Los Angeles, Calif. – When it comes to fantasy football, much like the actual NFL Draft, fantasy and NFL general managers alike are always looking for that late-round gem. Three years ago it Adam Thielen, two years ago it was Alvin Kamara, and last season it was Aaron Jones.
This season, the Los Angeles Rams could have one of those late-round gems, and his name is Darrell Henderson.
A note from Schefty: “Darrell Henderson, third round pick 70th overall, running back from Memphis, here’s a guy that I believe Sean McVay thought was THE most dangerous offensive player in the draft…That’s right. [The Rams] LOVE Darrell Henderson.” https://t.co/2sZ9yvAn35
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) June 3, 2019
It’s quite possible that Henderson is this year’s Kamara. The Rams are looking to take a load off of Todd Gurley and they didn’t draft Henderson in the third round to just sit on the bench.
He was one of the country’s premier breakaway runners, leading running backs the entered the draft in yards after contact (6.2).
Darrell Henderson is back doing Darrell Henderson things. pic.twitter.com/czlLUNJpsD
— Grind City Media (@grindcitymedia) November 3, 2018
Darrell Henderson had my curiosity. Now, he has my attention. pic.twitter.com/kHBBspE4RM
— Dalton Miller (@DaltonBMiller) March 5, 2019
You can see on plays like these, just how explosive and dynamic the third-rounder is. In the first play, he takes a screen for a touchdown and in the second play he takes an outside zone handoff and gains 40-yards on what should be a three-yard gain.
This is what makes Henderson intriguing. It’s not just that he has play-making ability. It’s what he can do and what he can do with an offensive mind like Sean McVay. The only other weapon McVay has had to this caliber is Gurley.
Henderson could not have been drafted by a more perfect team for his skillset. The Rams ran outside zone 217 times during 2018 regular season – 52 more than any other team. Henderson excelled on outside zone the last two years as he had 53 attempts for 569 Yards which averages to 10.7 yards per carry. That mark as well as his yards after contact (7.0) led the nation. He also tallied 23 First downs and 16 broken tackles.
Like Kamara in 2017, the thing hurting Henderson is that he won’t be starting and it’s not only that he won’t be starting, but he’ll be playing behind a running back that has been in the MVP conversation the last two seasons.
He joins an already-prolific offense that also features wide receivers Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp. Take that into account with an already active Gurley, and it’s very possible that Henderson has a limited role.
However, that doesn’t sound to be the case. As seen in the tweet from Field Yates above, the Rams love the player they drafted in Henderson and they have been very vocal about Gurley no longer being the ‘bell cow’ in the backfield. There will be touches to go around, it’s only a question of how many.
Being in a prolific offense didn’t stop Kamara. Competing for touches with Mark Ingram as well as receivers Michael Thomas and Tedd Ginn Jr., the Saints rookie running back caught 81 balls en route to 201 touches. While that seems like a stretch for Henderson given Todd Gurley hasn’t even eclipsed the 81 receptions mark, Henderson will be a dual-threat back which provides plenty of value, especially in ppr leagues. The bottom line is, if a player can make plays, a coach is going to make sure said player gets involved and gets touches.
Fantasy running back duos have had success over the past couple of years. Last season the Patriots duo of James White (7) and Sony Michel (35) both finished as top-35 running backs in ppr scoring. Kamara (4) and Latavius Murray (38) also finished top-40. The best duo may have been the one in Tennessee where Derek Henry (16) and Dion Lewis (28) each finished in the top-30.
With that said, it is possible to get RB1 and RB2 production in a two-back system if the talent is there. With Gurley and Henderson heading the backfield, that certainly seems to be the case.
Henderson currently ranks as RB54 according to ESPN.com and according to recent ADP data he’s being selected just outside the top-100. In any league, the rookie is at the very least one of the top handcuff options and someone to take in dynasty leagues. If Gurley misses time again, Henderson will be an RB2 option with RB1 upside.
Like in the NFL Draft, it’s almost impossible to predict who the late-round gem is going to be in fantasy leagues. At the end of the day, you just have to throw a dart at the player that projects to have the most upside and hope it sticks.
Under McVay, the Rams have had one of the more friendly running back systems and one of the most productive offenses in the league. Whether or not Henderson will be this year’s Alvin Kamara is uncertain, however, the signs are there and taking the low risk late in the draft could mean reaping the benefits when the playoffs and championship are on the line.