Fantasy Football: Cam Akers injury fallout plus Mike Williams, Elijah Moore and my favorite sleepers for 2021

We knew the slow days of the offseason were coming to an end any day now, but on the day many rookies reported to camp Tuesday, we got some extremely unwelcome news about Rams second-year running back Cam Akers

Akers suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and will have season-ending surgery in the coming days, a devastating end to his season before it even got a chance to begin. Dave Richard broke down the injury and what it means for the 2021 season and the Rams offense over on, where he expresses plenty of skepticism about Darrell Henderson’s chances of stepping up to fill Akers’ shoes. You should check out his thoughts here, and then check out the Fantasy Football Today emergency podcast about Akers’ injury where Jamey Eisenberg seems to be a bit more optimistic about Henderson’s chances of being a must-start Fantasy RB:

That news obviously overshadowed everything else Tuesday, and you’ll get my thoughts on the situation below — including what it means for Akers in the long run. And, all I’ll say for now is, I hope Akers bucks the trend for running backs with Achilles injuries. However, that wasn’t the only thing we wanted to talk about today. I’ve got 10 of my favorite sleeper picks for the 2021 season a little lower in the newsletter, and we also had a special guest Liz Loza from Yahoo on the podcast to talk about the toughest players to rank, including Jalen Hurts, Saquon Barkley, and Joe Mixon, among many others. 

For the rest of the week, I’ll have my breakout and bust picks for the upcoming season Thursday and Friday, along with whatever news and notes trickle in from the official start of Cowboys and Steelers camp — all players will be reporting Wednesday morning. 

And then next week, we’re really in the thick of it. All veterans will report to camp — minus the holdouts like … Aaron Rodgers? — next Tuesday, and I’ll be switching to a Monday through Friday schedule for the FFT Newsletter. Draft season is about to begin. Let’s just hope we can avoid any more bad news for the time being. 

Akers Injury Fallout

To start with, this is just a huge bummer. That goes without saying, but in this instance, it’s particularly disappointing. Akers was one of the most exciting players in Fantasy. There was some disagreement about just how good he could be, but I think everyone wanted to see what he could do with the opportunity. 

Henderson will now step up into the lead back role for the Rams, and at least for now, they aren’t looking to bring any veteran running backs in. That leaves unproven guys like Xavier Jones, Jake Funk, and Raymond Calais as the options behind Henderson for now.

I’ve got Henderson basically sliding into Akers’ departed role, more or less, though given that he clearly gave way to Akers by the end of last season despite looking pretty solid in his own right, I’m baking in the assumption that he won’t have quite as heavy a workload. Still, he ends up as RB18 in my first run through projections, and I’d be willing to take him in the fourth round range in drafts right now. He isn’t as sure a thing to hang on to the role as Akers, and he hasn’t been able to stay healthy so far in his career, but Henderson definitely has top-12 upside. 

As for Akers’ long-term potential … this definitely complicates it. Ruptured Achilles are some of the toughest injuries for professional athletes to come back from, and the history for running backs is very, very tough. 

It’s hard to find a comprehensive list of running backs who have suffered an Achilles rupture, but I think I have a pretty definitive list and it is … ugly. So, so ugly:

It’s about as bad as you could possibly imagine, but it’s also not quite as bad as all that makes it seem. The truth is, the sample size of running backs who suffered a ruptured Achilles is very small, and you can at least make the case that Akers’ combination of age, talent, and draft capital make him stand alone from this group. He’ll get more opportunities than a guy like Ballard did coming back from his injury, due to his place on the depth chart and how much the Rams invested in him in the draft. 

Of course, it’s also easier to say that the likes of Foreman or Leshoure just weren’t that good, or that Wells and Foster were already on their way out by the time of their injuries after we know how they fared. 

And you can point to the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Terrell Suggs or go cross-sport to Kevin Durant and find examples of players who came back from this injury and continued to thrive. This isn’t a zero-percent chance kind of injury, after all.

But, look for whatever evidence you can find — this piece I wrote back in 2015 about Achilles tears in the NBA, say, or actual research from medical/scientific journals written by people who are actually smart — and it mostly points to the same, troubling, but inescapable conclusion: A ruptured Achilles is one of the worst injuries a high-level athlete can come back from. There have been medical advances that make it more likely, but all things considered, this is just a really tough situation. . 

Chris’ favorite sleepers

I don’t know how you want to define a “sleeper.” Heck, I don’t even know how I want to define a “sleeper.” But, I’m gonna put it the same way Ted Lasso did when he was asked about the offside rule: “It ain’t easy to explain, but you know it when you see it.” 

Here are my favorite sleeper picks heading into the start of training camp. You don’t like my picks? Well, that’s okay! Heath Cummings’ sleepers are right here, and you can go ahead and read Jamey Eisenberg’s here. I’m sure you’ll find something you like!

So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen’s huge season, and find out. 

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