You would have to be pretty stingy not to give ageless wonder Frank Gore a round of applause when his career comes to a close. Entering his 13th professional season, Gore is aiming to record his 10th 1,000-yard season and is still the Colts’ de facto best option in the backfield. However, Father Time waits for no man; not even the 34-year-old Gore, who has wowed us with his longevity, will last forever.
Our staff rankings have the veteran projected as the RB27, with the likes of relative spring chickens Ameer Abdullah and C.J. Anderson in his neighborhood. The Colts offense represents a fertile soil for fantasy production, but Gore may not be able to stay healthy.
Which begs the inevitable question: who stands to benefit if the wheels finally come careening off the Gore Express in 2017?
WR T.Y. Hilton
Andrew Luck’s shoulder issues notwithstanding, it stands to reason that the absence of Gore would precipitate an uptick in passing attempts. Target monster T.Y. Hilton would be the primary beneficiary. Widely considered as a safe top-10 option among wide receivers, Hilton is ranked as WR8 in the FBG consensus rankings. We have seen the speedster explode in the past for massive games; more would be on the cards without a viable rushing threat.
TE Jack Doyle
Tight ends have averaged 38% of Andrew Luck’s touchdown pass quota for the past two seasons, so the signs are positive that Doyle, who assumes a lead role at the position after the departure of Dwayne Allen, could thrive. If Gore were no longer a factor and the offense, rather than bang their heads against a wall trying to run the ball behind a subpar offensive line, opted for shorter passes, Doyle would see a massive boost in production. As it is, the undrafted tight end has plenty of upside, but a switch-up in offensive philosophy could see him firmly in the top-5 TE conversation.
QB Andrew Luck
The more accomplished defenses have picked the Colts apart over the past few seasons, often resulting in offensive linemen offering their apologetic hands to pick Andrew Luck up from the turf. In response to that, the offense has done its utmost to remain balanced and not hang their quarterback out to dry. The loss of a key component like Gore would see a shuffle to a poorer pass protecting back in Robert Turbin, possibly putting Luck under more pressure. The offense would eventually adjust, but there may be some rough sailing early on in the Gore-less Colts offense for Luck.
It seems counterintuitive to recommend selling a player who would be poised for the lion’s share of Gore’s touches should he go down. However, as fantasy owners, we have to be sensitive to the changing tides and pick our inflection points in player values. Casual owners might rush to the waiver wire to pick up Turbin, but for prescient owners who had already picked him up, the right move might be to sell. Granted, the reports out of Indianapolis have been overwhelmingly positive about the fourth-year pro this offseason, but he is a backup for a reason. Sell him while he is the flavor of the month, and improve your team elsewhere.
RB Marlon Mack
Mack is a shifty runner capable of taking any touch to the house, so he should instantly raise the collective antennae of fantasy owners if Gore goes down. His touches will have to be well-scripted in order to maximize them, but Rob Chudzinski has shown in the past he is more than capable of creating a diverse playbook. Mack would be the number two behind Turbin, but if the rookie can show a bit of spark – especially in the passing game – he could supplant the veteran and turn a handful of touches into an RB2 day for fantasy owners.