The 2021 Los Angeles Rams come with a lot of questions but one of the more under-the-radar queries is when will Darrell Henderson deliver? Some related questions are; is he a bust, will Cam Akers starting keep Henderson from being productive, and does the Rams selection of Jake Funk as well as Xavier Jones being on the roster spell doom for Henderson? The answer to those questions is a resounding No!
Henderson is not a bust, Akers might be a starter but that doesn’t REALLY mean anything, and Jones is a depth guy while Funk will live on special teams. Darrell Henderson might not have become the immediate breakout hit Akers was but he’s poised for a major season in 2021.
Darrell Henderson enters his third year a bit of an enigma wrapped in potential wrapped in a vest. When he was taken in the third round after a trade-up he was looked at as the heir apparent to Todd Gurley. That didn’t quite happen in his rookie season but it wasn’t entirely his fault. The entire 2019 offense was off-kilter due in large part to injury/inconsistency along the offensive line, Todd Gurley still being the starter despite his own injury concerns, and inconsistent play-calling from Sean McVay. He could only muster 147 yards and no touchdowns, but like Akers pre-breakout, there were flashes.
In year two he more than tripled that with 624 yards and one touchdown. He did so while both dealing with injuries and the emergence of Cam Akers (who had 625 yards and two touchdowns). Henderson couldn’t stay healthy and that meant Malcolm Brown had to cover for him in the playoffs, to the Rams detriment.
Akers emerged as the starting running back but that doesn’t mean Darrell Henderson is an afterthought. Now that Malcolm Brown made like Will Smith and went to Miami, Henderson doesn’t really have anyone taking his non-Akers carries away. Yes, Xavier Jones has developed a cult of curiosity but if healthy (admittedly a sizeable if), Henderson shouldn’t worry. This is especially true if Henderson can improve his pass blocking which is part of why Brown got a lion’s share of carries last year.
Henderson and Akers are likely to not just be the primary running backs but will also receive a fair amount of catches. The Rams no longer have to worry about their quarterback being a second too slow on jet sweeps and end arounds. They should get a lot of opportunities to catch passes in the backfield and even run deeper routes. The playbook is WIDE OPEN this season and that could mean Henderson can truly thrive.
The line won’t have as many questions as it had the last two seasons (Corbett at center notwithstanding) and that means the holes should be there. Akers might start every game but McVay clearly learned from his mistake with Gurley and will be inclined to make sure Akers isn’t run into the ground. That’s more good news for Henderson.
McVay is also likely to implement more dual back sets because now he can! The Rams will be more personnel flexible than they’ve ever been so again the opportunities for Henderson will be plentiful. Matthew Stafford hasn’t had a reliable running back in his entire nine-year career in Detroit and only five times did he enjoy a 100-yard rusher. Now he has two guys that can rip off 100 yards a game no problem so he’ll be dying to utilize his running backs.
From a fantasy perspective, Darrell Henderson might be risky and you could probably get him for a dollar in auction leagues but in real life, the sky is the limit. He has a great line and a coach that will be eager to fire all the weapons in his arsenal. Cam Akers is the starting back in name only and as long as Henderson is healthy he shouldn’t be begging for scraps. They have a quarterback that is quicker off the snap and the handoff than his predecessor, as well as a great offensive line. The situation could not be better for Darrell Henderson and on top of that, he still has one more year under his rookie contract so the Rams don’t have to worry about losing him just yet. But seriously, Henderson’s stock might not be AMC level high at the moment but buy while it’s low everyone because he’s about to explode!