Marlon Mack is Your 2018 Dark Horse Running Back

Every year, there is at least one running back that emerges from the dark trenches of the waiver wire to become a dependable starter (and perhaps win some leagues). These are the players that were not even given a second thought during drafts and turned themselves into fantasy studs within the first few weeks of the regular season. Such examples include:

2014 – Justin Forsett, Ravens
2015 – Devonta Freeman, Falcons
2016 – Jay Ajayi, Dolphins
2017 – Alvin Kamara, Saints

Kamara, the no. 1 stud off the waiver wire from last year, is a great example of how big of an impact the unforeseen can make on a fantasy roster. Headed into Week 1 of the 2017 regular season, Kamara was listed as no. 3 on the depth chart behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. By Week 5, Peterson had been traded to the Arizona Cardinals and Kamara’s potential would be unleashed for an Offensive Rookie of the Year-worthy performance: 1554 yards from scrimmage with a stellar 6.1 YPC average and 13 total touchdowns.

While Marlon Mack may not go undrafted in all fantasy drafts, he is being drafted sorely late for his potential. At his current ADP of 6.09 (via Fantasy Football Calculator), Mack has a chance to be the steal of the season for fantasy football this year. Last year, he only managed 583 yards and 4 touchdowns from scrimmage on 93 rush attempts and 21 receptions while sharing playtime with Frank Gore and Robert Turbin. It was later revealed that Mack suffered a shoulder injury during training camp and played through it his entire rookie season before undergoing surgery over the offseason.

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Headed into 2018, however, Mack has a chance to separate himself from the rest of the Colts’ backfield. Gore departed during free agency and now has a new gig with the Dolphins, leaving 69% of the Colts’ backfield touches up for grabs. Turbin, while he wasn’t a huge threat to Mack’s workload, is suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Although Indianapolis brought in two rookie running back, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, to compete for the starting role, it’s ultimately Mack’s job to lose. Mack is the only viable back on the Colts’ roster with real game-time experience and showed flashes of big-play potential at times last season.

Nearly 20% of Mack’s touches (112) last season went for 10 or more yards. He was also Pro Football Focus’ #1 ranked running back for breakaway percentage for 2017 at 56.1%. What all these numbers mean is Mack is a big play waiting to happen every time he touches the ball. Playing alongside Gore limited his touches per game, but he made the most of them. With a bigger workload in 2018, Mack could pop off like he did last season for more productive results.

It would also be foolish not to focus on the Colts offense as a whole. There’s no denying that the unit improved since last season. Andrew Luck has returned stronger than ever with a finally-healthy shoulder, which he injured in 2016 and forced him to undergo surgery and miss all football action in 2017. First-round draft pick Quenton Nelson, one of college football’s best offensive line prospects over the last decade, should not only help protect Luck’s blind side but open holes for Mack and the rest of the Colts running backs as well. And after an abysmal 4-12 season, the Colts hired Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who’s Super Bowl-winning offense managed to beat all odds and adjust with Nick Foles at quarterback after Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL late last season.

What do you think? Will Mack emerge as the favorite in the Colts’ backfield and become a fantasy football breakout player in 2018? Or will the rest of the rookie running backs cut into his touches and hurt his chances? Let me know your opinion on Twitter.

For more news on your favorite team and players, head on over to my Twitter at @Snack_TimeFS and check out the rest of my website, where I post daily articles on the MLB and NFL.

Cole Topham is the lead editor for snacktimefantasy.com and covers the MLB and NFL. He enjoys watching his opponents suffer as he defeats them week after week in his fantasy football/baseball leagues.

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