Monday’s news report confirmed the initial suspicions that Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack suffered a torn Achilles and will miss the remainder of the 2020 season. For a player in his contract year, this is a devastating outcome. While we never want to see injuries occur, we all must act quickly and consider how Marlon Mack’s injury affects your fantasy team for 2020.
What did Week 1 teach us on the Colts’ game plan moving forward?
While Marlon Mack was not in the game for long, we got an idea at how Frank Reich and the Colts were planning on using their backfield. It confirmed part of our speculation entering the season. Mack would see a majority of carries early in the season while rookie Jonathan Taylor got up to speed. Also, Nyheim Hines would be the primary focus in the passing game and complement Phillip Rivers’ willingness to target his running backs early and often.
Unfortunately for fantasy players who rostered Marlon Mack, he started the game off as their primary running back and was on his way to seeing 15 touches or more. Before exiting the game after suffering an ankle injury, he had four rushes for 26 yards and saw some unexpected passing work, adding three catches for 30 yards. While we entered the season thinking this would be a timeshare between him and Taylor, Taylor did not have a single touch until Mack left the game.
I think the most surprising aspect was the choice to use Nyheim Hines in the red zone. Hines capped off the Colts’ opening drive with a 12-yard rushing touchdown while all running backs were healthy. Knowing they have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and love to rush the ball, Mack’s missing touches create a significant opportunity that fantasy managers have to capitalize on.
Which running back will see the biggest fantasy jump due to Mack’s injury?
I believe the major benefactor is Jonathan Taylor. He entered the season for me as a player who could have seen 250 touches even with Mack playing all season. He brings too much talent to be ignored and left on the sideline. It was a matter of when, not if Mack would be relegated to the RB2 spot on their depth chart.
The issue is that you likely won’t be able to acquire Jonathan Taylor unless you pry him away from the person who drafted him, and that person would probably be looking for a premium.
It all comes down to cost. If you can wrangle Taylor away, you are landing a player who has low-end RB1 upside for the rest of the season. He was my rookie RB1 in dynasty and RB2 for redraft due to Clyde Edwards-Helaire not splitting carries like Taylor. If you play in 0.5 PPR leagues, this gap might be much closer than people want to acknowledge. Both players could end up as top-12 running backs when the season ends.
You need to make Nyheim Hines your top waiver wire priority this week.
One of the biggest surprises and fantasy takeaways from watching games on Sunday was Nyheim Hines’ usage, specifically inside the red zone.
For a player who has the designation of a “passing-down back”, Hines had four red zone rushing attempts, including the first score of the game on a 12-yard rush against a stacked Jacksonville box. Hines also saw two red zone targets, catching both for 15 yards, including his second score of the day. Entering his third season in the NFL, this was Hines’ second career multi-score game.
The other factor we need to consider is the impact of Phillip Rivers. In 2019, Rivers led the NFL in targeting his running backs on 31.8% of his attempts. The question entering Week 1 was if this was a factor of the Los Angeles Chargers’ offense or his tendencies as a quarterback.
What did we see in Rivers’ first game in the Blue and White? 17 of his 46 targets (36.65%) went to running backs. Production like this is going to continue with Hines seeing the majority.
The eight targets Nyheim Hines saw in Week 1 were the most in a single game since Week 11 of 2018 against the Miami Dolphins. With Marlon Mack out for the season, production like this could become a constant, rather than an outlier.
Hines is currently rostered in roughly 35% of fantasy leagues, but expect this number to shoot up as he will be the top fantasy waiver wire claim this week.
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