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2022 Dynasty Fantasy Football Summer Sleeper: Los Angeles Rams

Which player is the biggest fantasy sleeper in the Super Bowl champions’ high-powered offense?

In our annual 32-part Summer Sleeper series, DLF scribes identify a lightly-touted player on each NFL roster who may be worthy of your consideration. Our subjects all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but each merits a bit of in-depth discussion.

To help everybody along, we are going to be categorizing our sleepers under one of three headings:

Super Deep Sleepers – Players who aren’t roster-worthy in 12-team leagues, but are still worth keeping an eye on.

Deep Sleepers – An end-of-the-roster player who is more often than not on the waiver wire in 12-team leagues.

Sleeper – A likely rostered player who makes for a good trade target. Their startup ADP puts them out of the top 175 or so.

Because we aren’t going to give you the likes of mainstream sleepers, most of these players will undoubtedly fizzle. All we are asking is for you to keep an open mind and perhaps be willing to make room for one of these players on your bench. You never know when the next Adam Thielen or James Robinson is going to spring up. Feel free to add your own thoughts about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own in the comments below.

The Rams are an exciting offense to analyze heading into 2022. Of course, they are the defending Super Bowl champions and returned most of the same roster from last season. Star quarterback Matthew Stafford received a four-year, $160 million contract extension, locking him long-term after last year’s blockbuster trade. Based on the contract’s structure, Stafford will be the Rams’ quarterback through at least 2024, providing certainty for all the other offensive weapons on the roster.

Of course, Cooper Kupp headlines those weapons, as he had a monster 2021 season.

Chart courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

As you can see, he had more than double any other receiver’s targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Nobody else made a true fantasy impact throughout the 2021 season, although Robert Woods, Odell Beckham Jr, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee had some stretches of relevance.

Now, Woods is on the Titans, as the Rams traded him for a 2023 sixth-round pick. They didn’t believe in Woods’s ability to return from his ACL tear at 30 years old, and they wanted to dump his salary. Beckham Jr actually played well during his time on the Rams, but he tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, putting him off the radar for now.

In contrast, Higbee and Jefferson feel more like depth options, not reliable fantasy starters. Higbee never again matched his dominant five-game stretch from the end of the 2019 season, although he’s been a fine real-life tight end for the Rams. Jefferson actually finished second on the team in targets and yards, but he won’t see the same volume again in 2022. The Rams signed Allen Robinson to a three-year, $46.5 million contract in free agency to serve as their WR2. Additionally, the Rams could re-sign Beckham Jr later in the season, pushing Jefferson out of the starting lineup entirely.

I almost chose one of the Rams’ backup tight ends as a sleeper, but I didn’t because there are three relevant ones. Kendall Blanton and Brycen Hopkins flashed during the Rams’ Super Bowl run, but neither had more than one good game. Jacob Harris also had significant camp hype as a rookie last year, although injuries and slow development derailed his rookie season. So with three players to choose from, it doesn’t seem wise to try and find a sleeper in the Rams’ tight end depth chart.

Therefore, the only spot left is the running back position. The Rams’ running backs have been exciting in the Sean McVay era, with Todd Gurley serving as the most high-profile example of a superstar in this offense. However, pretty much everyone to receive touches over the past five years has done well, even journeymen like CJ Anderson.

The current Rams’ running back depth chart story began in 2018 when Gurley started to wear down due to knee issues. Because of those concerns, the Rams selected Darrell Henderson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. At the time, it seemed like Henderson could eventually supplant Gurley or at least immediately claim a complementary role.

However, Henderson failed to do much as a rookie in 2019. He managed only 39 carries for 147 yards and four receptions for 37 yards across 13 games. Although he was ineffective, Gurley remained the Rams’ workhorse, and Malcolm Brown served as his direct backup ahead of Henderson.

After 2019, the Rams released Gurley and his massive contract, leaving only Henderson and Brown on their depth chart. But they selected Cam Akers in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, giving them a new running back at the top of their depth chart. Looking at the entire season statistics for the 2020 Rams, it appears they employed a three-way committee.

Chart courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

But in week 13, the Rams changed their offense, handing Akers a workhorse role.

Chart courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

Over that four-game span, he averaged 21.5 carries and 85 yards per game. He then maintained the same role in the Rams’ two playoff games, totaling 46 carries for 221 yards and two touchdowns with three receptions for 51 yards.

Unfortunately, Akers tore his Achilles tendon before the 2021 season, and he missed most of the year. Henderson once again filled in, but he failed to beat out trade acquisition Sony Michel, who led the Rams in carries. Somehow, though, Akers returned in time for the playoffs, although he wasn’t effective. He had 67 carries across the Rams’ four playoff games, but he only had 176 yards, averaging a putrid 2.57 YPC.

Now, the Rams enter 2022 with an uncertain backfield, as Henderson is in the final year of his rookie deal, and Akers struggled in his injury return. But they selected a well-known prospect in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Notre Dame star Kyren Williams. Given the issues surrounding Henderson and Akers, let’s jump into why Williams may be a nice dynasty sleeper.

Kyren Williams, RB

Category: Sleeper

Williams made dynasty headlines for all the wrong reasons this off-season. He started as the RB4 and 11th overall player in DLF’s February rookie ADP data. At the time, he was the clear fourth running back to me behind Breece Hall, Isaiah Spiller, and Kenneth Walker, and he seemed like a solid prospect.

Unfortunately, he lost significant value after the NFL Combine, falling to RB7 and 20th overall in March’s rookie ADP. I wrote about Williams as my first faller in my NFL Combine running back review article. He managed to run a sluggish 4.65-second 40-yard dash despite weighing in at a light 194 pounds. Because of that time, he plummeted from a guaranteed Day 2 pick in the NFL Draft to a likely day three selection.

I then wrote about Williams in the rookie profile series, where I weighed his college production and tape versus his poor NFL Combine. I won’t rehash the entire article, but I noted that his statistics and film were far better than his NFL Combine performance. As a result, I predicted he would land on day three, and he did, finding himself on the Rams.

Luckily, the Rams are a decent situation for a sleeper at running back. The Rams have shown little faith in Henderson over the past three seasons, playing other running backs over him at multiple opportunities. And while they wanted Akers to be their workhorse, he didn’t look good during their playoff run.

Therefore, I don’t mind investing in Williams at his current cost in DLF’s June ADP of RB64 and 204 overall. If either Henderson or Akers misses time, Williams will step into touches immediately. He may also challenge Henderson for the backup job, as players like Michel and Brown overtook Henderson previously. I’m not saying that Williams is a guarantee to hit or even a player I genuinely believe in. But he could provide a selling window if he gets a chance to play, and that type of value is often what I’m seeking with a late-round startup pick.

Latest posts by Tyler Justin Karp (see all)
2022 Dynasty Fantasy Football Summer Sleeper: Los Angeles Rams
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BigDee
21 days ago

He’s my gamecube pick in my upcoming Rookie Draft in round 3, I know I can wait to pick him but I’m only drafting 2 in round 1 and 1 in round 2 and my final pick is going in round 3.

6gummybearsandsomescotch
21 days ago

Thanks Tyler! Given the dearth of talent in this draft, hard to go wrong with a pass catching RB that can block in an innovative, high powered offense in the late 3rd or early 4th round of rookie drafts. Once Shakir is off the board, I think Kyren is in play. How are you feeling about Kyren vs. Pierre Strong or Keontay Ingram?

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