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ESPN’s fantasy projection for Los Angeles Rams rookie RB Darrell Henderson shows just how open role is

Without knowing the Rams’ plan for Todd Gurley, it’s equally difficult to know what to expect from their rookie out of Memphis.

Los Angeles Rams RB Darrell Henderson runs drills during organized team activities, May 20, 2019.
Los Angeles Rams RB Darrell Henderson runs drills during organized team activities, May 20, 2019.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

ESPN’s Matt Bowen and Mike Clay teamed up today to cover rookie running backs across the NFL for 2019 and their fantasy outlook (ESPN+ subscription required). That effort included Los Angeles Rams RB Darrell Henderson, a third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

The problem of course is that Henderson’s production will be directly tied to the amount of playing time he’s afforded in backing up RB Todd Gurley...and we just don’t know what Gurley’s limitations will be if any. I wrote about that earlier this month noting that Gurley’s season is relatively impossible to predict right now because he’s going to require week-to-week reassessments. That means Hendo’s outlook is equally unpredictable. Bowen covered both ends of the spectrum though in looking at the ceiling and floor for Henderson in 2019:

Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

Clay’s 2019 projection: 125 carries, 566 yards, 3 TDs; 24 receptions, 208 yards, TD

Current ADP: 103.6 (RB34)

Fantasy Floor: I love the fit here for Henderson in Sean McVay’s offense as an explosive playmaker with high 4.4 speed in a zone-based scheme. He can go. Need evidence? check the video down below, and watch him turn on the jets in the matchup with Navy last season.

However, if Gurley is healthy and ready to roll, when does Henderson see enough volume to crack a fantasy lineup? Since entering the NFL in 2015, Gurley has a league-high 1,229 touches. And over that stretch, no other Rams back has had a 100-touch season. If that knee is right for Gurley? Yeah, the offense will run through him once again, leaving Henderson as a high-end handcuff based on his current ADP.

Fantasy Ceiling: If Gurley were to miss significant time, or show some limitations in the game plan, then Henderson’s value is going to take off. Think of this: In McVay’s two seasons with the Rams, L.A. has averaged 4.77 yards per carry (No. 2 in the NFL). And while that is obviously boosted by the play of Gurley, we saw what C.J. Anderson could do in relief last season. Get 11 personnel on the field (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR), align in reduced sets and use misdirection to rip apart lighter run boxes.

With Henderson’s one-cut style, big-play chops (he posted 43 runs of 15 yards or more at Memphis last season) and receiving skill set, the rookie could produce RB1-level numbers if he were to step in for an injured Gurley in 2019.

For Hendo to get 125 carries, that likely means a reduction for Gurley perhaps around what I had for him in May with 186 carries. So I just don’t see the situation laid out for Henderson’s floor. Given what happened last year, it would probably be outright irresponsible to roll Gurley out for more than 15 carries per game or so. They clearly drafted Henderson to avoid that. And all of that is without any impact from Malcolm Brown as a running back though I think he might be relegated to special teams duties only this year.

What do we think, Rams fans? Is Hendo going to be a legitimate fantasy option or is Gurley going to keep him from a major output in his rookie yeah?