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How to approach the Los Angeles Rams' backfield in 2021 fantasy football drafts

Seattle, Washington, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson (27) runs the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The first injury Domino of the 2021 fantasy football season unfortunately fell on July 20 when Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers suffered a season-ending knee injury. His loss leaves third-year back Darrell Henderson atop the depth chart among a bevy of unproven names in Xavier Jones, Jake Funk, Raymond Calais and Otis Anderson. The Rams could elect to sign a veteran option during the preseason, but so far they seem pleased with their current crop of fairly inexperienced and young running backs heading into the 2021 NFL season.

Editor's Note: PFF's 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Guide and 2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets are LIVE! 

Henderson is the clear golden option of this group, but as his ADP pushes upward, there is much to discuss about this situation for fantasy purposes. Is Henderson he merely a decent starter, or does he have legitimate workhorse/RB1 potential under a head coach in Sean McVay who has enabled league-winning backs during his young career? 

RB Splits

Henderson is clearly the best option among the Rams' current RBs. A third-rounder out of Memphis in 2019, we have a large enough sample of the 5-foot-8, 208-pounder operating in McVay's offense for three of the young coach's four seasons in L.A.

Rams RB snap shares under Sean McVay | 2017-2020
Category RB1 Snaps RB2 Snaps RB3 Snaps
2020 42.2% 31.1% 26.5%
2019 71.2% 19.7% 8.4%
2018 74.2% 11.4% 9.1%
2017 75.6% 14.9% 3.7%

To offer some context, the RB1 tag was provided to whichever player ended the season with the most snaps. In 2020, you could argue that Akers was the actual RB1, though veteran Malcolm Brown ended the season with the most usage. Injuries played a major part in deciding the split in 2020, which is why it might be wise to put less stock into this past season and focus on the prior three, though it has become apparent McVay is less interested in the workhorse-like usage Todd Gurley received from 2017-2019 and more in a shared backfield.

The 2020 season was difficult to evaluate because of injuries and the fact that Akers was being introduced to the offense in a shortened offseason. Surely, he and Henderson would have out-snapped and out-produced Brown if they had stayed healthy. The situation played out differently when broken down on a week-by-week basis.

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