Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:


Already have an account? Log in here.


Forgot Password


Colts Conundrum: What To Do With Marlon Mack Hurt

Hello, my name is Eric Samulski, and I spent all my FAAB on Brian Hill last week. Phew! I’m glad we got that out of the way. Now that that’s on the table, we can talk honestly about this week's biggest running back decision: How the Colts will replace Marlon Mack, who just underwent surgery on his hand.

This time of year can be deadly when trying to pick up running back. All of us are out there, desperate on the streets, searching for the one guy who’s gonna take us to the promised land. The one guy who's going to make our season of struggle worthwhile. Yet, in reality, the more likely situation is that we’re going to be hoodwinked. Bamboozled. Led astray by some tantalizing player who quickly reminds us why he wasn’t a starting option to begin the season.

Maybe I’m a little gun shy after Brian Hill let me down, but I also want all of us to be aware of the risk we're taking as we head down this road together. We’ve got three potential options behind an offense of line that many consider to be one of the best in the league. However, on the year, the Colts are 11th in line-adjusted rushing (yardage gained due to the success of the line and not just the running back). That's behind offenses like Buffalo, Oakland, and Los Angeles (the Rams). They are 14th in success on power runs and, surprisingly, 22nd in the league in percentage of runs stuffed at the line. The talent may be there, but this line is not performing at an elite level, which will make the task even harder for whichever runner gets the job.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!


Jonathan Williams

The trendiest option to replace Mack is Jonathan Williams. The twice-released running back had a great game last week against a formidable but not overly strong Jaguars Defense. As a rookie with the Buffalo Bills in 2016, Jonathan Williams impressed many people with his aggressive running style and the lateral agility to make people miss in the open field. However, with the Bills changing coaching staffs, he found himself on the outside looking in. He latched on with New Orleans and also impressed people in the preseason, only to be released again.

So we have a running back who has tantalized with preseason ability but has been consequently cut by two different organizations. He's also been a member of the Colts since October of 2018 but was active for only three games and saw two total carries before last week. There is something to the fact that he has shown these flashes in the past.

Behind a good offense of line, his strong burst and above-average wiggle should give him the ability to gain decent chunks of yards, and his power should make him a solid red-zone option. However, the line is allowing a lot of plays to be stuffed, so that says to me that he's more of an RB3 with the potential to become a low-end RB2 if he’s able to find the end zone.

You can't deny how good Williams looked last week, but he's not a real option in the passing game, especially with the presence of another guy who we are going to talk about later. It gives me a bit of pause.


Jordan Wilkins

The other factor capping William's upside is the presence of Jordan Wilkins. The second-year back from Mississippi has been Mack's back-up all season, even with Williams on the team. Wilkins isn't the athlete that Mack is and doesn't run with the nasty demeanor that Williams does, but he's been effective as a backup in his short NFL career.

He's averaged over six yards per carry this season and showed himself to be a solid enough receiver last year that the Colts don't necessarily need to take him off the field on passing downs. He makes his bread inside, with 71.4% of his rushes coming between the tackles. He's also gained 63% of his yards after contact, which, while fine, trails Jonathan Williams' 88% and is indicative of Wilkins' lesser physicality.

What's more interesting to me is Wilkins' usage so far this year. He wasn't called upon last week to replace Mack since Wilkins was out with an ankle injury; however, when Marlon Mack left the Raiders game early in Week 5, Wilkins only saw four rushes, compared to Nyheim Hines' three. In fact, despite Mack battling through multiple injuries this year, Wilkins has never seen more than seven carries in a game. Last year, with Mack also dealing with injuries, Wilkins saw over 10 carries in a game only once, and he rushed 14 times for 40 yards in that Week 1 loss to Cincinnati.

He's been an effective part-time player, but do the Colts think he can handle a starter's workload?


Nyheim Hines

If that weren't enough, Nyheim Hines is also around the muck up the situation. The Colts' primary pass-catching back has seen his rushing usage dwindle in his second year. After averaging just under 20 yards a game on the ground last year, Hines has averaged 7.7 yards per game rushing this year on 2.3 attempts. The Colts simply aren't going to use him as a runner. He doesn't have the size to hold up to a full workload and doesn't gain enough yardage after contact (57% - below league average) to move the chains consistently on the ground.

However, Hines will be involved in the passing game. Without Mack, and with T.Y. Hilton also banged up, the Colts may be playing from behind in upcoming games against the Texans, Titans, Buccaneers, and Saints. In the Colts' losses, Hines sees around four targets a game. If you bump that up without Mack around, it's safe to predict about six to eight targets a game for Hines, depending on the game script.


Marlon Mack

The incumbent also isn't to be forgotten. Mack already had surgery on his hand, but there is no clear timetable for his return. He's still seeing specialists to determine just how much contact he can take. If the hand is recovered enough to hold the ball, and taped up enough to soften tackles, then Mack being able to play will come down to pain tolerance.

He will be at a heightened risk of re-injury on one direct hit while he's carrying the ball, but we can't guarantee he's out multiple weeks. For what it's worth, Dr. David Chao tweeted the other day that it's reasonable to think Mack could play in Week 13. That could put a big damper on the value of all the players listed above, but it's also far from certain to happen.



Where does that leave us? Nowhere good, to be honest. At least with Brian Hill, he had locked-in touches. Even with a poor performance, he played 60% of the Falcons snaps. I'm not sure we can assume that with the Colts situation.

Past usage and the roster construction all season tells me that Jordan Wilkins will be the guy. The Colts preferred him over Williams all year on the roster, so I don't think one week changes that. I also don't think the Colts want to feed Wilkins more than 10-12 carries in a game, so I expect Williams to have approximately five to eight carries and Hines to be involved in a slightly enlarged passing role.

That's not a situation I really want to mess with. Especially with the Colts fighting for a playoff spot and Mack potentially only being out one to two weeks.


Yeah, But I Need a Win This Week

If you absolutely need a win this week, I'd go with Wilkins, but I wouldn't blow my FAAB on it. I don't know that he'll be that much more useful than Bo Scarbrough. If you're in a PRR league, I think Hines will be the highest-scoring Colts running back on Thursday against the Texans since I assume the Colts will need to put up a lot of points.

If you're already locked into the playoffs, I'd float an offer for Marlon Mack. If we see him back in a week or two, you'd have a sure-fire RB2 for the final few weeks.

More Fantasy Football Analysis

More Recent Articles


Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Matchups Analysis for Week 14

Welcome to our Week 14 matchup analysis and start/sit column for fantasy football. We'll be covering every single contest from the Sunday slate in one convenient location, helping you make the best decisions for your fantasy lineups. Be sure to check back regularly because this article will be updated as news comes in regarding injuries and other... Read More

Week 14 Fantasy Football Staff Rankings

Below you will find all of RotoBaller's fantasy football weekly rankings, tiers, player news and stats for the 2019 NFL season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Weekly PPR Rankings Weekly Half-PPR Rankings Weekly Standard Rankings Dynasty League Rankings     Fantasy... Read More

Fantasy Football IDP Rankings for Week 14 (Top 100)

The fantasy playoffs are here for most of us, so every position matters that much more. IDP spots often become an afterthought or a set-it-and-forget-it situation but it could be that linebacker who has a monster game or that key interception that makes the difference between winning or going home. Look to our streamer suggestions... Read More

Week 14-16 Playoff Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

The playoffs are here, and that means we're going to do things a little differently. I want to take a look at the playoffs as a whole (and in this case we are considering Weeks 14-16) and determine which DSTs you can ride all the way through and which ones you should stream this week.... Read More

Star Players Who Might Miss the Fantasy Playoffs

As we head into the playoff weeks of fantasy football, you'll hear many experts preach (correctly) the need to stash high-upside handcuffs or backups at quarterback or tight end. You'll inevitably hear about looking ahead three weeks for favorable playoff schedules and thinking less about what the player has done up until now or whether... Read More

Week 14 Busts? Players To Consider Avoiding

It's finally here... The fantasy playoffs for most leagues. Hopefully you have a chance to win a fantasy championship in the next few weeks. If you're lucky, you have a first-round bye and won't have to worry about anything this week except for picking out a Christmas tree and setting up all your holiday decorations.... Read More

Fantasy Football Booms, Busts - Zach Pascal, Jamaal Williams, Gardner Minshew

Whether this is the first week of your playoffs, the last week of your regular season, or the time to win a DFS league to pay for your holiday presents, this is the most crucial week of your fantasy football season. While my booms from last week (Robert Woods, Jack Doyle, Dede Westbrook, Kyle Allen)... Read More

Running Back Start/Sit Advice - Week 14

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano break down the running back position to help with tough fantasy football lineup decisions for Week 14 of the 2019 NFL season. They decide who to start or sit among those in RB3 or flex consideration. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest... Read More

Wide Receiver Snap Counts and Target Trends - Week 13 Analysis

Wide receivers are essential components toward your ultimate goal of securing league championships. As many of you prepare for your Week 14 matchups, an expanding collection of tools are available that can provide you with an extensive level of knowledge. Those results provide the foundation for this weekly statistical breakdown of the wide receiver position, which... Read More

Week 14 Stream Team - Free Agent and Bye-Week Streamers

Now that the playoffs are beginning in most leagues and the final march for a championship has begun, streaming becomes a  necessary strategy. Knowing who to add and when to start them could be the ultimate difference-maker in a weekly matchup. Making the right streaming decisions could easily be the difference in winning a championship.... Read More

Wide Receiver Start/Sit Advice - Week 14

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano break down the wide receiver position to help with tough fantasy football lineup decisions for Week 14 of the 2019 NFL season. They decide who to start or sit among those in WR3 or flex consideration. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest... Read More

The King's Week 14 Lineup Rankings and Analysis (Premium Content)

Welcome back, RotoBallers! Below you will find my Week 14 fantasy football lineup rankings for the first round of your playoffs. The ranks are available in PPR, Half PPR, and Standard formats. They will be updated as needed, so make sure to check back for the latest versions, especially on the weekends. Skill Position analysis versus... Read More

Fantasy Football Disaster Recovery: Playoff Panic

Welcome to Disaster Recovery, where each week I'll examine why your studs played like duds. This isn't a place to find out why you should have sat a player for somebody else on your bench. Disaster Recovery is here to examine the guys who you didn't think twice about starting and to help you decide if you should... Read More

Thursday Night Football Matchups Analysis - Week 14

It's that time of year again! While many will be caught up in the thrills of the holiday season, those lucky few who have risen to the top of their fantasy leagues will be sweating over lineup decisions in pursuit of a championship (in most league formats). To our fantasy owners who have managed to... Read More

The Tape Tells All - Derrius Guice Fantasy Outlook

Welcome to another edition of "The Tape Tells All," where I break down some film of an NFL's player performance and try to draw some fantasy football conclusions from that film. This week, I'm looking at Washington running back Derrius Guice, who's finally healthy and finally getting a chance to show why people were so... Read More