Summer and the off-season are upon us. As dynasty owners, we are looking ahead to the upcoming season. In the Dynasty Fantasy Football Rankings Risers and Fallers series, we break down some of the fantasy-relevant dynasty players, including rookies, and look at their values while providing actionable advice on what to do with them.
Kyren Williams, RB LAR (January Rookie Rank=13.4, Current Rank=39.5)
Williams has plummeted in the DLF rookie rankings, unlike last week’s subject, Dameon Pierce. Greek-born Williams was a pre-NFL Draft top-five back in rookie drafts coming off the board as the RB4 (13.10 overall) in the February rookie ADP collected by Ryan McDowell. Below is a look at how far in the overall rookie rankings the 21-year-old has fallen.
Williams has fallen all the way down to 14th in the current rookie running back rankings. It is hard to see him making an impact right away. DLF co-founder Jeff Haverlack has the Rams back ranked 19th, the lowest of our expert group but does however note that he “didn’t display skills at the Combine or Pro Day but is better on tape.”
Irish Eyes Are Not Smiling
The former Notre Dame Fighting Irish standout back broke his foot sometime around June 7th and will not be back until sometime during training camp. The missed time will cost the rookie the opportunity to unseat incumbent backup to Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson. However, the Rams did trade up to get Williams and his receiving chops could allow him to take over the number two role sooner rather than later.
Here is a look at how good fifth-round (164th overall) pick Williams was at catching the ball out of the backfield during his time in South Bend. He combined for 77 catches, 672 yards, and four touchdowns just through the air during his sophomore and junior seasons.
Akers and Henderson both missed time due to injury in 2021, with Akers missing the entire regular season with a torn Achilles and Henderson missing five games as well. This opened up the door for Sony Michel to come in down the stretch and put up some solid numbers.
Williams is essentially free in drafts right now and let’s not forget that Los Angeles and head coach Sean McVay traded up to get the versatile back. Here is a look at some of the better plays from his time as a student-athlete with Notre Dame.
Pass-Happy Play Calling
The Rams’ offense is one of the best in the league and a great landing spot for any skill position player. However, McVay only runs the ball about 40% of the time. That may sound bad but when you consider the volume of plays that they run, it still keeps them on par with the league in terms of rushing attempts. Los Angeles finished tied for 21st in the league in 2021 with 420 rush attempts, more than the “run-heavy” Seattle Seahawks.
We see here that the Super Bowl champion coach has always leaned on the passing game more. This is not to say that a running back cannot succeed in his offenses. In 2017 and 2018 when Todd Gurley was making fantasy managers everywhere tons of cash, the Rams were still running the ball just 44% and 46% of the time respectively.
We of course are not comparing Williams to Gurley. We are simply pointing out the fact that a running back can succeed in a McVay-led offense. Receiving backs fare exceptionally well. Looking closely at the 2017 season when Gurley finished as the RB1, we realize that 47.39% of his points came via the passing game. This gives us some insight into what type of usage we could see soon in Hollywood.
Thunder and Lightning Part X?
Could this be the umpteenth rendition of a one-two punch that features a pounder on first and second downs with a receiving back sprinkled in on third downs and obvious passing situations? Only time will tell. Cam Akers was quite a ways behind Williams as a receiver when he played college football with the Florida State Seminoles. This is evidenced by the numbers we see here.
Perhaps the front office and the coaching staff want to ease the workload put on the feature back Akers and keep him fresh for years to come, especially coming off the Achillies injury we mentioned earlier.
The Rams averaged 24.71 carries per game last season. If Akers gets 14-18 of those, that would leave six-ten carries available for Henderson (who may be supplanted as the number two) and/or Williams. Factor in the passing game upside and we may be looking at eight to ten touches a game minimum for Williams in 2022 once healthy and familiar with the system.
Conclusion/Course of Action
The price has reached a point where I am buying. Take advantage of the manager who is bummed out by the disappointing news about Williams’ foot injury and acquire him on the cheap. Some of the trades that have been processed over the past couple of weeks are solid ones and we would like to be on the rookie’s side of things.
Williams has yet to turn 22 and is in an offense that scores a ton of points. Darrell Henderson is an unrestricted free agent after this season and who knows how long Cam Akers’ Achilles will hold up moving forward. While what Akers did to come back in 2021 was amazing and inspiring, we know that his 172 yards on 67 carries (2.57 per) across four games like we saw in the playoffs will not cut it for 2022. Buy Williams low!
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