Just when it appeared Cam Akers was in line to build on a strong finish to his 2020 rookie season, his 2021 season is over before it began.
The Rams running back reportedly will miss the entire year after tearing his ACL.
The heartless fantasy realm has no feelings, so though everyone certainly is rooting for a quick and smooth recovery by Akers, draft boards immediately began updating as soon as the news broke.
Akers was being drafted in most drafts around the turn of the first and second round. There is no option that will rival that kind of projected value. But the quick and easy real-world and fantasy fill-in is Darrell Henderson Jr.
From a production standpoint, the third-year RB hasn’t performed much differently than Akers. Henderson actually averaged slightly more per carry (4.5) than Akers (4.3) last season. And in Akers’ extended run as the feature back to end the regular season, Akers average dropped to 3.95 per carry. He did perform better in two playoff games, upping that number to 4.8, and helping fuel excitement over what this season could bring with a full season in the primary role.
Henderson is unlikely to get the same type of workload, but he will be valuable. Figure his draft value will shoot up immediately probably into the Mike Davis range, around Round 5, if not higher.
If this proves true, we much prefer to taker Davis in that range — as we think this spot is about right for Henderson but Davis is undervalued. We take this position because we believe the Rams will add an additional piece to their RB fleet who could cut into Henderson’s workload. This is Henderson’s third season with the team, and at no point in the first two years was he assumed to be the lead horse. And on the Davis side, we expect he will get the Falcons more teeth in the running game than they had with a statuesque Gurley last season, and with no Julio Jones, could lean on the run more often in the red zone.
If you’ve already drafted, waiver-wire pickings will be slim. In the unlikely event Trey Sermon is available, grab him. The rookie is behind two very fragile backs in San Francisco (Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr.), and both of them are already nursing injuries.
If you have Dalvin Cook or Ezekiel Elliot at RB, you could do worse than grabbing their handcuffs — Alexander Mattison and Tony Pollard, respectively. You could take a shot on new Buccaneers RB Gio Bernard or Houston’s Phillip Lindsay — but exclusively in full-PPR leagues.
Beyond that, the best you’re likely able to do is nab a real-world backup in hopes that the starter goes down and that backup assumes the lead role — guys like Rashaad Penny (Seahawks), Chuba Hubbard (Panthers), Salvon Ahmen (Dolphins) or Tevin Coleman (Jets). Like I said, not great options.
Best of luck to all fantasy owners dealing with this setback, and all the luck in the world to Akers in his recovery.