Above the Board – Marlon Mack

In fantasy football we want to draft the best players, which goes without saying. When picking we often look to choose players we feel can beat their average draft position (ADP). This provides us value with our picks. This is even more true in redraft and best ball leagues as we are only concerned about his year’s performance.

The consensus is that any player who beats their ADP is a good pick if we choose them at or after that draft position. The thing is, players who are close in ADP often have very similar scoring results. When looking to make a big impact we need to not look to just beat out ADP by a little bit but blow it out of the water.

Drafting a player who significantly outperforms their ADP can go a long way in building a championship roster. This requires us to do our research, buck the trend, and be bold in our decisions. This is the second installment in my Above the Board series where we look at players that have potential to vastly outperform the collective expectations of the fantasy football community.

In this second edition we will look at a player now almost two years removed from a serious injury who finds himself on a new team.

Marlon Mack, RB – Houston Texans
ADP 172.7 – RB53

Marlon Mack was signed by the Texans in the off-season to a one year, two million dollar contract. Not a huge amount of money but still an investment.

Houston drafted Dameon Pierce in the fourth round of the draft this year. They also re-signed veteran Rex Burkhead.

The changes in the backfield were accompanied by the hiring of a new head coach in Lovie Smith. Smith tapped a new offensive coordinator in Pep Hamilton. Both coaches are well traveled and have ties with many coaching trees and their accompanying systems.

This leaves a fair bit of uncertainty in how things will play out in the backfield for the Texans this year. The waters are definitely a little murky in Houston but only one back has shown the ability to lead a backfield in the NFL.

Mack was given the opportunity in 2018 and 2019 to be the top back for the Indianapolis Colts. He was an effective runner and a serviceable pass catcher.

2018, Marlon had 195 rushing attempts, 908 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns, 17 receptions, 103 yards receiving, and 1 receiving touchdown.

2019, Mack had 247 rushing attempts, 1019 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns, 14 receptions, and 82 yards receiving.

In 2020, Mack suffered a torn Achilles against the Jaguars in week one. Johnathan Taylor took over the backfield with Nyheim Hines playing a complimentary role as a pass catching back.

Marlon returned in 2021, but the effects of the injury were still not completely gone and Taylor had established himself as one of the best in the league.

Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Burkhead led an anemic Texans’ rushing game in 2021. The 32-year-old had 122 rushing attempts, 427 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, 25 receptions, and 186 yards receiving.

Dameon Pierce was drafted as a senior out of Florida. In 4 years in college he played in 48 games. He finished with 329 rushing attempts, 1806 yards rushing, 23 rushing touchdowns, 45 receptions, 422 yards receiving, and 5 receiving touchdowns.

He was a starter his junior year but only started one game as a senior. The most carries he had in any season was 106 and the most receptions he had was 22. Pierce worked in a timeshare in college but when called upon Dameon performed well with the opportunities given to him.

He was not afforded as many opportunities as many would have liked to have seen, which provides more questions than answers. Though it could be said that those questions should be directed at the coaching staff of Florida.

I expect Burkhead to be utilized sparingly with the additions of Mack and Pierce. Anything north of 75 touches on the year would be a surprise. Despite being re-signed I think Burkhead is a cut candidate.

In both years where Mack has been given 212+ touches he has finished as RB22 or higher overall in PPR leagues and RB18 or higher in non PPR leagues.

An improving Davis Mills coupled with an improved offensive line should provide a better environment for running backs in 2022. Mack is another year removed from his Achilles injury and has appeared to gain much of his old form from observations by coaches and scouts.

A split in touches between Mack and Pierce similar to Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon in Denver last year would not be surprising. There should be roughly 450 touches to be split between the two new faces.

For Mack I expect a stat line similar to:

CarriesRush YardsRush TDsReceptionsReceiving YardsReceiving TDS

This would total out to 160 points in PPR leagues which would have been RB29 in 2021. I wouldn’t be shocked if he outperformed even this projection.

Mack is going as the 58th running back off the board in the 15th round. Taking a flier on him late in drafts is well worth it. The opportunity presented to Marlon in Houston is ripe for him to finish above the board and far ahead of the fantasy football community’s expectations.

Additional Information

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