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Lucas Robins’ Way Too Early Colts 2021 Stat Projections

The Colts Running Back Room might be the deepest in the NFL, but how will Reich divvy up the workload between these 4 Backs?

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The Indianapolis Colts have a problem in 2020: how to decide the workload of their talented stable of backs. The team has a quartet of talented runners, led by 2020 rookie sensation Jonathan Taylor, 2018-2019 starting RB Marlon Mack returning off of a devastating 2020 Achilles injury, the multipurpose electric weapon that is Nyheim Hines, and one of the most efficient backup RBs in the NFL in Jordan Wilkins. Many pundits love this quartet, but very few like them more than their Head Coach Frank Reich:

“… I think he’s (Mack) really special as a player, and I could just see a backfield of Marlon, Jonathan and Nyheim, and Wilkins be really special.”

Reich clearly thinks all of them bring something to the table and has a role in mind for each. However, after examining how Reich has divided his RB carries over the last 5 years (2 with the Eagles in 2016-2017, 3 with Colts in 2018-2020), Reich’s average RB carries between his top 4 RBs became apparent:

Reich’s 5 year RB carry total:

  • 1002 RB1 carries = 54.02%
  • 394 RB2 carries = 21.02%
  • 265 RB3 carries = 14.29%
  • 194 RB4 carries = 10.46%
  • 1855 total RB carries

Reich has gone with a pretty balanced committee approach on carries throughout his tenure as an Offensive Coordinator. However, there is still always a clear lead back in carries. Considering his health, recent performance, and 96 percentile athleticism for the position, we can assume Jonathan Taylor will lead back in 2021. However, he will likely be used less per game than he was in 2020, as his early down and short yardage plays will be given to Mack.

 

Marlon Mack returning from his Achilles injury is the variable factor in this entire unit, as the unit remains unchanged from last year. His performance in 2018-2019 on the ground was borderline top 10 at the RB position, but the Achilles injury is known to seriously hurt RB’s efficiency and careers. The timeline for those injuries is 9-12 months, so Mack’s week one injury in 2020 means he should be recovered in time for the 2021 season. It will still take a while to shake off the rust and get back into game shape. Because of this, Mack might start as the RB3 for the beginning of the year but finish as RB2 as he finds his footing. However, this will mean his yearly efficiency per carry will regress.

 

With the return of Mack, Hines’ usage on the ground will also be cut into similar to Taylor’s. However, there is another area where an RB can have a statistically significant impact: receiving. Hines’ use as a multipurpose weapon who can line up in the backfield or out wide (especially on passing downs) should be maintained much more through the air than on the ground compared to last year. Hines has also improved each year as a runner and should continue to be a reliable and dynamic safety valve for Wentz on passing downs.

 

Using the average RB targets from both Carson Wentz’s career and Frank Reich as an OC and HC + the career average targets for each of the 4 RBs cumulatively (Jonathan Taylor and Mack’s averages are split in half for their dual early down role that has yet to occur but is projected to) and adjust for a 17 game season we get two different target projections for the entire unit:

  • Average RB targets w/ Reich/Wentz: 111
  • Average Adjusted Career targets for Colts RBs: 121

By taking the middle ground at 116, we can have a realistic expectation for how many total targets will go the Colts RBs. Based on career average stats per target, we can calculate a realistic look at how each RB will perform with their receiving volume. Hines will take the majority of this work, but Taylor, Mack, & Wilkins will all have roles as well.

As a whole, the RB unit should finish as one of the top 10 in both rushing and receiving, displaying a mix of skills, depth, and versatility to help the Colts in various ways on game day. This group is the strongest position for the Colts in terms of depth, which should allow them to maintain a strong level of play even in the face of injuries. Barring those injuries, this is how I’d project the Colts RBs to perform in 2021’s 17 game schedule:

2021 Colts RB Stat Projections

Rushing

Receiving

Total from

Scrimmage

Name

Carries

Rushing Yards

Yards per Carry

Rush TDs

Targets

Catches

Catch %

Receiving Yards

Yards per Catch

Receiving TD

Touches

Total Yards

Yards per Touch

Total TDs

Fumbles

Jonathan Taylor
213 1,118 5.25 10 19

17

89.47%

141

8.29

1

230

1,259

5.47

11

1

Nyheim Hines
56 252 4.51 2 77 61 79.22% 439 7.20 1 117 691 5.91 3 1
Marlon Mack
84 342 4.07 2 14 9 64.29% 72 8.00 0 93 414 4.45 2 0
Jordan Wilkins
41 201 4.90 1 6 5 83.33% 34 6.80 0 46 235 5.11 1 0

UNIT

TOTAL

394 1,913 4.86 15 116 92 79.31% 686 7.46 2 486 2,599 5.35 17 2

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