Darrell Henderson’s fantasy outlook and projection for 2021

What is Darrell Henderson's fantasy outlook, and could his ADP fall to the point of being a value following the Sony Michel trade?

As he enters the 2021 season, Los Angeles Rams RB Darrell Henderson finds himself in yet another convoluted situation after the team traded for Sony Michel. Heading into the season with an uncertain role, can Henderson’s outlook make him a valuable fantasy football commodity, and should you draft him in upcoming fantasy drafts at his current ADP?

Darrell Henderson’s fantasy outlook for 2021

The last month or so for Darrell Henderson and his fantasy outlook has been a roller coaster ride that would make the best theme parks jealous. A few short weeks ago, Henderson was in line for a backup role and likely another year stuck in a committee approach. As part of a committee last year, Henderson played on 33% of the snaps and watched Cam Akers assert his dominance over the backfield towards the end of the season. 

That is not to say Henderson did not find success last season. From Weeks 2-7, Henderson served as the Rams’ RB1, averaging 16.2 opportunities, 85.9 yards, and 0.7 touchdowns per game. In the games where he saw 12 or more touches (6), Henderson averaged 14.3 fantasy points and 5.2 yards per rush. During this stretch, Henderson also had three games in a row of 19.8 or more fantasy points, with an average of 0.89 points per touch.

Then, Akers suffered a career-altering injury in late July, tearing his Achilles while training before camp. This injury led to Henderson’s fantasy outlook skyrocketing as the Rams lacked anyone who could match his upside.

Henderson now faces stiff competition in 2021

Yet, like any good roller coaster, every climb has an equally steep drop. Rather than gravity doing the work, this drop came via trade with the New England Patriots as the Rams acquired RB Sony Michel.

Michel has had an up-and-down career despite being the No. 31 overall draft pick in 2018. While he did rush for back-to-back 900-plus-yard seasons, injuries derailed his 2020 campaign before it ever got off the ground. Through the first three games, Michel rushed 26 times for an impressive 173 yards but scored just 1 touchdown.

Then, the injuries hit. We didn’t see Michel hit the field again until Week 12 after battling a quad injury. Over the final six games (35% snap share), Michel generated 53 carries for 276 yards while catching 5 of 6 targets for 91 yards and a score.

It’s hard to see Michel not having an impact on Henderson’s outlook

There are legitimate concerns that Michel can significantly impact Henderson’s fantasy outlook as a third-down back and in the red zone. Yet, head coach Sean McVay recently stated that Henderson’s role should not change.

“Darrell is still going to have a really big role. Doesn’t really change the outlook for him. And then we’ll see how quickly we can get Sony up to speed,” McVay said.

“We feel good about the running back situation, but some of the volatility of what Darrell’s gone through, even just throughout the course of camp, wanted to make sure you got somebody else that’s played in big-time games that brings a physical presence to that room.”

Perhaps this is just coach speak, but it’s hard to imagine Michel not negatively impacting Henderson. He’s a significant upgrade in talent compared to other RBs on the depth chart.

I still have confidence in Henderson and believe he will be a reliable asset in fantasy. Nevertheless, the upside we saw a few weeks ago has been reduced.

Fantasy projection

Since Sean McVay took over the Rams, they have been the eighth-heaviest run offense and rush the third-highest amount inside the red zone. In 2020, the Rams ran the second-highest amount inside the red zone. 

It’s also worth noting the committee approach and what is the reality of the Rams. If we look at last season, the RB1 saw 42.2% of the snaps, followed by 31.1% for the RB2 and 26.5% for the RB3. McVay almost didn’t have a choice due to injuries. From 2017-2019, the RB1 saw 73.6% followed by 15.3%, then 7% for the RB3. Sure, it helps when you have a healthy Todd Gurley, but are we certain McVay is dead set against having a true lead back?

The touch split yields a similar pattern where the RB1 averaged 30.7% of the rushes but saw 57.7% from 2017-2019. Is Michel or Henderson as talented as Gurley? Of course not, but based on his history, we should expect a split backfield once again.

There is every chance Henderson blows projections out of the water in 2021. Michel is injury-prone and has disappointed before. But perhaps a change of scenery is what he needed to get his career back on track. If that is the case, Henderson could be in trouble.

Current projections have Henderson slated as the RB1, but he does see his workload significantly cut due to Michel’s presence. As of now, Henderson is projected for around 180 rushes for 800 yards and 8 touchdowns. He should be uncontested in the receiving game, recording roughly 40 receptions for 300 yards and 2 more scores.

Darrell Henderson’s ADP

According to Sleeper, Henderson is currently the RB21 with an ADP of 44 in PPR formats. Both NFC (a high-stakes site) and FleaFlicker have updated their ADP post-Michel trade compared to Sleeper. On NFC, Henderson is the RB26 (67.5 ADP) and the RB22 (ADP 51) on FleaFlicker.

Should you draft Henderson at this ADP in 2021?

Before the trade, Henderson was one of the best values in fantasy, given his outlook and projection compared to his ADP. However, that has changed, with Henderson now more of a high-end RB3 in fantasy.

There is still the potential that this is Henderson’s backfield, with Michel providing the hammer. Still, with Michel projected for over 100 carries of his own, Henderson’s shine has lost some of its luster. I would have no issue drafting Henderson as an RB3 or flex option, but he no longer has the high-end RB2 upside he did a few weeks ago.

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