I Drafted Cam Akers! Now What?

by Al Scherer · Fantasy Football

We all feel terrible for Cam Akers. He is a special athlete who suffered a serious injury. We all wish him the best and a full recovery. With the advances of modern medicine, hopefully we’ll get to see him return to form as soon as possible.

Those of us playing fantasy football in 2021, though, have to press on. Especially for those of us that spent early draft capital on Akers or that have him on our dynasty team (or, for that matter, even for those that haven’t drafted yet), what can we do?

Should we:

1) Push our chips all-in and try to trade for the new Rams’ starting RB (Darrell Henderson);

2) Allocate a bench spot to 23.9 year old Xavier Jones, who put up one fabulous season as a fifth-year Senior at SMU in 2019;

3) Allocate a bench spot to 23.5 year old Jake Funk, who hasn’t played more than five games in college since 2017, when he peaked with five total touchdowns;

4) Allocate a bench spots to Undersized Otis Anderson and/or Raymond Calais;

5) Rush to the waiver wire to snare potential Rams’ free agent and/or trade targets like Duke JohnsonLe’Veon Bell or Melvin Gordon?

Well, let’s look to recent history for guidance. Let’s see how teams have fared when losing star RB talent either before or very early in a season. We can then try to apply that to the Rams’ and our fantasy teams’ situations.

How Have These Situations Turned Out In the Past?

As an analogue to Cam Akers’ situation, I found nine running back seasons going back to 2014 where, coming off an RB1 season, a back was lost before or very early the next year:

The data showed a significant dropoff in RB productivity in all cases after a star RB was lost:

Note: Other players, such as 2020’s Marlon Mack & Tarik Cohen, put up solid seasons but averaged less than 13 PPR points per game, well outside the RB1 range

These star RBs above averaged 19.3 PPR Fantasy Points Per Game in the year prior to injury, putting them solidly in RB1 territory. During the year they were injured, their teams’ leading replacement backs averaged 12.2 PPR points per game played; a 37-percent decrease – well outside the RB1 range. The closest a replacement RB got was James Conner in 2018, the only back who came within 10-percent of the star’s prior season. Six of the eight produced at least 25-percemt fewer points per game.

Of course, this is a small sample, but all cases showed a measurable decline when a star RB is replaced.  The replacement RBs simply did not step in and put up the same stats.


What Is Our Takeaway?

History shows we should not expect a Rams replacement running back to put up the same kind of numbers PlayerProfiler had projected for Cam Akers. That tells us to not overpay for any 2021 Rams running back, expecting or hoping what was expected from Akers. And that’s the case whether we’re looking on the roster or targeting a potential free agent add or trade candidate.

Looking ahead, for completed drafts and dynasty leagues, Darrell Henderson is already taken. If you are considering dealing for Henderson in trade or haven’t drafted yet, his price will reflect production levels that history suggests he is not likely to reach.

And looking beyond the current Rams roster for potential trade candidates is a lottery ticket. Placing one or more of those on our roster means filling our bench with long shots unlikely to put up numbers anywhere close to what we were expecting from a healthy 2021 Akers.

Instead, we should stick to PlayerProfiler’s rankings and projections and set our plans accordingly. Value Henderson and the other Rams replacement RB candidates based on our site’s rankings. Don’t overpay or reach for any other long shots hoping to find a potential Akers replacement.

That replacement likely does not exist.