Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers will miss the 2021 NFL season after suffering a torn Achilles while training, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. It's devastating news for Akers, the Rams fanbase and anyone depending on Akers in fantasy football. The second-year back had been a borderline first-round pick in all league formats.
There will need to be big changes in the Rams backfield, with Los Angeles likely to make at least one move to help ease the load.
Darrell Henderson Season
Darrell Henderson should slip right into the starting role and will likely play every down. Henderson, Akers and Malcolm Brown shared the backfield in 2020, but Brown departed for Miami in the offseason.
I'm told that Darrell Henderson is "the guy" in LA after Rams running back Cam Akers suffered a season-ending torn Achilles while training yesterday.
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) July 20, 2021
Henderson was the highest-graded running back in the NFL through the first eight weeks of the 2020 season. This included PFF grades above 78.0 in rushing, receiving and pass blocking. The Rams still used a rotation at the position despite Henderson's strong play, but he is clearly capable of doing everything an every-down back needs to do.
Henderson was particularly efficient at converting his carries into first downs or touchdowns. He was the only running back to do so on over a third of his carries. Henderson also turned half of his targets into first downs.
Injuries opened the door for Akers to take on a bigger role once the rookie himself returned from an early-season injury. Henderson dealt with a thigh injury followed by a quadricep issue that derailed the rest of his season.
Henderson is now projected to score the 16th-most fantasy points among running backs.
Henderson’s Current Competition
The Rams don’t have much competition on the roster. Raymond Calais is a former seventh-rounder the team picked up off the Buccaneers practice squad. They also have 2020 UDFA Xavier Jones and 2021 seventh-round pick Jake Funk.
These three backs have a combined 0 NFL snaps. At least one is likely to make the roster and see some playing time this year, but the Rams are much more likely to bring in another running back.
The Rams could look to free agency or a trade to find Henderson's backup. They could also add a player cut by another team deep into training camp.
Todd Gurley II is the most obvious free agent option. He played for Los Angeles from 2015-2019 and knows the offense. The Rams ran either outside zone or man run concepts on 69% of their run plays last season. Gurley has a 79.0 PFF run grade over the last three seasons on those two types of run plays. Le’Veon Bell is the other big-name running back available, but he’s not as good of a scheme fit. Duke Johnson Jr. could also be an option as a receiving back.
Benny Snell Jr. would be the biggest trade option for the Rams. He already appears to be the odd man out after Pittsburgh drafted Najee Harris. Snell has earned the 14th-best rushing grade on outside zone and man runs over the past three seasons at 79.0. The Patriots' Sony Michel was also pretty good on these runs on a small sample in 2020, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
Henderson won’t have the same fantasy hype as Akers because he’s coming off an injury, but the opportunity will be there for the former third-rounder as long as he’s healthy.
Henderson should be a second-round pick in both PPR and non-PPR formats as long as he sits atop the depth chart. The addition of a primary backup won't change his value.