According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, running back Cam Akers tore his achilles while training. The Cam Akers injury will have major ripples across the fantasy football world. With Darrell Henderson being the clear option to replace Akers production, let’s chat about what impact this injury news has in terms of Fantasy Football for 2021.
Cam Akers was one of the best running back prospects coming out of the 2020 class, both for NFL purposes and Fantasy Football. In his rookie season, he experienced an ankle injury that caused him to miss games. Once Akers became reintegrated into the Rams offense, he was a volume monster. With 86 carries and at least three targets in his final four games of the season, Akers was poised for Fantasy stardom in his sophomore season.
Akers was being selected as an RB1 in Fantasy Football because of the talent he possess and the volume he was projected to receive in the Rams offense. There is not a lot of good to takeaway from the Cam Akers injury news, but the 22 year old has time on his side, and a world of talent to make him Fantasy relevant again sooner than later.
The news of the Cam Akers injury is sad and unfortunate first and foremost. In Fantasy Football, these things matter and are significant. Like anything in Fantasy Football we must react and adjust accordingly. We need to be diligent and react while making appropriate adjustments. Let’s first break down what you should expect in the coming weeks regarding the obvious next man up for the Rams at running back, Darrell Henderson.
Henderson was able to put together RB1 weeks in three of six weeks early in 2020 as Akers was recovering from that ankle injury. Actually this stretch of production is very similar to Akers at the end of the year. According to Michael Florio of NFL Network, while having almost identical numbers in terms of carries and yards, Henderson was able to find the end zone five times compared to Akers’ two. Florio added that Henderson was also able to bust off 20 runs of 10-plus yards compared to Akers 12. While the Cam Akers injury is obviously devastating to the Rams, Henderson has already proven he can produce in the NFL.
The Rams were able to manage 3.6 red zone attempts per game last season, but were 19th in converting red zone trips into touchdowns (57 percent). In 2019 this was up at 64 percent, good enough for sixth in the league. I expect the Rams to improve in this category, both because of positive regression (returning to the mean, not necessarily sixth overall) and because of the upgrade at the quarterback position in Matthew Stafford. Although the Lions were not touted as a great offense last season, thanks in part to Stafford, Detroit converted on touchdowns on trips to the red zone 66 percent of the time (ninth).
Darrell Henderson is the clear cut running back to step in after the Cam Akers injury. Volume and production seem safe and come with a high ceiling for Henderson in 2021. Let’s see if it is worth taking him in drafts.
Henderson’s ADP will inevitably be rising in the coming weeks, according to Underdog ADP, Henderson is currently being drafted as the 126th player off the board in the late 10th round. You should expect him to move up to the fourth or fifth round by late August if no changes are made to the Rams running back room. This is where the likes of Miles Sanders, Josh Jacobs, and Mike Davis live.
Henderson will be a great pick in this range. Taking into account his success in the offense when he gets volume, along with the tendencies of Matthew Stafford to involve the running back in the passing game, Henderson is a great pick in this fourth/fifth round range.
In terms of Best Ball, Darrell Henderson has the makeup of a running back that possess a higher upside than a guy like Mike Davis, and a higher floor than Miles Sanders because of the solid foundation of the Rams offense. Last season the Rams were 15th in Fantasy points per game (18.2), but the Lions were 12th in this category with 19.9. This tells me that Stafford’s ability to move the ball down the field, while utilizing the running back in the passing game, should translate to fantasy points for Henderson.
I expect the Rams to produce more Fantasy points per game with Stafford at quarterback, and Henderson looks to be the beneficiary.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Rams do not have immediate plans to bring in a free agent with news of the Cam Akers injury. Darrell Henderson is the guy and this coaching staff believes in him. This is evident if you look at his usage and production just last season without Akers. Now with Matthew Stafford, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp, the Rams know that Henderson can help keep this offense moving in the right direction.
The other options at running back are 2020 undrafted free agent Xavier Jones and 2021 seventh round pick Jake Funk. With the Cam Akers injury news, there is speculation that Adrian Peterson, Lev’eon Bell, and even Todd Gurley could be brought in, as it stands now this is Darrell Henderson’s show.
Darrell Henderson should be viewed as a Top 20 running back with a ceiling of finishing as an RB1 in 2021. His 16 opportunities per game from weeks two to seven last season are telling of things to come this year.
Henderson is going into his third season and is still just 23 years old. He will be turning 24 in August and is looking at a massive role squarely in the prime of his career. Coming out of Memphis in 2019, Henderson was known for his explosiveness and ability to create in space. He has shown burst on film and his 4.49 40 time coming out of the NFL Combine was graded in the 80th percentile for running backs his size.
Cam Akers was previously being drafted as the RB12 in the second round (sometimes the first!). I do not see Henderson getting to this point. If he is a third/fourth/fifth round pick in redraft or best ball, sign me up for the RB1 in this offense for 2021.
Read more about Darrell Henderson, Matthew Stafford and more with the Rise or Fall Fantasy Football Draft Kit
Photo credit: Los Angeles Times, Rams Wire