The Los Angeles Rams reportedly "appear all-in" on Darrell Henderson Jr. serving as their No. 1 running back for the 2021 NFL season, which could make him a major asset in fantasy football.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Friday that Henderson could be particularly valuable early in the campaign as the Rams attempt to "establish the run to help" new quarterback Matthew Stafford, who typically carried a significant portion of the offensive burden during his time with the Detroit Lions.
Los Angeles was projected to feature a backfield timeshare between Cam Akers (625 rushing yards in 2020) and Henderson (624) again in 2021, which would have suppressed both players' fantasy value and made their week-to-week production tough to forecast.
Akers suffered a torn Achilles in July, however, which will force him to miss the entire season.
The injury pushed Henderson to the top of the depth chart unchallenged, with Xavier Jones, Jake Funk, Raymond Calais and Otis Anderson Jr. competing for the backup roles.
Henderson recorded 783 yards from scrimmage and six total touchdowns in 2020 while receiving 10.3 touches per game. It's easy to see his fantasy upside if that workload doubles as the lead back getting possibly upwards of 20 touches weekly.
The rushing attack will be especially important for the Rams early on because Stafford isn't going to see any preseason snaps in an effort to avoid injury. It's the prudent move given his value to a team with championship aspirations, but it could slow his understanding of the team's offensive scheme in game-like conditions.
"There is zero chance you will ever see Matthew Stafford take a snap in the preseason for the Rams as long as I'm the coach. That will never happen. He is not going to play. That's why it's important for us to try to get competitive [opportunities] against some of these other teams in practice settings. Practicing against the Cowboys this Saturday. Get the Raiders twice. So we're always looking for those things. Until you tell me that if a guy gets hurt in the preseason that we'll get those games back or they'll add them on the schedule afterwards as, 'Oh yeah, you get two games because you lost those guys in the preseason,' it's hard for me to make sense of it."
Henderson is coming off the fantasy draft board as the 22nd running back with the 49.3 overall pick on average, according to Yahoo Sports.
If he's able to maintain the No. 1 role throughout the 2021 season, that placement would make him one of fantasy football's biggest steals this year as he has top-10 potential if everything breaks perfectly.
The Rams start the regular season Sept. 12 when they host the Chicago Bears, who ranked 15th last year in giving up 113.4 yards per game on the ground.