Whenever a player gets hurt in the NFL, it sends Fantasy Football players and analysts scrambling to try to figure out who will pick up the slack for their offense. Sometimes, it's a total unknown; sometimes, it's some veteran retread we know not to get excited about; sometimes, we genuinely have no idea who will emerge from the fray.
None of that is the case in Indianapolis' backfield. We found out Tuesday that Jonathan Taylor suffered an apparently serious thumb injury during Week 12's game against the Buccaneers, and it's an injury that may require a trip to injured reserve. That decision hasn't been made yet, but Colts owner Jim Irsay told The Athletic Tuesday afternoon that Taylor will have surgery Wednesday, with the "hope" he can return in 2-3 weeks. That means Zack Moss could be in line to help decide the outcome of countless Fantasy seasons.
It's bad news for anyone who has Taylor on their Fantasy roster, though not necessarily a worst-case scenario if he can return in time for the playoffs. Taylor played through the injury for at least part of Sunday's game against the Buccaneers, and didn't really seem limited – he had 15 carries and played 42 snaps, including a game-clinching first-down run with 1:24 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Colts are evaluating the injury, and hopefully, he can hit the shorter end of the timetable to return, with the Colts very much fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch.
Luckily, at least from a "trying to figure out what this means for the Colts offense" standpoint, we have some experience here. Moss took over as the Colts starter late last season and rushed for 334 yards over the final four games of the season; he then had 517 yards from scrimmage over his first four games of the season as the lead back (including Taylor's first game back from the PUP list).
All in all, Moss had an eight-game stretch as the lead back and he averaged 16.3 PPR points per game in that stretch. This is a known quantity, in an offense that has been very good for running backs in Fantasy pretty much all season long.
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One thing we haven't seen a ton of is Moss as the lead back alongside Gardner Minshew as the starting quarterback, though what we have seen is pretty promising, as Moss had 122 yards on 30 carries along with two catches on three targets for 23 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens – a strong 22.5-point showing against one of the toughest defenses in the league. Minshew doesn't throw to his running backs as often as you'd think – just 15% of his targets have gone to RBs this season – but there's no reason to think this is suddenly a worse situation for Moss than it was when he was a must-start option earlier in the season.
Which is all to say, with Taylor set to miss at least a couple of weeks, Moss immediately enters the top-12 RB conversation for that time. What's kind of tricky is judging beyond that. Will Taylor be healthy enough to be the lead back the way he has been the past month when he's cleared to return? Moss has just one game over the past four with more than 10 touches and has been a fringe-y Fantasy option at best. The worst-case scenario here would be a true timeshare that limits both players' Fantasy appeal for the playoffs.
But, if you play in one of the 30% of CBS Fantasy leagues (higher in other providers' games) where Moss is available on waivers, he immediately becomes the top priority on waivers. Maybe Taylor ends up missing just a couple of weeks and this ends up being a relatively minor deal. But, with Taylor missing multiple weeks, Moss should be very helpful for the playoff push. And, if this lingers long enough to impact the Fantasy playoffs, Moss could end up being one of the most valuable waiver-wire pickups of the season. For a second time.