Fantasy Football: Draft Nyheim Hines Over Marlon Mack

Nyheim Hines
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 22: Marlon Mack #25 and Nyheim Hines #21 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates after a touchdown in the game against the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

The Indianapolis Colts backfield is one of the most fascinating in fantasy football. The team just brought in checkdown enthusiast Philip Rivers and selected arguably the most talented running back in the 2020 NFL Draft in Jonathan Taylor. However, incumbent Marlon Mack will keep the job in the short-term, and Rivers’ penchant for targeting running backs makes Mack interesting to some. However, a deeper dive shows that Nyheim Hines is the best fantasy football value in the that backfield.

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Draft Nyheim Hines Over Marlon Mack in Fantasy Football

Target Distribution

Chasing volume is typically a good thing for fantasy football, but some touches are more valuable than others. It’s no secret that the average reception is worth more in fantasy than the average carry, and that’s especially true in PPR formats. Depending on your league scoring, targets can carry approximately the same fantasy value as 2.83 carries.

Nyheim Hines is clearly superior to Marlon Mack as a pass-catcher. Over the course of his career, Mack has never recorded more than 21 receptions or 225 receiving yards in a single season, and his pass-catching numbers have decreased every year since he entered the league. Hines, meanwhile, has 64 receptions for 425 yards as a rookie and 44 receptions for 320 yards in 2019.

Targets may be more valuable than carries on a per-touch basis, but there’s typically more carries than targets to go around. However, that is not the case when Philip Rivers is your quarterback. Throughout the course of his career, Rivers has always thrown the ball to his running backs at a high rate. Last year, he allowed Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon to combine for 134 receptions, 1,289 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns on 163 targets. This was far from a one-year outlier, as he’s also turned guys like Danny Woodhead and Darren Sproles into PPR gods during his time with the Chargers.

The Jonathan Taylor Effect

Even with Rivers in town, Mack would be the more enviable fantasy option if he had full control of the early-down and goal line work. However, the presence of Jonathan Taylor basically ensures that won’t happen. Taylor is an absolute monster of a man, and several draft analysts had him as the top running back in the class.

Head coach Frank Reich said that Mack will enter the season as the starter, but they’re going to go with the “hot hand” on a week-to-week basis. This implies that Taylor will earn enough carries early in the season to prove himself, and the obvious talent disparity between Taylor and Mack suggests that Taylor will have the “hot hand” before long. Taylor’s physical gifts and draft capital combined with Indianapolis’ elite offensive line means that Taylor should dominate, so Mack probably won’t have the lead job for anything more than six weeks.

Admittedly, by this same logic, Taylor could eat into the pass-catching work. However, a deeper dive shows that to be pretty unlikely. Taylor is a freak as a runner, but he never did much as a receiver while at school. He’s not a great pass-blocker and never recorded more than 26 receptions in a single season.

There are exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, running backs don’t tend to increase their target share once they come into the NFL. Additionally, the rookie has reportedly struggled with drops in camp, so Hines should have a safe, reliable target share.

Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines ADP

If both players were going off the board at the same time, one could make a case for taking Nyheim Hines over Marlon Mack. However, taking a look at their ADP makes the decision an easy one. According to FantasyPros Average Draft Position, Marlon Mack is currently the 33rd running back off the board. Nyheim Hines, meanwhile, is all the way down at RB54.

Quite frankly, this is highway robbery. Nyheim Hines is clearly the best pass-catching running back on the roster, and he’s playing with a quarterback that loves to dump the ball off to his backs. Targets are incredibly valuable in fantasy, and Hines has an outside shot to finish the season with 100 targets. While he won’t receive enough handoffs to possess RB1 upside, he should be a solid flex play throughout the season.

Mack, meanwhile, possesses a limited skill set and will clearly lose his job before long. Jonathan Taylor is the better, more complete runner and the organization wouldn’t use an early-second round pick on him if they didn’t plan on him winning the starting job sooner rather than later. Hines is one of the best values in fantasy and should be an easy selection with one of your last picks.

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