2017 is going to be the best runningback class the NFL has ever seen.
There I said it.
I know we were all thinking it, I was just brave enough to say it.
To say next year’s draft class is deep would be an insult. In a pass-happy era of the NFL — one that is not going to slow down anytime soon — the RB has largely seen a decline in being drafted in the first round, as offensive lineman, quarterbacks, shut down corners, and pass rushers off the edge have soared their way to the tops of draft boards across the league.
2017 is going to change all of this. Early mock drafts already have anywhere between three to even possibly five runningbacks going in just the first round ALONE. By the end of the third round, I wouldn’t be surprised if records were broken for the amount of RBs taken.
The top names from this runningback class should be familiar to college football fans across the nation. Expect the names Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffery, and Samaje Perine to sit atop your favorite team’s draft board.
After these big names are taken off the board, there will still be some intriguing talent ripe for picking, with talented players like Royce Freeman (University of Oregon), Jalen Hurd (University of Tennessee), and James Connor (University of Pittsburgh) still available — and that’s just to name a few.
One name that will undoubtedly go unnoticed is Marlon Mack, rising junior RB of the University of South Florida.
Marlon Mack, or the “Mack Attack” as he is affectionately called by the USF faithful, has been lights out in USF’s backfield, and much like his fellow classmates of the 2017 draft, looks like he has the goods to make an NFL franchise grin from ear to ear.
Mack, has given the USF Bulls at least 1000 yards rushing and 9 TDs in both his true freshman and sophomore seasons, and looks to continue that impressive streak in his junior season.
So what can Mack offer that teams won’t find in other backs in this deep class?
Three words: patience, patience, patience.
Mack possesses a rare patience in a RB that is reminiscent of a young Ladanian Tomlinson. Despite being in an extremely run-heavy offense at USF, Mack has managed to still produce good rushing totals amidst opposing teams stacking the box every other play. The patience that Mack plays with is something that simply cannot be taught, and is a product of pure instinct. While many would consider Mack’s running style as hesitant, and might label him as unfit for the NFL game, the truth is that he is exactly what an NFL team needs. If you add in the fact that he will probably be a late-round pick, his value only further increases as he exemplifies the term “low-risk, high reward”.
Mack;s contribution to the turnaround of the USF program in the past two seasons cannot be ignored either. The season of an NFL team can go from great to bad after one big injury (Dallas Cowboys without Tony Romo comes to mind) so the mental makeup of the players on any roster is vital. Coming into USF, Mack was going into a program that had started to embrace a losing mentality. In Mack’s freshman year, along with his teammates and new coach Willie Taggert, the turnaround slowly began. The team had a rough first year with Mack in the backfield, but small strides were made. Mack’s second season (last season) resulted in Mack having a career year and helping USF to their best season in almost a decade. Mack’s presence was definitely a huge reason for the dramatic improvement of the USF program.
The most interesting part of these two seasons is how consistent Mack played. If you were to look at the tape of his freshman and sophomore seasons, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. No matter what his team’s record was, Mack ran hard, with his usually patience, and gave his team his all in every game. There was no change in body language, no lack of effort, just a talented young man putting his heart and soul into every down. This is the mark of a champion and will pay dividends in Mack’s journey to NFL stardom.
Mack has also benefited from being utilized in many different running situations; ranging from zone-runs, delays, single back and running behind a lead blocker. Most college RBs don’t have the ability to put this kind of versatility on their resume, as most tend to do one better than the other and thus, the coaches stick to what the athlete is more proficient in. Mack is truly a rare breed and hopefully coaches pick up on this versatility sooner rather than later.