By Brendan Taffe
Every year there are a handful of players who lose a significant amount of value as soon as the NFL Draft happens. A new, younger, rookie is drafted to the same position by the same team as your RB2 or WR3 and his value immediately tanks. I am here this week to defend some of those players.
Marlon Mack – RB, Indianapolis Colts
Why his value dropped: Jonathan Taylor
Marlon Mack was the 19th best running back in 0.5 PPR points per game last year after finishing 11th in 2018. Mack was part of the legendary 2017 running back class, which included Fournette, Cook, Kamara, Mixon, McCaffrey, Hunt, Conner, and Cohen. He rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown in the Colts’ win over the Texans in 2018, and he is still just 24 years old. For a solid RB2 over the last two years, only two words define why his value has tanked: Jonathan Taylor.
Some have labeled Jonathan Taylor as the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley. Taylor was a man amongst boys in college, becoming the first player to rush for 200 yards in a game twelve times. His 6174 rushing yards over his three amateur seasons will be difficult to replicate any time soon. The problem with comparing him to a Saquon or an Ezekiel Elliott is that he is not on their level. Both of those backs were top four selections in the first round, and Taylor fell to the second round, after two other RBs. D’Andre Swift was the highest-rated running back prospect on NFL.com, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire got selected first because he perfectly fits Kansas City’s scheme.
Taylor has incredible speed, especially considering his size. He ran a 4.39 40 yard dash at the combine while weighing in at 226 pounds. A patient runner behind the line, Taylor can burn anybody once into the open field. But unlike Zeke or Saquon, he is not without faults. Over his three years at Wisconsin, he lost 15 fumbles. It is tough to command a three-down workload, or even a starting job, as a running back with ball security issues. The team that turns the ball over more is typically the loser, so it is nearly impossible to gain a coach’s trust as a player who has a reputation of losing the ball.
One possible contributing factor to Taylor’s tendency for fumbles is his already heavy workload. As a disclaimer, I do not know if there is any evidence to show that running backs fumble more as they accrue more miles on their legs. If anyone has data to support or deny that, please let me know! Taylor ranks 35th overall in college football history in rushing attempts. However, thirty-four of those thirty-five players were in college for at least four years, while Taylor accrued his 926 attempts in only three years. The good news for Taylor owners is that one other player’s name is Herschel Walker. It would make sense that the more hits a player takes during their career, they are more prone to fumbles over time.
Ball security is not the only aspect of the game Colts coaches will have to work on with Taylor. Coaches ask more of the modern running back than just running with the ball. Taylor is not known for being a receiver, and his 42 career receptions during his time in Madison can validate that. Although Marlon Mack is another player who has done next to nothing in the passing game, this is an area that Taylor will have to improve on if he wants an edge over Mack.
The final piece to the Marlon Mack-Jonathan Taylor puzzle is the Colts offensive line. Last year, they ranked as the NFL’s 3rd best unit, and PFF ranks them as the best in the league for 2020. With a quarterback that is a few years past his prime, this line’s primary assignment will be to block for their talented backs. The Colts have an average defense that added Pro Bowl DT DeForest Buckner, meaning that they will not be on the wrong end of a blowout more often than not. A close-enough scoreboard tells Head Coach Frank Reich that he can still run the ball, and I will not be surprised when he uses a two-headed attack with both Mack and Taylor.
I am not advocating for you to go out and trade for Marlon Mack immediately, and I am certainly not trying to say that Jonathan Taylor is a lousy football player. What I am saying though is that perhaps Taylor is not a once-in-a-lifetime prospect many people have called him. And maybe some of you are sleeping on Mack still being a suitable fantasy asset, even with his new teammate.
Brendan Taffe – Dynasty/Podcast
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