Pick-a-Player: Coleman, Johnson, or Mack - Footballguys

Footballguys staff and Facebook answer a dilemma at the 6.10 spot

The premise of a Pick-a-Player question is as follows:

  • You need a player at that position and all three are available.
  • The draft is at a stage where these players are usually drafted, and none of their bye weeks are duplicated on your current roster.

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In this case, it is a PPR league, and you are up at Pick 5.10. Would you take Tevin Coleman, Kerryon Johnson, or Marlon Mack? Or would you pass on all three?

The Results

And the winner is another split, but for the first time in this series, there was a shutout from one group. See the percentages below.

Group
Percentage Picking...
Coleman
Johnson
Mack
None of the Three
Footballguys Staff
18.2%
45.5%
0.0%
36.4%
Footballguys Facebook
42.9%
25.0%
10.7%
21.4%

The Reasons (from the Staff)

Jason Wood: In the sixth round I'm passing on all three of these guys.

The only one I want to roster at all is Kerryon Johnson, who at least has a shot at being a feature back on what should be a productive offense. But the concerns are obvious. 1) The Lions haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Chase Stuart was born. 2) Matt Patricia, defensive-minded though he may be, comes from New England where it's all about the committee. 3) Incumbent offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter hasn't shown a willingness to commit to a single running back in prior seasons. All that said, Johnson has the build and skill set to be a 3-down back if given the opportunity.

Marlon Mack is outside my Top 40 at the position. The Colts aren't going to be very good, particularly if Andrew Luck isn't healthy. Even if Luck is okay, the Colts are likely going with a committee approach using Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins.

Tevin Coleman is fine, but he's never been a target in years past. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian hamstrung the Falcons offense last year and while some positive regression is likely, I don't see Coleman getting enough work to justify a 6th round pick unless Devonta Freeman gets hurt.

Daniel Simpkins: There's risk in doing it, but I'm totally on board with taking Kerryon Johnson here. I'm not worried about the historical stuff that Jason brought up. Detroit hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013, ergo Chase is five years old. Since that time, they've had the Jim Caldwell regime in power, a regime that didn't seem to have a strong commitment to the run, much less one runner. I don't think a commitment to the run will be the issue with the Patricia regime. What may be the issue is how the carries are split. The early comments and actions of this coaching staff suggest Ameer Abdullah is not someone they have confidence in, so he's unlikely to be a factor in Detroit. Theo Riddick is slated to earn a Chris Thompson-like role in this offense. That leaves competition for the bulk of the between-the-tackles carries between Blount and Johnson. I think it's obvious watching both players play that Johnson is the more talented runner of the two, but Blount has experience in the system and is probably more trusted to block at this point. It may be a slow start for Johnson, but if he can prove to be a quick learner, there's a good chance he could unseat Blount for the majority of the backfield touches by midseason.

Wood: Totally forgot about Reggie Bush. Carry on.

Chad Parsons: My general criteria for drafting running backs is looking for players where I trust the talent and can be the No.1 back on their depth chart with the simplest story. With this trio, that is Kerryon Johnson, who does not need an injury to be the No.1 back in Detroit (I expect physical erosion to continue with LeGarrette Blount) and I trust the talent of Johnson, who graded in the top-10% of my running back prospect model. Marlon Mack is written (in pencil) atop Indianapolis' depth chart, but I do not trust the talent to hold (or succeed with) the job. With Tevin Coleman, he is the classic 1B back in the NFL and at his best in the role. First, he needs an injury to be anything more than a flex option in lineup decisions, and I do not trust him to produce at a top-12 level if Devonta Freeman is out.

Justin Howe: I'm passing on all of these guys in this range. Though if pressed, I'm much more into Coleman, who often produces flex-usable numbers (9 top-24 finishes last year, same as LeSean McCoy) with ever-present RB1 upside. An injury to Devonta Freeman would make Coleman a no-questions-asked volume hog, dominating the offense all over the field - especially in the red zone, where the Falcons don't like to throw and the backs dominate. The idea of Coleman soaking up most of Freeman's workload is enough upside for me to get on board in Round 7 or so.

Johnson and Mack as rotational guys, on the other hand, are far less sexy. Neither boasts a track record for efficiency, and neither boasts a marketable specialty, like third-down dominance or short-yardage prowess.

Johnson is a total wild card, even by rookie standards. He enters the league from Auburn and its tough-to-translate running game. That always leads me toward pegging a guy as a specialty runner, used when a team wants to go zone-heavy and cross up a meaty defense with misdirection. Johnson is talented as a cutback runner, but he's not Dalvin Cook - he doesn't bring much power or elusiveness to the table. For me, it's hard to shoehorn him into a lead-dog role right now, and I think his ceiling is definitively capped.

Mack could find himself buried in the Colts rotation by midseason, or even sooner. He was a very likable draft prospect last year, but showed little with his opportunity and will likely be limited in camp following shoulder surgery. With at least two other viable backs added to the stable in the draft, Mack looks like a low-floor, low-ceiling guy - obviously, the worst type to target.

Will Grant: In a PPR format, I think Coleman is a reasonable pick at 6.10. He's never been a guy that I would target in a redraft league, but at the end of the sixth round, I'm looking at the best-available-running-back-wide-receiver-tight-end-type of players. If Coleman is there at 6.10, I'll take him and plug him in where I need him.

Mack may be the named starter but I don't think he'll hold onto the position and nothing about him excites me enough to take him in the sixth round.

Johnson is an interesting pick, but he feels more like a 'swing for the fence' than a guy I'm looking at for my flex position.

Matt Waldman: I will take a shot on Johnson if I go heavy on non-running back picks prior. The Lions have built a tremendously athletic line, which could influence Cooter’s plans this year.

If I take Johnson, then I am recognizing that he is one of my high-risk choices in my draft plan and I don’t want too many of these or too many in a row. As long as I have scouted who those 3-5 picks will be, Johnson’s upside as an every-down runner is higher than the now-mature Coleman.

While the Falcons’ runner has been a top 24 fantasy back for consecutive years, I am not keen on this costly of an investment for a player whose upside is capped without an injury occurring to the starter.

Of course, the counter-argument is that Johnson will have to contend with LeGarrette Blount, an excellent runner between the tackles. However, Johnson is more likely the top guy and Blount the Coleman type in Detroit.

Ryan Hester: Ideally, I'm not entertaining the idea of taking any of these guys unless I already have three running backs. While selecting a fourth running back in six rounds may seem to ignore wide receivers, I know that I can come back five picks later (6.10 to 7.03) and select any receiver in this tier that includes Emmanuel Sanders, Pierre Garcon, Chris Hogen, Julian Edelman, and Corey Davis.

That said, the player here that I would take at 6.10 (or if I selected a receiver and he made it back to me at 7.03) is Tevin Coleman. Sure, he's behind Devonta Freeman, but Coleman has shown that he's an RB1 whenever Freeman doesn't play and can have weekly flex value when Freeman is healthy.

While it's not satisfying to make a pick and hold a roster spot for a player whose ceiling relies on the injury of a teammate, Coleman is the player I trust to have more RB1 weeks than any of the others listed in this question.

Bob Henry: At this spot, it's questionable if Coleman is still on the board, but I am probably passing on all three unless my roster construction focused went differently and I was either pressing for an upside RB for depth or went heavy on WR/TE and looking for upside backs in this area of the draft.

Overall, I'm more likely to target Kerryon Johnson for many reasons already cited above. The Lions offensive line should be the best one they've had in recent memory and Bob Quinn traded up to land Johnson (ahead of Derrius Guice). The popular narrative seems to look at LeGarrette Blount as the most likely goal-line back, but unless Johnson gets hurt or somehow disappoints in camp I think he may already be their best option there. After all, he was THE GUY for Auburn in those situations, often taking the snap himself, and he was arguably the most effective runner in the SEC in this area.

As for Mack, I've passed on him in every draft so far - opting for the cheaper than dirt price tags of Nyheim Hines and/or Jordan Wilkins. In best balls, selecting both with picks in the 12th/13th and 15th/16th or later could yield an RB2-like return if Mack disappoints.

Finally, back to Coleman, I'm considering him in that 6th/7th range, but primarily if he falls and I'm looking for upside to pair with his PPR floor. Devonta Freeman remains one of the top backs in the league, but he's increasingly breaking down and there's an element of concern that has me backing off him in the early second due to his mounting concussions.

Dan Hindery: If I had to pick one player who could see his ADP rise 10-20 spots over the next month, Kerryon Johnson would be on the shortlist. The Lions offense has a real chance to make the leap from above-average (No. 12 in DVOA last season) to elite if the offensive line takes a step forward and they receive improved play from the running back position. With the addition of 1st-rounder Frank Ragnow and a full season of Taylor Decker, the line should be far better than in recent years. If Johnson proves as talented as Detroit's front office clearly thinks he is, he can take most of the snaps away from the more one-dimensional backs, LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick. As Matt points out, Johnson isn't a safe pick and fits best on a roster with some safer players already rostered. But he has enough upside to make him a nice target in the sixth round.

Andy Hicks: The only one of these three I would be considering is Tevin Coleman.

Marlon Mack and Kerryon Johnson are in very competitive situations with limited playing time likely. Both the Colts and Lions running offenses are unlikely to leap into the better units in the NFL this year either, making upside limited.

Coleman has been a mid to bottom end RB2 for the last two years, despite missing several games and being the second back behind Devonta Freeman. His upside is high considering the strength of the Falcons running game and the possibility that the hard running Freeman misses time.

Depending on the makeup of my first four picks, if I needed a back I would jump on Coleman here.