Saturday, August 13, 2022

2022 Rams Fantasy Football Preview: How do you follow up a best-case scenario?

The Rams took a big swing in upgrading from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford and got a Super Bowl championship out of it. They remain extremely top-heavy with their star-studded roster, but as long as the key players are healthy, they’re going to remain one of the best teams in the league.        

2021 Review

Record: 12 – 5 (3)

PPG: 27.1 (7)

YPG: 372.1 (9)

Pass YPG: 273.1 (5)

Rush YPG: 99.0 (25)

PAPG: 35.7 (10)

RAPG: 24.7 (23)

2021 Fantasy finishes

QB: Matthew Stafford QB5

RB: Darrell Henderson RB27, Sony Michel* RB31

WR: Cooper Kupp WR1, Van Jefferson WR36, Odell Beckham* WR55, Robert Woods* WR52

TE: Tyler Higbee TE14

*No longer with team

Number to know: 12.6

That’s how many points Sony Michel has averaged in 10 career games where he’s played 39% or more of snaps. Now, it’s fair to note that this sample is 40% made up of the playoff run from this season, when Akers was potentially less than 100% healthy and faced an incredibly tough stretch of run defenses, so let’s exclude those games. That’s fine. 

In his final six games after becoming the lead back as a rookie in 2020, Akers averaged a much healthier 16.6 PPR points per game, which would have been the No. 10 RB last season. When we talk about Akers upside, that’s what we’re aiming for, though even that stretch was probably a bit less impressive than you actually remember. Akers needed 132 carries in those six games to get to those totals, because he wasn’t used much as a pass-catcher and wasn’t terribly efficient as a runner — he averaged 4.25 yards per carry.

Which is to say, the evidence we have that Akers is some kind of difference-making running back is pretty thin. I guess the good news is that it’s not clear you have to be a difference maker to be a must-start option in this offense — Sony Michel and Darrell Henderson averaged 15.1 Fantasy points per game in their 17 combined games as the starter (only counting the stats for the back who started each game). This is a great offense and there’s certainly an opportunity for Akers to be a low-end RB1 even if he isn’t necessarily a superstar in his own right. 

2021 Offseason

Draft Picks 

3. (104) Logan Bruss, OL

4. (142) Decobie Durant, DB

5. (164) Kyren Williams, RB

6. (211) Quentin Lake, DB

6. (212) Derion Kendrick, DB

7. (235) Daniel Hardy, LB

7. (253) Russ Yeast, DB

7. (261) AJ Arcuri, OT

Additions

LB Bobby Wagner, WR Allen Robinson

Key losses

LB Von Miller, WR Robert Woods, CB Darious Williams, DL Sebastian Joseph-Day, G Austin Corbett, LB Troy Reeder

Available Opportunity 

215 carries, 33 RB targets, 117 WR targets, 1 TE target

2022 Preview

Rankings

Chris Towers’ projections

QB Matthew Stafford PA: 600, YD: 4498, TD: 35, INT: 12; RUSH — ATT: 22, YD: 32, TD: 1
RB Cam Akers CAR: 237, YD: 1019, TD: 9, TAR: 36, REC: 27, YD: 229, TD: 1
RB Darrell Henderson CAR: 129, YD: 543, TD: 5, TAR: 48, REC: 35, YD: 211, TD: 1
WR Cooper Kupp TAR: 172, REC: 120, YD: 1443, TD: 9
WR Allen Robinson TAR: 126, REC: 76, YD: 908, TD: 6
WR Van Jefferson TAR: 84, REC: 55, YD: 602, TD: 3
TE Tyler Higbee TAR: 84, REC: 60, YD: 603, TD: 3

Biggest Question

Is Cam Akers worth the risk?

There aren’t many success stories for running backs coming back from a ruptured Achilles, so Akers making it back at all last season counts. It looked like the hype from his return might carry him to a top-20 ADP at first; however, facing a murderer’s row of tough rush defenses, he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in the playoffs and had just eight catches in four games. He’s a controversial player, a potential every-down back married to a high-level offense, but there are very fair questions about whether he’s good enough to be worth that role. There’s plenty of upside with Akers, but there’s also considerable risk.

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One sleeper, one breakout and one bust

We saw what Henderson can do last season, as he averaged 15.7 PPR points per game in his 10 starts, though at this point in his NFL career, I think we can safely say Henderson has trouble staying healthy. That’s a concern when you have to invest real draft picks in him and rely on him as a significant part of your starting lineup. However, when he’s routinely going in the double-digit rounds as an insurance policy for a running back who looked a full step slow coming off a ruptured Achilles last season, there’s no downside to taking a chance on Henderson late in your drafts. 

This is more of a bounce-back than a breakout, with the obvious caveat that Robinson may just be done. However, he’s still just 29 and only two years removed from a 102-1,250-6 season, so I’m willing to give him at least some benefit of the doubt now that he’s in a much better situation. Remember, Odell Beckham looked pretty washed up coming off a torn ACL last season and he put up seven touchdowns in 12 games with the Rams. This is such a good situation for Robinson to be in as the No. 2 WR in a high-volume, high-efficiency passing attack, that I’m willing to take a chance on him as my WR2 — and if I can get him as my WR3, I’m pretty thrilled. 

I’m actually less out on Akers than I thought I would be now that we’re starting to see some real ADP data, because I was worried the price was just going to be too high to justify. In NFC ADP, he’s sitting at 29.1 in early July, RB15, and while that’s still too early for me to take him in most drafts, I can’t make too strong of an argument against it — there’s obvious upside here. The problem comes if Akers’ price starts to rise with good reports out of training camp. I get the sense a lot of Fantasy analysts and players are looking for any reason to buy into Akers, who was viewed by many players as a superstar-caliber player this time last season. I’m not sure he was that even before the injury, but it’s much more difficult to buy into coming off that ruptured Achilles, an injury with a very poor track record for running backs. As a third or preferably fourth-round pick, Akers is fine. Any more than that, and I’m out. 

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