We’re back again breaking down prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, set to kick off on April 27th through the 29th. Our goal this season is to write reports on at least 150 players and hopefully, as many as 200. It will, of course, have a focus on Pittsburgh Steelers’ wants and needs but we will look big-picture too at the best players in this year’s draft.
If there’s a player you would like us to breakdown, let us know in the comments below.
Marlon Mack/RB/South Florida — 6’0”, 210 Lbs
-Great vision out of the backfield as a runner
-Home run threat on every touch
-Good patience to let the hole develop before hitting seam with impressive burst
-Light on his feet, yet still a powerful runner
-Great footwork for the position
-Elusive in tight space
-Fluid athlete that turns corner quickly
-Tremendous balance and breakaway speed in open field
-High pad level as a runner
-Spotty hands as a receiver out of the backfield
-Relies on body catches instead of trusting hands
-Hesitant to drop shoulder and punish defender; would rather try and make man miss
-Below-average pass blocker
-Ran almost exclusively out of shotgun formation at USF
-Has an issue with ball security
-USF & American Athletic Conference All-Time Career Rushing Leader with 3,609 yards
-Holds Bulls career all-purpose yards mark with 4,107
-Named 2016 Maxwell Player of the Year candidate, 2016 Walter Camp Player of the Year candidate and 2016 Doak Walker Award candidate
-Named First Team All-AAC three straight seasons
-Tied for, or owns 14 school records at USF
I’ve been a big believer in Marlon Mack for the last three seasons at South Florida, but I had no idea just how special he was as a game-breaker every time he touched the football over three seasons with the Bulls.
In a draft class loaded at the running back position, Mack just might be the most explosive back in the class with the ball in his hands, and that includes Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon.
Just pop on the tape of Mack and you’ll be blown away.
Standing at 6 feet tall and weight just north of 200 pounds, Mack has the ideal frame for the position and even has some room to add extra bulk in the NFL should he need to, but what really stands out with this guy is his terrific footwork in the hole, leading him to daylight to turn on the afterburners in the open field.
In the clip above, Mack shows you just what he’s made of as you seen the good footwork in traffic to work back to the cutback lane that he sees thanks to his vision, and from there it’s just vapors for the Temple defense, led by current Steeler linebacker Tyler Matakevich.
Mack made a habit of just running away from people in the open field, and if he wasn’t able to fully pull away from guys, he has the power to keep defenders off of him.
The junior was just a man amongst boys for much of his career at South Florida, and that run against Central Florida above from this past season just sums up his career in a nutshell.
Once he gets the handoff he’s patient enough to let his right tackle work to the second level to get on the linebacker, which gives him the big lane once he’s able to shake free of the UCF defensive tackle that’s on him quickly.
His speed is NFL-ready right now, but it’s his strength to fend off defenders and run through tackles that should allow him to have a productive career at the next level.
Although Mack ran exclusively out of shotgun in USF’s read-option system, but he’s so shifty in tight areas and has great vision as a runner to see lanes opening up that I don’t think it will matter what scheme he lands in at the next level.
Almost as soon as Mack gets the football here he has a defender waiting to make the stop behind the line. But because he’s such an explosive athlete, he’s able to quickly bust out a spin move and get around the edge to pick up a first down in the process.
It might only go down as a 10-yard run in the game log, but this was one of the more impressive runs I saw from Mack in the nine games that I was able to get my hands on.
As I mentioned earlier, Mack is a patient runner when he needs to be, but there are times where he’s too patient and runs right into a big tackle for loss. A lot of that can be attested to him trying to hit the home run on every carry, which can be a boon to his game at times.
He has a lane between the left tackle and left guard to get into the second level, but he just simply doesn’t see it. Mack definitely needs to learn to just put his head down and get positive yardage in situations like these instead of worrying about a house call, because by searching for a lane to find pay dirt, Mack racks up a big loss behind the line of scrimmage.
Although he has the speed and wiggle to get to the edge or make guys miss in the backfield in college, he simply can’t rely heavily on that in the pros because guys are faster and stronger at the next level, and obviously the NFL is a massive jump from the American Athletic Conference.
Along with his propensity to always try and hit the home run even when the situation calls for it, Mack really struggled with ball security in the nine games I watched of him. The junior fumbled four times in that span and really tends to hold the ball recklessly in the open field.
Outside of that, Mack doesn’t seem to want to get physical in pass protection and largely relies on the cut block if he’s in the backfield on passing downs, which was rare despite not being a great receiving threat.
When not in the backfield as a pass protector, Mack loves to throw open field blocks to spring teammates to daylight, so it’s very strange that he appears overly uncomfortable in pass protection.
He’s not afraid to get physical, so that can’t be it. It’s hard to put a finger on.
Overall though I think Mack has what it takes to be a legitimate running back in the NFL that a team can build around in a timeshare until he develops more as a receiving threat out of the backfield.
The speed, vision and elusiveness alone should have NFL teams excited about getting a crack at him towards the end of April.
Projection: Mid-Day 2
Games Watched: vs. Temple (’15), vs. Western Kentucky (’15), at Syracuse (’16), vs. Florida State (’16), vs. East Carolina (’16), vs. UConn (’16), vs. Navy (’16), at Southern Methodist (’16), vs. Central Florida (’16)