exciting player to watch in training camp and preseason as he shows what he can do.
The Colts haven’t exactly been great at finding running back talent late, but they’re hoping Marlon Mack can change that - and if he can flash the breakaway speed and home run ability in the pros that he showed in college, he likely will.