10/22 UPDATE: The Rams placed Kyren Williams on IR and will be out a minimum of four games. Adam Schefter reported Zach Evans will back up both Royce Freeman and Darrell Henderson today against the Steelers. This news makes Freeman startable in fantasy this week, while Henderson is our favorite pickup and stash off waivers with the brighter future of the two backs. Evans cannot be trusted as the third-at-best option, and should be benched, or even cut, in all leagues.
In an update that no fantasy football owners want to hear, Rams RB Kyren Williams is reportedly “using a scooter” to get around. Fun! Moreover, his ankle is in a “cast-like material,” and Williams has been labeled “week to week” moving forward.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler confirmed Williams “is expected to miss multiple games but should be back, at the latest, after the Week 10 bye.” Thus, we’re looking at a massive short-term opening in the Rams backfield without a clear answer for how it’ll be filled.
Zach Evans was an early Week 7 Waiver Wire darling, seeing his ownership spike from 4% to 65% this week. Yet, the Rams have since brought in the familiar face of Darrell Henderson, as well as Myles Gaskin. They also called Royce Freeman up from the practice squad.
Which has Fantasy Football managers all asking: which Rams RB will be the most valuable to add? Can you trust Zach Evans, or any of them, in Week 7 Fantasy Football? What are their Fantasy Outlooks?
Let’s dive in.
The Rams Lead RB Role in 2023 = Fantasy Gold Mine
Before looking at the specific players, it’s important to note just how valuable the lead RB role has been for the Rams.
Just look at this insane usage, via Fantasy Life’s Utilization Hub:
Kyren Williams leads all RBs with a whopping 84% snap share on the season. Since Cam Akers‘ trade, Williams has handled an insane 80% of the teams’ rushing attempts and run 74% of the routes.
Without exaggeration, Williams has had the best RB role in fantasy. Yes, even better than Christian McCaffrey:
Williams also ranks Top-6 in every meaningful Red Zone rushing statistic, too. Sixth most inside-the-20 attempts. Second in yards (78). Tied for 1st in TDs (6).
Consequently, Williams has been the RB4 in fantasy, behind only CMC, Raheem Mostert, and Travis Etienne. He has 2+ TDs and Top-6 RB finishes in 4 of 6 games. This is extremely impressive, considering Williams isn’t a sensational talent or prospect by any means.
Clearly, this Rams Backfield could be a massive value hole.
The question becomes: will any of the remaining Rams RBs come even close to Williams’ usage?
Can you Trust Zach Evans in Week 7 Fantasy Football?
Even before Darrell Henderson and Myles Gaskin joined the Rams, I expressed skepticism over Zach Evans.
In fact, I called him Fantasy Fool’s Gold on my Week 7 Waiver Wire stream below:
My main reasons for not buying into the sixth-round rookie:
A) Inability to Win Lead-Back Status in College: Evans, despite being a five-star high school recruit alongside Bijan Robinson, could never take over a true lead-back role at either of his stops at TCU or Ole Miss. The latter was even more damning, as Evans ultimately was beaten out by a true-freshmen, despite transferring for the sake of more playing time.
B) Pass Protection Questions: Evans is not a proven pass protector or pass-catcher. Considering how valuable Matthew Stafford is to this team, Evans will almost assuredly be subbed out in passing situations.
Given that targets are 2.85x as valuable as carries, a lack of a passing game role immediately caps Evans’ ceiling. The team is much more likely to roll with a more-proven protector like Royce Freeman or Darrell Henderson.
In 2019, Freeman had 43 receptions for the Broncos. More importantly, the Rams know they can trust Freeman to keep Stafford upright: last season, Freeman had an 80.3 pass-block grade according to PFF.
I do think Evans will get the first crack at carries. He’s an aggressive, downhill runner who can break tackles and push the pile forward for extra yards. This is also a strength and running style of Kyren’s, so Evans could slide right into the lead-rushing role seamlessly.
Still, even Sean McVay himself expressed skepticism over Evans as a starter and featured back. When asked if Evans could be expected to start and shoulder most of the workload, McVay hesitated:
“I wouldn’t say that,” McVay said. “We’ve got the week to be able to evaluate and I would say all four of those guys are possibilities and we’re truly navigating through that.”
McVay also emphasized that Evans wasn’t overly ahead of the newcomers. This is because Evans has been mostly playing on the scout team, so he has more experience simulating other teams’ backfield plays rather than his own.
With a likely lack of passing-game involvement, and an uncertain early-down role, Evans feels like a bench to me. Evans is just my RB32 (-6 ECR) in this muddy situation.
Sure, the Rams could build an early lead. If they do, I expect Evans will maintain a lead-back role and be the preferred option to bleed the clock. Afterall, McVay did at least say:
“I was pleased with what Zach did towards the latter part of the game,” McVay said.
Should the Rams fall behind, though, Evans could get game-flowed out of the plan. Shoot, he might not even be a major part of the plan anyways based on McVay’s comments.
During this Bye Week and injury pinch, you may have to start Evans. However, if I am able to, I would sit him.
Zach Evans Week 7 Projection: 12 touches (1 rec), 49 YFS
Update: Evans is rumored to now be behind both Freeman and Henderson. He cannot be counted on for any volume, and should not be in any lineups. Pivot to Freeman or Henderson instead.
The Other Guys: Expectations for Other Rams Running Backs
Darrell Henderson Fantasy Outlook
If there was one dark horse candidate that I could see emerging with a true three-down, Kyren Williams-lite role, it’d be Darrell Henderson.
Henderson was drafted by the team in 2019 and brings both familiarity and an every-down skillset to the table. During his four seasons with the Rams, Henderson appeared in 50 regular-season games, scoring 17 touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards on 396 carries and 7.2 yards on 66 catches.
McVay emphasized Henderson’s experience and every-down abilities as key strengths in his recent glowing endorsement of the back:
“Darrell: the familiarity. I’ve always really loved working with Darrell. Smart, conscientious,” McVay said. “When he’s played, he’s been really productive.”
“Whether it be as a runner, pass-catcher, never been afraid to stick his face on people in protection,” McVay continued. “He has an understanding, and a nuanced understanding, of what we’re doing. Even in just the walkthroughs he was able to pick some things up quickly, really coachable, smart player.”
“It’s good to get Darrell back, I always really enjoyed working with Darrell.”
These comments should not be overlooked. McVay seems genuinely excited to work with Henderson again. Moreover, the coach highlighted Henderson’s three-down skillset, most notably his reliability in pass protection. Henderson’s 79.1 pass-blocking grade in 2021, which was Top-10 in the NFL that season.
His comments also suggested Henderson has the “most nuanced” understanding of the scheme compared to any RB on this roster.
Granted, Henderson was cut midseason in 2022, and he had not truly resurfaced on any rosters despite multiple teams needing a RB. He could be completely cooked at this point.
Moreover, this Rams’ run-game is much different than what Henderson previously ran in. Whereas the Rams had featured a primarily outside zone scheme during. Henderson’s tenure, they’ve mostly switched to a run game based more on gap schemes.
At Memphis, Henderson did have plenty of experience within both types of blocking schemes — mixing-and-matching is a staple of the Tigers’ diverse run-game. Still, Henderson has always been more lauded for his zone-running abilities. This schematic switch could be a further road block to Henderson achieving value, beyond his own questionable ability.
Nonetheless, the door is wide-open. To fill the Kyren Gap, McVay likely just wants a reliability. A body he knows will keep his prized QB upright, and can understand the nuances of the scheme. Henderson could very well be that guy.
While we have to wait-and-see if Henderson is even active on Sunday, he is my sneaky favorite pick up of this bunch. I wouldn’t trust him in my lineup in Week 7.
Myles Gaskin’s Fantasy Outlook
If this fill-in role came down to sheer talent, Myles Gaskin would likely win it outright (which is suggestive of how “skilled” this group is). Of all the RBs here, Gaskin is the highest-ceiling but lowest-floor option to pick up.
Granted, Gaskin has never hit 1,000 yards from scrimmage, with a career high of 7 total TDs. He has just one year over 4.0 yards per carry.
Nonetheless, Gaskin was the RB12 in FPPG just two seasons ago, where he racked up an impressive 972 YFS and 5 TDs in just 10 games, good for 16.8 FPs per contest. Gaskin has 41 and 49 catch seasons and 6 receiving TDs on his resume, highlighting some nice pass-catching chops.
It’s been two seasons since we saw that level of production from Gaskin. Still, he has a better track-record than anyone else in this ugly running back room.
Gaskin also has been on the Vikings practice squad for most of 2023. Minnesota’s HC Kevin O’Connell was previously McVay’s right-hand-man, and runs a very similar scheme.
Perhaps most telling, Rams Assistant HC Jimmy Lake was Gaskin’s college coach at Washington. He has previously spoken very highly of Gaskin, and likely played a major role in his former workhorse joining this fray.
McVay’s comments on Gaskin were less telling. If anything, he is the least likely for an immediate role, although McVay did highlight Gaskin’s past ties as a plus:
“Myles, I don’t really know Myles well. I’m looking forward to being able to see him work. I’ve seen him from afar whether it was with Miami, heard some things from Kevin and Wes, and then Jimmy Lake was with him at Washington.”
OC Mike LaFleur was a bit more forthcoming while tossing some praise in Gaskin’s direction:
“He’s been a good player in this league,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “I’ve been hearing from McDaniel about what kind of guy he is, [assistant head coach] Jimmy Lake about what kind of guy he is. In the 24 hours I’ve known him, it’s holding true right now. So if he gets his opp, I know the game’s not going to be too big for him.”
Gaskin was ultimately cut by Miami this preseason, but not after a few impressive moments. He ultimately turned 20 touches (7 receptions) into 130 YFS for an impressive 6.5 yards per touch.
In short, Gaskin may be the latest bloomer of this RB bunch. Yet, if he does get the actual chance, Gaskin’s track record suggests could shine the brightest. In deeper leagues, he’s worth a speculative stash for the next few weeks.
Royce Freeman Fantasy Outlook
Royce Freeman presents arguably the highest-floor, but definitely the lowest-ceiling, of this decrepit Rams’ RB room.
He and Evans bring 2023 “longevity” to the table; besides Evans, Freeman has been around this Rams team longer than any other option.
Freeman is also… not good. After an underwhelming three year run with the Broncos, Freeman has bounced around the Panthers, Texans, and now Rams over his last three seasons. He’s seen 35, 56, and 41 carries the past three seasons, most recently averaging a hideous 3.0 and 2.9 YPC.
Still, Freeman is a reliable pass-protector. As mentioned, his pass protection grade (80.3) was among the highest in the NFL last year. With none of these backs truly special talents, Freeman’s dependability as a blocker could very-well earn him the early snap lead.
This is especially true if the Rams find themselves trailing and in a pass-heavy script.
Despite the clearest path to snaps, Freeman is my least favorite option. Even with extensive field time, Freeman has never proven capable of racking up useful fantasy numbers. At most, he may snare a few dump offs for PPR leaguers, but anything above 8-10 total touches (3-4 receptions) would shock me.
Conclusion: The Top Rams RB to Roster in Fantasy Football is…
No, no, I kid. Of all these underwhelming options, Zach Evans is the only one who can even sniff starting fantasy football lineups in Week 7. He is a hard-runner, and has the freshest legs and most familiarity with the 2023 Rams. He at least brings some “unknown upside” and should be a source of 10-15 touches in a week where many owners are seeking just a sprinkle of volume.
Still, Evans’ limited pass-catching and especially pass-protection abilities will likely cap his upside. He will need a positive game-script to really pay off this week and in the future. The Steelers may indeed provide that (7th most FPs allowed to RBs), but Pittsburgh could also come out of their Bye firing.
Considering I expect the Rams to go pass-obsessed over the next few weeks without Kyren, Evans’ pass-protection concerns are even more damning.
Thus, if I did not need the immediate Week 7 start, I do think Darrell Henderson has the most “three-down upside” within the next week or two. We’ll need to see if he looks completely cooked. But, if there’s any juice left in Henderson’s legs, he could go on a 2-3 week run of quality snaps, touches, and fantasy stats. If anyone could mirror Kyren Williams’ load, it’d be Henderson.
Last is Myles Gaskin. If you are just chasing pure ceiling, Gaskin is the play. He isn’t far removed from a Top-12 RB season in FPPG, and Gaskin has a proven three-down skillset. Gaskin faces the longest path to a role, with no direct experience with McVay. Yet, his ties to McVay disciples (O’Connell) and current assistant HC Jimmy Lake could get Gaskin field time sooner than later. I think he’d do the most if the touches present themselves.
Yes, that means Royce Freeman is the least enticing and easiest to ignore — even if he’s the safest bet for a Week 7 role. He just sucks.
Wondering if you should start Darrell Henderson in Week 7 Fantasy Football? Get The Wolf’s take LIVE on YouTube this Sunday @ 10:45am!