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Entering the 2018 season, expectations for second-year Colts running back Marlon Mack are optimistic.  Frank Gore, one of 5 players all-time to rush for at least 14,000 yards, is no longer the workhorse for the Indianapolis backfield.  There are some notable names on the free-agent market for the position, however, the Colts seem content with their current stable of tailbacks.  Gore’s departure leaves a gaping hole for the Indy ground game; will Mack seize the opportunity?

Last season, Gore started all 16 games and received 261 carries.  Mack netted 93 carries, while Jacoby Brissett, filling in for an injured Andrew Luck, was third on the team with 63 rushing attempts.  The biggest question regarding Marlon Mack will be his projected usage.  If he receives close to Gore’s 261 carries, similar or better numbers should result.  Gore’s yards per attempt was 3.7 while Mack finished with 3.8.  However, rushes of at least 20 yards were heavily in Mack’s favor, as he was tied for 11th in the NFL with six.  Gore had one rush of at least 20 yards.  Mack’s elusive rating (ability to miss tackles) and breakaway percentage show game-changing potential.

Running Back Competition

The Colts selected two running backs in the 2018 NFL Draft.  Nyheim Hines was selected 104th overall, followed by Jordan Wilkins with the 169th pick.  Current players returning for the 2018 season include Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin, Josh Ferguson, and Christine Michael.  The Colts typically keep four running backs on their active roster. Marlon Mack is the early front-runner for lead back duties.  Robert Turbin has a clearly defined role as the short-yardage back.  This leaves two spots open for the remaining players.

Nyheim Hines is showing quite a bit of versatility during the team’s OTA practices.  From lining up as a receiver in the slot to fielding kickoffs, his roster spot is all but assured.  He projects as a change of pace option, who thrives when given the ball in space.  Hines’ presence will likely end the tenure for Josh Ferguson.  Both are similar players, however, Hines is a fourth-round draft pick with a higher ceiling than the undrafted Ferguson.

Jordan Wilkins, at 6’1″ and 200 pounds, fits the mold of a three-down running back.  Pro Football Focus listed Wilkins 28th among all rookies in regards to dynasty fantasy football rankings.  He is even receiving some first-team reps at minicamp with a minor injury sidelining Marlon Mack.  Having Wilkins on the roster will allow the Colts to release the Seattle castoff, Christine Michael.  Wilkins offers way more upside and is an intriguing option moving forward.

Which Colts running back emerges as the starter?

Marlon Mack, barring injury, is the week 1 starter.  Jordan Wilkins is the dark horse candidate who could be the starter by the end of the season.  Colts fans should not be surprised if new head coach Frank Reich rotates rushers frequently.  With an improved offensive line and Andrew Luck returning, the Colts running backs should have more room to roam.  Colts fan will be excited, regardless of who is the starter.

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