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The premise of a Pick-a-Player question is as follows:
- You need a player at that position and all three are available.
- The draft is at a stage where these players are usually drafted, and none of their bye weeks are duplicated on your current roster.
We ask this question of two groups of people -- the Footballguys staff and the great people following the Footballguys Facebook page -- each week. If you'd like to answer a future Pick-a-Player question, there will be another one every Thursday until the week before the 2019 season kicks off. Plus, there is a lot of other content there as well. Like and Follow us, and you can join the great discussions taking place every day.
And the winner is -- Devonta Freeman -- at least, partly. See the percentages below.
None of the Three
Comments from the Staff
Freeman. None of these three are the correct choice at their current ADP, though. Kerryon Johnson or Damien Williams, who are also going in this range, are better choices. If one must be selected, Freeman would be the pick due to little depth chart competition and a workload that can’t be matched by the other two when he’s healthy.
Mack without a doubt. Too many question marks with Freeman and Jones for me right now and Mack has potential at a top 5 RB finish with an almost locked in top 10 finish. I can’t say the same about Freeman and Jones.
Aaron Jones. I will be trying to take Jones in just about every league this season where possible. The new coaching staff of Matt LaFleur comes from the Shanahan lineage of coaching with the attitude of a balanced attack committing to one running back. Jones is an electric running back who was limited by Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers' audibles but should see the benefits of the limited audibles and better play calling which will lead to more touches and higher upside.
Devin, wait. Does the Shanahan lineage commit to one running back? Since trading Clinton Portis after the 2003 season I can think of more counterexamples (where Mike or Kyle Shanahan oversaw an RBBC) than examples (where one back dominated the touches). As for LaFleur himself, just last season Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis played every game, split snaps 40/60, and finished the year with 230 and 214 touches, respectively.
On instinct, I would've answered Marlon Mack. But based on my projections, they're all bunched up together and Devonta Freeman has the slight edge in projected value, particularly in PPR formats. I understand distrusting Freeman given his recent injury history, but it's not like Marlon Mack is a pillar of durability. I'm open to the notion Mack has the most upside, but I'm also unclear why we assume he's got a high floor. The Colts haven't committed to Mack in the same way the Falcons committed to Freeman. Aaron Jones is enticing, but with a new coaching staff and system, it's very hard to extrapolate last year's performance as indicative of his 2019 role.
Mack is the safest and therefore my choice here. But Jones has the highest ceiling and I have no idea what to make of Freeman, which feels strange since he has the longest track record of the three.
Down the stretch last year and in the playoffs, we saw Mack's combination of size, speed, and burst translate into elite fantasy production. The additions of Parris Campbell and Devin Funchess should make this year's Colts offense even better than the unit that averaged 25.9 points per game last season. Mack returns to a starting role tied to a top-tier quarterback, emerging offensive line, and improved defense.
The only reason he doesn't warrant consideration as a top-5 running back is Indianapolis' reluctance to use him as a pass-catcher (which is no fault of Mack's). In game scripts similar to last year's 31-13 Division Round loss to Kansas City, Mack is likely to disappear.
Jones has been a model of efficiency since entering the league, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt in each of his first two seasons. Last year, his 0.75 fantasy points per touch placed him right in between Todd Gurley and James Conner on the leader board. He's also primed himself for a big year by changing his eating and training regimen this off-season, which cut his body fat in half.
If LaFleur commits to Jones for 16-18 touches per game, a low-end RB1 finish feels like his floor. Considering LaFleur was the architect of a strong rushing attack in Tennessee last season and Aaron Rodgers is back to full health, Jones is a fine gamble in this situation where you've already secured two elite wide receivers and want to shoot for the moon at RB1.
I'd love it if one of the guys can sell me on Freeman. Three years have passed since his overall RB1 season in 2015, and he's appeared in only 16 of the Falcons last 32 games. Just because Tevin Coleman moved on in free-agency doesn't mean Freeman suddenly becomes a bell-cow. Ito Smith was plenty involved last season and can probably be counted on to fill the void Coleman leaves behind.
But on the chance Freeman is fully healthy, we know he can deliver RB1 numbers, even without operating as an every-down back. The setup for running back production in Atlanta is pretty sweet. They're a perennial top-10 scoring offense, their defense shouldn't suffer from the same bad injury luck as last year, and they restocked their offensive line in the draft.
So far, I've avoided Freeman in favor of Mack and Jones, but I'll admit I might have a blind spot if anyone can layout some convincing evidence.
There's a lot of talk of floor in this thread. I don't think floor means what you think it means.
I will have zero shares of all three in 2019 in redraft leagues at the proposed price point. Of them, I would take Devonta Freeman with the level of Atlanta's offense and also seeing Ito Smith as a huge step down from Tevin Coleman and a flimsy NFL RB2 at best. With Marlon Mack, I question his talent even though the situation alone warrants top-10 upside if he puts together a stretch. I see Nyheim Hines as highly involved in the passing game, however, to make volume and touchdowns mandatory for Mack to be more than an RB2 type. With Aaron Jones, I question his talent is much, if all, higher than Jamaal Williams or Dexter Williams to muddy what could happen in Green Bay whether there is an injury or two or not in 2019.
Jason, if you're referring to me calling Mack the safest of this bunch, I'd argue giving him 24+ carries in three of their final five games last season is a significant commitment on the Colts part, considering they were all must-wins. The head coach calling Mack the "main guy" is also a very specific endorsement. Touchdown equity helps with a floor too and Mack only failed to score once in Indianapolis' last six games.
I guess Jones having a low-end RB1 floor on 18 touches per game isn't automatic. But when we've seen the Packers commit similar workloads to a running back in the Rodgers era, Eddie Lacy (multiple times) and Ryan Grant turned in mid-to-low RB1 seasons. Given Jones' athletic profile and what he's accomplished from an efficiency standpoint in a large enough sample size since entering the league, I'll stand by the claim he's unlikely to bust if Green Bay makes him the lead guy.
Phil, I was teasing. My vantage is we (as an industry) MASSIVELY undervalue and underforecast variance. In part because it's hard to do so with a single, linear ranking or projection number. But we still do it. All these guys have floors that make them waiver wire fodder by midseason. That floor may only be 2-5%, but it's still there.
I’m taking Marlon Mack here for two reasons. First, I would take the generic Colts RB over Falcons RB or Packers RB. Second, I think Mack gets a bigger chunk of his team’s running back production than Devonta Freeman or Aaron Jones does theirs.
The key to the Colts turning around their 2018 season following a rough start was the running game:
The First 6 games: 1-5 record
- -83.2 rushing yards per game (on pace for last)
- -2.2 turnovers per game
The Final 12 games (including playoffs): 10-2 record
- -125.5 rushing yards per game
- -1.1 turnovers per game
The Colts seemed to find something real and sustainable down the stretch in 2018. They have an elite young offensive line, elite quarterback, speed at wide receiver, and a boatload of cheap, talented youth on defense. They should win a lot of games and averaged 135 rushing yards per game last season in wins. Based on their roster, Indianapolis looks like a team that should put up top-10 running back fantasy numbers going forward. At least for 2019, Mack looks like a relatively safe bet to be the guy putting up most of those yards and scoring most of those touchdowns given the coaching staff and player comments Phil referenced.
Aaron Jones seems to be going in the third round primarily due to the belief Green Bay should have an elite offense. The Packers finished middle of the pack last year with 39 total offensive touchdowns (16th most in the NFL). The running game was even less impressive, finishing 22nd in rushing yards. With Aaron Rodgers continuing to make noise about how much control he wants at the line of scrimmage to change plays, it is hard to see the Packers really committing to the run like Indianapolis did last year. Plus, Jamaal Williams and Dexter Williams will probably steal some touches along the way.
I am more bullish on the Atlanta offense than I am Green Bay’s but feel Freeman has more competition for touches than does Mack. Ito Smith played well as a rookie and seems to have carved out a solid role. Plus, there has been some early speculation that 5th-round rookie Qadree Ollison could steal some short-yardage opportunities.
Jason is right on about floors. Freeman almost certainly has the highest floor of the three because, outside of injury, you have to go much further down the range of possible outcomes before you reach a point where Freeman no longer has a starting job.
Also, in terms of upside, few people have a rigorous definition of what it really means. Every year I try to project the 90th percentile of a player's range of possible outcomes, (i.e. make a projection set that 10% of players will outperform and 90% of players will underperform). Right now, in terms of upside I've got Jones, then Freeman, then Mack. Freeman isn't as sexy as the other two, but over his career he averages 50 receptions per 16 games played compared to 23 for both Mack and Jones, which is like spotting him an extra four and a half touchdowns a year in PPR leagues.
In fact, even in Freeman's rookie season where he served as a backup and finished with fewer than 500 yards from scrimmage, he still recorded 30 receptions, which would be a career high for either of the other backs.
Most of the arguments for Aaron Jones, in my opinion, are heavily colored by the fact that he averages 5.5 yards per carry for his career. But this is a terrible point in his favor because yards per carry is the most random statistic for a running back. It shows virtually no correlation from year to year or from game to game, so Jones' ypc is much more likely to come back down to earth than to stay up in the stratosphere like that.
Let's put some numbers to this, actually. Over the last 20 years, there have been fourteen running backs who received at least 200 carries in their first two years (Jones has 214) and averaged at least 5 yards per carry (Jones has 5.5). The jury is still out on three of them -- Jones, Alvin Kamara, and Saquon Barkley. Here are the rest.
- Chris Johnson -- averaged 4.1 ypc for the rest of his career.
- Adrian Peterson -- averaged 4.6 ypc for the rest of his career.
- Clinton Portis -- averaged 4.1 ypc for the rest of his career.
- Frank Gore -- averaged 4.2 ypc for the rest of his career.
- Maurice Jones-Drew -- averaged 4.3 ypc for the rest of his career.
- Jamaal Charles -- averaged 5.3 ypc for the rest of his career.
- Tatum Bell -- averaged 4.5 ypc for the rest of his career.
- Ben Tate -- averaged 3.8 ypc for the rest of his career.
- Chris Ivory -- averaged 4.1 ypc for the rest of his career.
- Jerious Norwood -- averaged 4.1 ypc for the rest of his career.
- Selvin Young -- never carried the football again.
Think these guys had a lot of plodder-type seasons late in their career bringing their average down? Here's the average ypc from each of them in the very next season where they received at least 100 carries:
- Johnson -- 4.3
- Peterson -- 4.4
- Portis -- 3.8
- Gore -- 4.2
- Jones-Drew -- 4.2
- Charles -- 6.4(!)
- Bell -- 4.4
- Tate -- 4.3
- Ivory -- 4.6
- Norwood -- n/a
- Young -- n/a
Jamaal Charles is the outlier of all outliers, but the other ten backs were all at 4.6 ypc or lower and collectively averaged just below 4.3 yards per carry in their closest follow-up season. And a lot of those guys were way more established than Aaron Jones is. Bell, Tate, Ivory, Norwood, and Young are probably the closest comps to Jones since those guys all had fewer than 250 carries in their first two seasons. People who talk about Aaron Jones' floor aren't looking at the (very real) possibility that he averages 4.2 yards per carry next year, in my opinion.
Given that he has a dramatically higher floor without sacrificing much in terms of upside (in PPR leagues), give me the unsexy Devonta Freeman here.
Earlier, I said:
So far, I've avoided Freeman in favor of Mack and Jones, but I'll admit I might have a blind spot if anyone can layout some convincing evidence.
And Adam did it.
I feel compelled to make a rebuttal, though, since I'm the guy that cited Jones' yards-per-carry. It was lazy of me to use that stat. Adam taught me long ago it's not a great efficiency metric -- it just happened to be the most easily accessible. But given some context, I don't think we should dismiss it out of hand.
In 2017, Jones averaged 5.5 yards-per-carry while no other running back on the team cleared 3.8. Last year, he did it again while no other Packers running back exceeded 4.0. That tells me he's adding value to his touches (relative to his competition anyway).
When I want to get a better measure of running back efficiency, I usually look at Football Outsiders' success rate which represents the player's consistency, measured by successful running plays divided by total running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance). Jones ranked seventh in the metric last season.
Of course, I don't expect him to average 5.5 yards per attempt again (though I do think a dip all the way down 4.2 seems extreme). My suggestion he has a top-12 floor was predicated on Jones receiving 16-18 touches per game, as opposed to last year's 13.3.
Doing some back-of-the-napkin math, let's say Jones gets 15 carries per game at 4.4 yards-per-carry -- that's 1,066 rushing yards. Now let's suppose he averages 2.5 catches per game at 7.0 yards per catch (he was at 7.9 last year). We're looking at another 280 yards. Packers running backs have combined to average 11 rushing touchdowns per season over the last three years. We'll give Jones 65% of those (seven) and another one receiving. Last year, the resulting 222.6 fantasy points would have placed him in a deadlock with Phillip Lindsay as the PPR RB13.
Those rough projections, in my opinion, are modest. If Jones establishes himself as the lead back, he could very well see more touches, have better efficiency, or both, raising his ceiling into the top tier of running backs. But to Jason and Adam's point, they're not floor projections either, which is where this back and forth started. I humbly concede my use of the term floor was a poor one.
I get that it feels like seeing Aaron Jones' ypc drop all the way down to 4.2 would be a bit extreme. This is my point: our intuitions surrounding ypc are terrible. Historically speaking, seeing Jones fall to 4.2 yards per carry wouldn't be extreme at all. That's a slightly-below-average follow-up campaign among his list of comps.
In 2009, Chris Johnson averaged 5.6 yards per carry on a whopping 358 carries. In 2010 he only had 4.32 ypc. In his second season, (his first as a starter), Frank Gore averaged 5.4 ypc on 312 carries, and the next year that fell all the way to 4.23 ypc. Clinton Portis topped 1500 rushing yards and 5.5 yards per carry in each of the first two years of his career, and granted he was traded after that, but he played 7 more seasons, topped 1250 rushing yards four more times, and never again topped 4.3 yards per carry. Larry Johnson averaged 5.2 yards per carry on 336 attempts in 2005 and fell to 4.30 yards per carry in 2006. LaDainian Tomlinson had eight seasons with 1500 yards and 10 touchdowns; in those 8 seasons he finished above 5.0 yards per carry twice and below 4.0 yards per carry three times, (including falling from 5.3 in 2003 all the way down to 3.9 in 2004).
All of these things were very surprising to fantasy owners at the time. I'm just saying maybe they shouldn't have been so surprising, because dramatic declines in ypc like this maybe aren't entirely the norm, but they're pretty common outcomes all the same.
One question for Adam: How are you factoring injury risk into Freeman's floor? His per 16-game averages sound great, but doesn't his history of foot, knee, and (especially) head injuries have to be factored into his floor?
By and large, I'm not. If you consider injuries, every NFL player's floor is dominated by situations where they get hurt. It's a violent game. Take ACL tears, for instance: in any given season, 3% of NFL players will tear their ACL. 70% of those injuries will come without any contact. That's just one type of injury. Using my "range of possible outcomes", the 10th percentile scenario for pretty much everyone is "gets hurt, done for the year".
You can look at things on a case-by-case basis and see if there's a pattern to past injuries to see whether some player is more likely than another to get hurt. There's not a ton of pattern with Freeman. I believe he's only had one concussion, which isn't a huge red flag for me yet. Some lingering (and unspecified) knee/foot/groin stuff that he tried to play through, all of which was probably just cascade injuries related to the first issue.
If you wanted to say that there's a 16% chance Freeman hits his "injury floor" vs. a 13% chance for Jones, I wouldn't necessarily disagree, but at this point, I think we're getting more into tasseography than fantasy projecting. I believe some players are probably genuinely at heightened risk for injury, but we're probably really bad at telling which ones, and I'm not confident that Freeman is one of them, or that Jones and Mack are not. Remember, Jones' career high for touches is 159 and Mack's is 247. Freeman already has three seasons over 250 touches, two of them over 300.
Adam, I see your point on yards-per-carry and its inherent volatility, but I already accounted for a ~20% reduction for Jones. If I raise it to the ~25% decline you're (correctly) suggesting shouldn't come as a surprise, we're still talking about a borderline RB1 provided he earns the minimum workload I'm projecting. Touches are the data point to debate if we disagree on low-end RB1 being closer to Jones' floor than his ceiling.
Freeman has three career concussions. His worst was in the 2017 preseason when it took him 16 days to clear the league's protocol. He went on to suffer a second in November of the same season.
Maybe I'm trying to determine patterns in coffee grinds (for those too lazy to click the tasseography link), but plenty of research is out there suggesting players with a history of concussions are more susceptible to future concussions. I hope that's not the case with Freeman, but we haven't seen him on the field much since 2017, so it's not unreasonable to wonder if he's still at greater risk than most players.
I appreciate you challenging me on Freeman, Adam. As I said at the beginning, he's been a tough player for me to rank and now I have more to think about.
Phil, thanks for the refresher on Freeman’s concussion from preseason that year. I was only remembering the one in-season. You’re right that that’s definitely an injury where the more you’ve had in the past, the higher your risk in the future.
My original point was that Mike Shanahan had a history of committing to one running back in the game. Where I will agree with you that he has a history of benching/switching running backs in favor of another back whether it be due to lack of success/injury or for no reason at all. Looking at his Redskins days when Matt LaFleur was under Mike Shanahan. Lead backs averaged 284 carries and 83% of the running back carries.
My point ultimately is if Jones can have success and stay healthy, he will avoid some of the nonsense where both he and Jamaal Williams have a 50/50 split in each game. He could get benched if he struggles and Jones has the most risk of the three, but he also has a lot of upside.
It's Marlon Mack for me. In his breakout year of 2018, he had over 1,000 total yards and 10 touchdowns in just 12 games. He also averaged 4.7 yards per carry, and had at least 12 carries in all but two games. He should once again be the feature back in the Colts offense and he's entering the prime of his career. With the strength of Andrew Luck and the expectation of a formidable offense, it's possible that Mack may have the best season of his career in 2019.
I love the Colts' offensive line and the high-volume offense. Because Mack is younger and has fewer injuries on his resume, he appears safer. He might even be, although I appreciate a good argument from Adam that a decline from starter and lead ball carrier status for Freeman requires more factors than it does for Aaron Jones and Marlon Mack.
From the standpoint of skill, experience, and usage, Freeman is the best choice if looking at the tape. Jones is a compelling second. Mack has improved enough that he's not the distant third that he would have been two years ago.
Freeman has excellent judgment and creativity in difficult scenarios--defenders penetrating the backfield and sealing off gaps the run scheme intended to open. He makes efficient decisions that turn bad outcomes into positive gains.
Ito Smith is not as compelling a second option as Tevin Coleman was in Atlanta. With Dirk Koetter rejoining the Falcons as the offensive coordinator, there's a greater chance that there will be less of a 1-2 punch for the Falcons ground game than what we saw with Kyle Shanahan and Shanahan's replacement and the scheme's ill-suited custodian, Steve Sarkisian. This bodes well for Freeman.
So does Arthur Blank's statement that Freeman will be a huge factor for the offense in 2018. Although we should often lessen the weight of some owner statements, Blank is one of the exceptions. He's a smart manager of his people and usually doesn't make statements of this type unless there's weight behind it.
The loss to two veteran offensive linemen adds to the risk, but young linemen are usually quick to adjust as run blockers. As an offensive coordinator, Koetter's schemes have yielded multiple top 10 seasons in Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay. His results in Atlanta weren't strong after year one, but the line suffered multiple injuries and the Falcons didn't address the issue until late into the preseason of Shanahan's first year. The same could be said of Tampa's recent woes.
I think Freeman and Jones bear close monitoring during the offseason. If the Falcons' line stays healthy, Freeman is the best choice based on skills, scheme, and surrounding talent. Jones has the most upside based on skill and scheme fit with the outside zone game, but his downside is lower due to timeshares and Aaron Rodgers' historic unwillingness to check down to his backs as often as he should.
It makes Mack the safest but as new Footballguys' Dwain McFarland pointed out to me recently, the Colts' coaching staff doesn't have a history of running the ball a high percentage of the team. It's not a great idea to expect Mack to earn the volume of a top starter in the way that Freeman and Jones could.
I'll go with Freeman right now, but I'm not as committed to it as I would be if the third choice of this trio was someone like Joe Mixon.
I see things very similarly to Chad.
Freeman does not have a new coach or scheme to deal with, like Jones. It has to be remembered that Jones was a fifth-round running back who has suspension, injury and other issues on his resume. Why should a new coach give him everything on a plate, when he may prefer his own guy? If Jones is the clear stand out in camp then my thought process will change radically.
Mack was a late fourth round pick and he seems to be in a Lamar Miller situation rather than the potential to be a great back. The team should be doing more at the position, but due to a lack of competition, he will outperform his talent level. Indianapolis may find a challenger to Mack though, so again if Mack is the clear frontrunner coming out of camp then I can re-evaluate.
Freeman has lost his main competition for playing time, has an offensive coordinator he is familiar with returning and given the Falcons ineptitude in the red zone in recent years, Freeman could see a big boost in touchdowns.
I'm all for Marlon Mack.
The Colts are a top-5 offense in my book, and Andrew Luck is not scrambling as he once did. Luck had 12 rushing touchdowns and 189 carries in his first three seasons, but just five scores rushing over the past four years (which spans more games than his first three seasons). That opens the door for Mack to be that goal line option yet again and dominate the run game for the Colts.
Green Bay appears to have settled on Jones as their top back, but he's not the top option in that offense by any means. Freeman's an injury risk and the Falcons go as far as Matt Ryan and his top three receivers take them. In addition, I'm much higher on Ito Smith and his role in the Atlanta offense, which devalues Freeman.
The best and safest pick for me is Mack.
I'll take Mack here because of his offense and the team's success last season once they turned to him as the lead back and focused on balance more than they had in the season's first month.
Each of these players is in quality situations. Each has a quality quarterback. Each team is predicted to win at least 8.5 games according to Vegas currently. These teams will have an opportunity to score a lot of points.
With all of those things being separated by so little, I give the edge to Devonta Freeman because he has the highest floor for touches with Tevin Coleman gone. I take a similar approach to injuries as Adam mentions above, but can understand why the concussion concerns might scare some away.
Mack might have the highest touchdown floor given the offensive line and likelihood the Colts are a top-five offense as Jeff Pasquino suggests, but game scripts will still bite him from time to time. I don't see Nyheim Hines disappearing like some, his routes per drop back never wavered last season - the only thing that changed was game scripts where the Colts were leading more. Quite simply, Mack's role is more limited than Freeman's.
Aaron Jones has the highest ceiling and I am willing to move him to the top of this group if we see him working in pass pro this preseason in obvious passing situations. The previous coaching staff only allowed Jones to see 34% of the passing snaps opposed to 47% for Jamal Williams. This was despite superior receiving chops and explosive play ability. It appears they didn't trust him. This scheme change could help too if Aaron Rodgers will allow LaFleur to install the under center and play action components similar to what we have seen from his mentors Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. In those scenarios, Jones can be used more as a safety outlet versus pressure rather than having to always contribute as a blocker.
One other side note on the yards per carry conversation above - I am very interested to see how this season goes. Last season the league put a huge focus on defenders leading with their helmet when tackling. To some extent, players may be having to relearn this skill - not sure yet how much the two are correlated though. It was the highest YPC mark in the history of the league & a big jump vs previous seasons.
I'm seeing proclamations about the Colts offensive line in support of Mack, and that's understandable. But we need to look no further than the Colts own offensive line to understand just how quickly the fate of an offensive line can change. Just as there are some misconceptions around "downside" in our discussion, so too is there about the predictability of the offensive line. If we're taking LAST YEAR'S offensive lines for the Colts, Falcons, and Packers, sure, I'll advocate for Mack. But 2019 is not 2018.
For those of you so sure the Colts have a great offensive line, I'll ask how you juxtapose the loss of not one but TWO offensive line coaches this offseason. Bobby Johnson, the promising assistant line coach, took the Bills head job this offseason. That might have been fine except the Colts then fired Dave DeGuglielmo. Yes, the same DeGuglielmo who masterfully re-built the Colts line. Why fire a well-respected line coach after a miraculous turnaround? That's a great question, and it appears a power play by head coach Frank Reich who parlayed the Colts successful 2018 into getting the front office to dump DeGuglielmo who was hired by Josh McDaniels in his short stint as the Colts head coach before backing out.
Indianapolis replaced him with Chris Strausser, an assistant line coach with Denver the past few seasons. Strausser may be great, but it's going to be difficult for me to accept the Colts offensive line is somehow going to be as good as they were in 2018 after its two architects moved on.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the Falcons have continuity on the coaching staff, and could easily bounce back into the elite line tier. Why? Because they already have two centerpieces in left tackle Jake Matthews and center Alex Mack. The right side was a disaster last year, but the Falcons used two first-round picks to fix that -- Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. We can't be sure the rookies will play well, at least immediately, but let's not forget the Colts' offensive line turned around last year thanks to two rookies: Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith.
Jason, fair points about Atlanta's offensive line potentially making a big jump with the two rookies. However, the performance of rookie offensive linemen is extremely unpredictable. We are just guessing on those guys.
For the Colts, we already have some real data points for their two young guys and we don't have to guess how they will transition to the NFL. Quentin Nelson made first-team All Pro (AP) and was graded as the 6th best guard in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. Braden Smith was rated by PFF as the 18th best offensive tackle in the NFL as a rookie and really came on strong late in the season.
We also talk about continuity as a big deal for the offensive line and the Colts settled on their starting five in Week 6 after some shuffling. That group was instrumental in the big win streak that followed. The same five are expected to be starting again this year. Atlanta is going to have to try to break in a couple of rookies.
Dan, sure. But if we go back and look at discussions about the Colts this time last year, it was "bad offensive line with rookies being counted on to start." I think coaching has a MASSIVE impact on the offensive line. This year we'll see whether that's true or not in Indianapolis. Keep in mind I have Mack as a top-20 fantasy running back, so I'm not expecting a huge drop-off. I'm merely pointing out we tend to make assumptions about offensive line stability that doesn't bear out in practice.
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I'm going to pick Freeman. Let's not forget he was an RB1 2 years ago. He also was a major contributor in them reaching the super bowl. He will be a key to them reaching the super bowl again and I see him getting RB1 numbers again this season. Also, Tevin Coleman is gone so there is less competition than last season or the year before for receptions. Just 3 years ago he had 73 catches and two years ago he had 54. He's a complete back that will have lots of scoring chances in this offense.
It's hard for me to trust any RB in Green Bay, and this year is worse with a new HC. Who knows what this offense will do, and Roger's loves to check out of runs often. I'm passing on Jones due to consistency issues.
Mack is a solid back behind the best O-Line in football so holes will be plenty. The problem is he has quality backs behind him. Hines is a great receiving back that will dominate a lot of 3rd down looks, Wilkins is competent enough to take some carries to spell Mack, and Ware has a shot at making the team being a reliable all-purpose replacement. It's too crowded.
I have to go with Mack. You could make a case for all three. I think Jones has a chance to put up good numbers however with a new offense being put in, who knows? Freeman also has a good chance but to many passes in that offense. Mack should have the most rushing attempts of all three plus less looking over his shoulder.
Freeman is an easy choice. He's being undervalued thus far. Still just 27, he has the proven track record of elite production prior to last season with his injuries. Although those injuries are noteworthy, you don't have opportunities to land a top ten talent in the third round very often. If he can get back to form, he could be a league winner, making him worth the gamble at this stage of the draft (similar to taking Gurley in the late first).
I would say Mack because of his pass catching ability out of the backfield which Freeman does not have. And, I am not convinced Green Bay can keep a running back healthy for the whole season, so Mack.
Mack. I like his offense a little more than Jones. Freeman's injuries worry me, would take him in the fourth if he was still available though.
I'd pass on Jones.. new offense that is already hitting some snags between coach and QB.. play some really good defenses (Bears!!). Mack is a pass as well... he has a good offense and could be really good but I think they use Hines more this year and he is their go-to pass catcher out of the backfield. I go with Freeman even with his injury past... top notch offense with plenty of wide receivers to keep defenses from stacking the box... defenses will emphasize getting to Ryan which will help with some dump offs.. since your not worried about Ryan's scrambling. Freeman gets a chance to "prove it" this year and takes advantage of it.
Mack was a beast once healthy in the second half of the season. Consistently good numbers. I’d take him.
Aaron Jones. I still haven’t given up on a running back breaking out in the Packers offense and I think he is the guy. Freeman has too much injury risk. Mack I think is close, but I’m just sticking with the guy I feel good about.
I'd go with Freeman. When healthy, he's elite. Jones is injury prone as well and under a new system that will probably revolve around the passing game, he's iffy to me. Mack is in a pass-first offense as well and has had his ups and downs as a runner.
I go with Mack. Mack is young and will have plenty of opportunities to score with the Colts offense in a weak division. Freeman has wear and tear, and the Atlanta offense isn't what it once was. Packers = A Heavily passing offense which means fewer opportunities for Aaron Jones. Plus a scary Bears defense twice a year, they lock down Jones.
Give me Aaron Jones all day. I like Freeman too, especially with Coleman gone, but I don't like the injury risk. I like the high floor and consistency of Jones. If you start with WR/WR, you better pick a low-risk running back as your next pick.
May regret passing on Devonta, but Marlon Mack. Freeman has the greatest upside of the three. But I don’t trust guys who are going from the stellar backup role, to the starter role on a different team in the first year. It’s a big question whether or not they can handle the role.
Aaron Jones is a heck of a talent. But the question remains if he can stay on the field. He’s a small body, coming off the IR, and let’s not forget he has had substance problems. Those are too many questions to be answered.
Marlon Mack is another question due to injury history, BUT he has the best upside here. Not only does he have Andrew Luck, back in full form and in his prime, he also has Frank Reich. (I know...Jones has Rodgers. But the only undefeated person in history is Father Time. It’ll happen.) Reich comes from Pederson. Pederson comes from Reid. Can anyone out there say that Andy Reid doesn’t get THE MOST out of his running backs? Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, Kareem Hunt, LeSean McCoy were all talented. Reid squeezes everything they had out of them. I believe Reich will do the same with Mack. It may sideline Mack a week or two with some bruises and bumps, but when he’s playing he will be productive.
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