Cam Akers Suffers Torn Achilles, Darrell Henderson 2021 Fantasy Outlook Shoots to Moon - Roto Street Journal
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Cam Akers Suffers Torn Achilles, Darrell Henderson 2021 Fantasy Outlook Shoots to Moon

The first fantasy heartbreak of 2021 occurred on Tuesday when NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero announced Cam Akers suffered a torn Achilles and will miss the entirety of the 2021 NFL season. Although Sean McVay made his fantasy owners wait until the stretch run until fully unleashing the talented rookie, Akers finished as the team’s leading rusher and dominated from Week 13 on, seeing over 20 carries per game during that time.

As a result of this tragic situation, Darrell Henderson’s 2021 fantasy outlook will surge as the leader of the Rams’ backfield.

DARRELL HENDERSON SZN: UPDATED 2021 PROJECTIONS & OUTLOOK

After walking the fine line towards “bust” through two seasons, Darrell Henderson will have every opportunity to prove he belongs in 2021. The third-year back should be an every-down workhorse and has been viable as a starter; in his first eight games of the 2020 NFL season, Henderson was PFF’s highest-rated running back in the league. He still split carries with Akers and Malcolm Brown, but proved he can play on all three downs.

In fact, in games with over 12 carries last season, Henderson averaged over 14 fantasy points per game. This would have ranked him as the RB16 (min 10 GP), just below Ezekiel ElliottAntonio Gibson, and D’Andre Swift, and just ahead of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Miles Sanders.

After trading up to draft Henderson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Sean McVay and GM Les Snead labeled the explosive rookie a mere “change of pace back.” However, Snead went on to compare the former Memphis monster to Alvin Kamara. “The Memphis guy does give you a Kamara element. I won’t get off of that, won’t say it, we’ll play against him and you’ll feel it,” Snead said.

Additionally, back when the Rams drafted Henderson in 2019, Adam Schefter raved about McVay’s love for the explosive Memphis product (including on our very-own Fantasy Fullback Dive Podcast):

As well as on his own show:

A slow start to his career in 2019 led to Henderson producing next-to-nothing as a rookie, but he averaged 4.5 yards per carry and finished 2020 with 783 total yards and six touchdowns.

With names such as Xavier Jones, Jake Funk, and Raymond Calais rounding out the running back depth chart, Henderson will be called upon to be the guy right away. Jones and Funk make intriguing deep dynasty stashes to see how everything shakes out, and could see their stock rise as summer develops. Still, Henderson faces zero competition for true RB1 duties.

That is until the Rams inevitably add a player or two off the streets to provide veteran competition to Henderson.

Among the veteran running backs available on the free-agent market: Todd GurleyLe’Veon BellDuke JohnsonAdrian PetersonDevonta FreemanLeSean McCoyFrank Gore, Dion Lewis, Chris Thompson, TJ Yeldon, and Deandre Washington. 

A Gurley reunion could happen and Bell could provide a little spark if McVay trusts him enough to not destroy his locker room. Then there will also be a handful of cuts during training camp, such as Sony Michel, Mark Ingram, and Benny Snell.

Still, Henderson should be given every opportunity to spearhead this backfield and should garner 55-60% of the touches, regardless of who’s added. This is especially apparent with Schefter noting the team has “no immediate plans” to pursue any free-agents:

OPPORTUNITY

Even with passing numbers set to increase with Matthew Stafford under center, McVay likes to run the football.

In the three seasons in which the Rams made the playoffs under McVay, the Rams averaged over 120 rushing yards. In the lone season the team did not make the playoffs, they averaged a tick shy of 94 rushing yards per game. The Rams have ranked top-10 in rushing TDs in all four of McVay’s seasons, and Top-10 in yards and attempts in all but one.

Furthermore, the removal of both Henderson and Brown jump the Rams to No. 2 on John Daigle’s 2021 unaccounted carries list with 299 total rushes and a league-high 21 carries inside the five from last year’s production.

Indeed, Akers’ injury and Stafford’s arrival will shift the run-to-pass balance. Still, McVay’s offense is predicated on “marrying the run and pass,” and he will still provide Henderson and this backfield plenty of opportunities as he establishes play-action.

CAM AKERS: INJURY IMPACT ON DYNASTY VALUE

Obviously, we won’t see any of Akers in 2021. But how concerned should we be for 2022 and beyond?

Unfortunately, the track record for RBs coming off Achilles is grim:

In short: no RB has ever successfully recovered from an Achilles tear in just one year, and most never regain form. At minimum, Akers owners shouldn’t expect much, if anything, until 2023. Which is devastating, considering Akers was about to break out as a Top-10, potentially Top-5 RB, this season.

If it’s any kind of silver lining, we’ve seen players like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders return to form a season after their Achilles tear. Still, it’s never been done at by an RB, whether due to workload or the physical nature of the position. Prayers up that Akers recovery more resembles those WRs, but drafting in dynasty with that expectation would be foolish.

SUMMARY

First off, pour one out for Akers and his fantasy owners who hitched their wagons to the young stud in Best Ball, dynasty, and Scott Fish Bowl drafts.

With Akers done for the season and possibly longer, Henderson has jumped up to The Wolf’s 37th overall player and RB19 from his 130s. Even while accounting for an inevitable backfield addition, Wolf projects Henderson to see 279 touches (40 rec), 1376 yards, and 9 total TDs.

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