Rounds three to six of fantasy drafts are considered the running back dead zone as RB scoring plummets after the second round. Jack Miller of Establish the Run and Rotoviz mapped out the data. I have been leaning more wide receiver and elite tight end at the top of most of my drafts this year but I have dabbled into the dead zone fray. Myles Gaskin. Mike Davis. Trey Sermon. I know, I’m a stupid, stupid man. There has been one player who has been growing on me the more that I think about things, and that player is Darrell Henderson of the Los Angeles Rams. Here’s my thinking why I believe Henderson can rise from the dead zone ashes and potentially vault himself into Top 10 territory.

Henderson is 5-foot-8 and 208 pounds. He runs a 4.49 40-yard dash and is in the 73rd percentile for speed score via PlayerProfiler. He played three years at Memphis and finished with an NCAA record of 8.2 yards per carry.

The Rams traded up 24 spots in the third round during the 2019 NFL Draft despite having Todd Gurley on the roster, who was coming off a 17 touchdown season in only 14 games. He finished with 372.1 PPR points that season, which was the third-best among running backs and averaged 26.6 PPR points, good for tops at the position.

Henderson didn’t play much his rookie season, appearing in only 13 games and accruing 39 rushes for 147 yards. And for good reason, because he was still raw and needed to learn a new scheme. J. Moyer of the RSP wrote a great piece detailing the transition from a gap run scheme employed at Memphis to a zone scheme with the Rams. In a gap scheme, “the back is told where to go, minimizing the reliance on vision, processing of post-snap change, lateral agility and controlled footwork.” In the Rams Wide Zone and Duo scheme, defenses are stretched horizontally “while the running back reads defenders across several gaps before picking one and exploding through it upfield.” 

In Year Two, Henderson was called upon to play more due to a number of injuries. He started 11 games and rushed 138 times. He had one game in which he carried the ball 20 times for 114 yards and a touchdown but did not receive more than 15 carries or reach the 100-yard threshold again. That was due to a confluence of factors: the ineptitude of Jared Goff to the presence of Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown in the backfield.

Last season, Akers scored two touchdowns while Brown hit pay dirt five times. Inside the five-yard line, Brown had seven carries, Akers had eight, and Henderson had nine. That combined number of 24 would have been tops in the league as Ezekiel Elliot and Dalvin Cook both had 22. In terms of red zone carries, Brown had 19, Akers had 31, and Henderson had 31. Josh Jacobs led the league with 64 carries while the Raiders as a team had 85 red zone carries as a team. 

Brown took his talents to Miami while Akers is out for the season. Will Henderson get all those carries? Probably not but there’s a good chance he gets the bulk of them as the rest of the running back depth chart is littered with unproven players.

The replacement of Goff with Matthew Stafford should be a boon for the Rams offense. Defenses will have to defend the entire field while the opportunities in the red zone should increase. There could be more creases to allow Henderson’s home run ability to play. 

Outside of a weird 2019 in which the Rams passed the ball at a 62% clip, the rest of McVay’s tenure in Los Angeles has seen that number in the 55% range. The offense is predicated on the run first and foremost with the passing game branching off it. This is going to be a potent offense with plenty of chance for fantasy goodies.

The Rams have seen Henderson’s development and ability to carry the load when called upon. They haven’t gone out and acquired another running back. They are not playing him in the preseason. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN wrote that the Rams are “all-in” on Henderson. 

The talent is there. The scheme and surrounding talent are enticing. The competition for carries is muted. Rudy has Henderson projected as the 17th running back. NFFC ADP for the month of August has Henderson being drafted as the 22nd running back.

The Rams only doled out a total of 71 targets to the running backs last season so getting to Todd Gurley, Top-3 fantasy running back heights is likely not in the equation for Henderson. But what if he catches 40 passes and scores double-digit touchdowns with 1,000+ yards?

That’s a Top-1o running back.

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everywhereblair
Editor
11 months ago

DH is like riding a roller coaster for me: I hop on and close my eyes and just wait for it to be done.

Son
Son
11 months ago

Close your eyes, embrace the uncertainty with your newfound faith, then prepare to shuffle like ickey