Home » Blog » The Pre-emptive Strike: Buy Low on Cam Akers

The Pre-emptive Strike: Buy Low on Cam Akers

Cam Akers
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Rams

Up until a few days ago, Cam Akers was one of the more divisive players in the fantasy football landscape. With an ADP(average draft position) hovering around the end of the 1st round in PPR leagues it was very easy to argue that he was being overvalued. Especially when you factor in that his main backfield running mate for the coming season Darrell Henderson was arguably more productive than him last year. 

Now however any argument that took place prior to Monday July 23rd is moot. Akers experienced a possibly career altering Achilles tear putting a dagger in the hearts of anyone who used a top 2 round start up pick on him in the past couple months. First let’s address how this major injury impacts the remaining healthy backs in the Rams backfield. 

Darrell Henderson

The de facto starter Darrell Henderson enters his 3rd season with a great opportunity to prove any doubters wrong. When the Rams picked Henderson in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL draft there was speculation he was the heir apparent to Todd Gurley. However he had difficulty cracking the line up and then experienced a high ankle sprain late in the season finishing his rookie year with a disappointing 39 carries for 147 and a pedestrian 3.8 ypc (yards per carry). 

After his disappointing rookie season the Rams cut long time and highly paid starter Todd Gurley providing for a brief snippet in time caused a spike in Hederson’s dynasty value. That value did not last long though as the Rams used their first pick in the 2020 NFL draft to secure the abilities of Cam Akers presumably to be their future lead back. However the season itself played out much differently. Akers struggled with injury early on and Henderson showed flashes of what he could do as a lead back with a state line of 138 carries 624 yards and 4.5 ypc compared to Akers 145 carries 625 yards and 4.3 ypc. 

The Rams did make their intentions clear however in the final games of the season giving Akers the lion’s share of touches. It could be argued this was due to Henderson experiencing another high ankle injury. It is telling that the Rams chose to use their earliest possible draft capital on another running back and then proceeded to give that rookie more work than the 2nd year back had at any point in his career. This is a sign that they do not trust Henderson to stay healthy if given the bulk of the touches out of the backfield or they don’t think he has the skill set to pick up crucial yardage on short yardage situations.  

With all the information we have available about Henderson it is fair to assume he will be given first crack at being the “lead back”. Given his usage patterns with the Rams in the past however anyone expecting him to have more than a 50% of the backfield touches may be disappointed. So if Henderson is only getting 50% of the touches who then will the other 50% go to? 

Xavier Jones and Jake Funk

In steps 2nd year back Xavier Jones as well as rookie 7th round pick Jake Funk. Jones was an undrafted free agent the Rams signed last offseason who did not see any playing time in 2020. Though listed at the same weight as Henderson at 208lbs his running style is more conducive to short yardage situations as well as being a slightly better pass blocker. He could easily steal 8 to 10 touches per game through the air and on the ground.

Finally, the last leg in what is likely to be a tripod of a backfield Jake Funk. Funk, a 7th round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, has an intriguing combination of skills and athletic ability. He has upper percentile burst and agility paired with average speed. Based on his playstyle and skill set his route to playing time is likely as a 3rd down/scat back. If coach Sean Mcvay trusts the rookie with the play book he could see early playing time in the passing game as new QB Mathew Stafford’s new version of Theo Riddick and potentially be a ppr sleeper. 

So what does all this information mean for each individual player’s values both this season and going forward? Currently Henderson’s MFL (My Fantasy League) ADP is 141. Now this is likely to climb over the next several weeks. If his ADP does not climb to about the range of 45-60 (which would put him in the range of Kareem Hunt, Myles Gaskin, and Michael Carter), he could still be a decent value grab. The Rams are likely to have a higher powered offense now that Coach Mcvay has a QB he feels can run his system which even with only 50% of the backfield touches should still put Henderson in the category of a mid to possibly high end RB2. His future value we will touch on a bit later. 

Funk and Jones are a bit harder to get a gauge on value wise their current ADPs are 132 and 181 respectively. These ADP’s are misleading as Funk’s is an afterthought in rookie drafts. Given that they are both going to be fighting it out for around a 50% market share of the touches neither will be start-able on a weekly basis, but both have upside in the event of an injury. 

The Future of Cam Akers

Now on to possibly the most interesting aspect of this whole situation. What does the future hold for Cam Akers and how does it affect Henderson and the rest of the back field long term. The achilles injury is not in any way similar to an ACL injury. It’s much less common and the recovery timeline is long. According to a 2018 study {conducted by Joshua D. Harris, MD that was published in Foot and Ankle International}  73% of the 95 players that experienced an achilles injury during the study returned to playing in the NFL. Based on several factors running backs and linebackers were the 2 positions that had markedly worse postoperative performance vs their pre-op performance. 

In recent seasons there have been a few fantasy relevant players to experience a similar injury to Akers injury, D’onta Foreman, Marlon Mack, Emmanual Sanders, and Courtland Sutton. Foreman’s injury occured in 2018 when he was 22 he did attempt a comeback after the injury, but has since fizzled out of the league. Mack and Sutton’s injuries both occurred last season and reports are that they are both ahead of schedule in their recovery (due to new stem cell technology). The most encouraging recent example of recovery in recent seasons is Sanders. His injury occurred December 5th of 2018 at the age of 31. The following season he played in all 17 games and managed to compile 66 receptions for 869 yards with 2 different teams. 

The Comeback

If Cam Akers can manage a Sanders type of comeback he is a buy low right now as many in the community view him as done/a bust. Acquiring him for a future 2nd round pick or a very late 1st is worth the risk for the upside he provides. Hold him tight unless you are offered a mid to early 1st for him and hope he recovers more like Sanders, rather than Foreman.

As for Henderson if you’re lucky enough to already have his services capitalize on the spike in value and sell him for a 1st. Even if he is the lead back all season (unlikely due to his own injury history) the Rams have shown us through the drafting of Akers early and then subsequently giving him more work than Henderson that they do not want Henderson to have to handle the bulk of the work and will eventually bring in a more high profile back to compliment him or best case Akers recovery goes smoothly and becomes the lead back he was billed to be. 

In Conclusion

If I had to pick one of the two “hand cuff” backs to own I would pick Jake Funk. His upside due to his slightly higher athletic measurables is more appealing to me. That said, I wouldn’t give up more than a future 4th round pick or spend more than 10% of FAAB for either player.

If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out our blog section!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *