As we approach the trade deadline, rumors about which players around the NFL could and should be traded continue to intensify. No Indianapolis player has been the subject of as many rumors as Marlon Mack. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he requested a trade.
We expected the Colts to have one of the best running back rooms in the NFL before the season started. While injuries to the offensive line have meant things haven’t gone entirely to plan with the Colts running game (or season as a whole), Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines have shown what they’re capable of. With Jordan Wilkins also on the roster, Marlon Mack has been left slightly surplus to requirements and requested a trade after the win against the Dolphins.
The Colts showed how effective their running game could be without Mack last season after Marlon’s injury, especially in the second half when Taylor got going. Mack deserves a tremendous amount of credit for his selflessness in staying in Indianapolis last year to help Taylor develop. It’s sad for Colts fans to see Mack want to leave, especially after his incredible 2019 season. But I certainly can’t blame Marlon for wanting to move to a team where he’ll have the opportunity to play more and make a more significant impact. It could make all the difference in Mack’s career as he seeks to earn another contract in the league.
The Colts only resigned Mack this season because he was such good value and Indianapolis looked like the best place for Mack to showcase he’s still got it after his injury. In his limited role so far this year, Mack has shown he can still be effective, as evidenced by the 47 yards he gained on only five rushes on Monday. If Mack can be traded to the right team, the Colts can regain valuable draft capital, and Mack can secure the next stage of his career. But if Mack were to be traded, where would be the best destination for him?
Perhaps the Baltimore Ravens are the best place to start. Mack’s talents will be fresh in their memories after Monday’s game which can’t hurt his cause. Few, if any, teams in the NFL love running the ball as much as Baltimore, and few are as creative in scheming their run plays. However, the reasons Baltimore would be an attractive destination for Mack in the short term are the same reasons they may not be the right long-term move for him.
The Ravens need a running back after injuries to JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Marlon Mack would potentially be able to usurp Edwards in the depth chart if he regains his 2019 form, but it’s clear that JK Dobbins is the Raven’s top running back for the foreseeable future. With Lamar Jackson naturally taking a lot of the team’s running plays, Mack might feel the Ravens wouldn’t offer him more snaps than he’ll get at the Colts.
It’s a similar situation with the LA Rams. With the injury to Cam Akers, they have a clear vacancy for a running back. They’re an excellent team who are all-in on winning now, so they can’t afford to allow weaknesses at running back to derail a Super Bowl bid. However, just like with Baltimore, Cam Akers is the Rams top running back for the foreseeable future.
Had Mack been traded in the offseason, Miami would have been one of my top destinations for him. They were on the cusp of making the playoffs last year and had a lot of draft capital at their disposal this summer. They also continue to have the potential to upgrade their running back room, even if Gaskin did have a good game last weekend. However, the Dolphins are a far less attractive destination this year. I suspect Mack has no interest in being traded to a team that looks set for a losing season and has potentially the worst offensive line in the league to run behind.
The Kansas City Chiefs may be a more enticing prospect and are a team that has been rumored to be interested in Mack. However, they won’t have forgotten Marlon’s 148 yard performance against them back in 2019, and they need a running back after Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s injury. Unlike Dobbins and Akers, Edwards-Helaire hasn’t yet been particularly impressive since being drafted, so Mack may reasonably feel he can earn a significant proportion of snaps in the long term. Given Kansas City’s troubled start to the season, it’s not as attractive a destination as it was a year ago, but this is still a team that could win another Super Bowl over the next few years.
Talking about AFC teams capable of winning a Super Bowl in the next few years, perhaps none are better placed than the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are looking very good, with an elite secondary and an explosive offense. But their one weakness on offense is their running game, which they utilize far less than most of the league. While Moss and Singletary are solid but unspectacular running backs. I wouldn’t expect Mack to be their number one running back immediately if they traded for him, but I think he’d have a great chance to win the starting job. However, given the abundance of talent Buffalo has on their roster, they may feel what little salary cap space they have would be better spent on another position.
The last possible team for Mack is the San Francisco 49ers, which I think would be the best destination for him. The Colts would be pleased to trade Marlon to an NFC team, while there’s plenty about the 49ers for Mack to like. They’re consistently one of the best NFL teams at running the ball, with Shanahan being particularly good at designing smart running plays. San Francisco has several running back injuries at the moment, so there is a clear space for Marlon Mack. Because the 49ers embrace running back by committee so faithfully, they don’t have any stars in their running back room. That would give Mack a clear opportunity to be their best running back for the rest of this season and potentially the lead back within their committee moving forward. He’d also get to run behind Trent Williams, which is an attractive prospect for any running back. San Francisco hasn’t looked their best this year, and they spent last season ravaged by injuries. But they’ve got the potential to be one of the best teams in the NFL again in the years to come.
What would the Colts get in return for trading Mack to one of these teams? Unfortunately, Indianapolis shouldn’t expect too much draft capital in return. I think the best-case scenario would be the Colts getting a fourth-round pick, which would neatly reflect the fourth-round pick they used to draft him back in 2017. However, even a fourth-round pick may be wishful thinking on my part. A fifth-round pick would probably still be worthwhile for the Colts as they wouldn’t need to replace Mack, so could use that pick on another position.
If suitable draft compensation isn’t possible, there’s always the chance the Colts trade Mack for another player. However, without having a clear team as the frontrunner to trade for Mack, it’s impossible to pinpoint specific players Indianapolis could get in return. That being said, I think cornerback is the position the Colts would be most interested in trading for, given the struggles and injuries in their secondary so far this year. It’s also easier to find good depth secondary players than in other positions of need, like depth at tackle. The one issue is that several teams like the Chiefs and 49ers are weak at cornerback and are in no position to trade any of their good cornerbacks away.
With the November 2nd trade deadline looming on the horizon, we may have a few more weeks of speculation before we know if and where Marlon Mack will be traded. Given his commitment and service to the Colts in his career so far, it would be sad to see him go. But I can’t blame him for wanting to have a more significant role with a team. It’s encouraging to see the Colts so willingly accept his trade request, and both sides handle the situation so painlessly and professionally. If Mack does get traded, I hope it’s to the right team, and he has every success with them until they play the Colts, of course.