Every year training camp creates an opportunity for owners to find value based on the difference between expectations and reality. We have expectations – but we never really know how coaching staffs plan to use their players.
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Here are some surprise takeaways from early training camp reports.
The expectation this offseason was Cam Akers would return from injury and be the Rams’ workhorse. The reports thus far, however, do not match fantasy drafters’ expectations.
Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic reports, “Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, the Rams’ two most veteran running backs, are splitting first-team snaps pretty evenly so far.” Sean McVay said, “I look at it as we’ve got two starting backs. Those guys are great complements (to) one another, but I see them as both starting-caliber players. We need to get them involved. They need to be on the field. I think it’s healthy for them to be able to supplement one another.”
Akers return from an Achilles injury does not help matters. The difficulty returning from an Achilles tear has been well-documented and may have an impact on the workload that Akers receives.
Over the last seven days on Apex, on average, Akers is being selected with pick 34.8 while Henderson is being drafted at pick 126.7.
While Akers is slowly falling in drafts, Henderson is slowly creeping up draft boards. On a good offense, Henderson seems likely to receive the workload to be at least a solid RB3/bye-week filler at a cheap price with built-in upside in case Akers experiences more health issues. Let’s not forget that Henderson averaged 17.5 fantasy points per game for the first 7 games last season as the starter.
Like Akers, David Montgomery was expected by fantasy drafters to be the Bears’ workhorse. Then it was strangely reported that Montgomery is seeing reps on special teams. Followed by reports of an expectation that “there will be more of a share” in the Bears’ backfield under new OC Luke Getsy.
Herbert played well in three games filling in for Montgomery last season, averaging 20 carries for 89.7 yards and three catches for 14.7 yards. Despite having significantly lower volume, Herbert bested Montgomery in yards per carry, yards after contact, and evasion rate.
Over the last seven days on Apex, on average, Montgomery is being selected with pick 34 while Herbert is being drafted at pick 145.1.
Again, Herbert provides an opportunity to draft a cheap running back who could be more involved than expected.
Late-Round Pass Catchers
Situational pass-catchers also create value for fantasy drafters. Think James White, Danny Woodhead, and Shane Vereen – obviously it helps to have Tom Brady, but pass-catching running backs can be undervalued.
With James White’s unfortunate retirement, the Patriots pass-catching running back job is up for grabs. Most beat writers expect Ty Montgomery to fill the void.
Top in-house candidate to take over as the receiving back for the #Patriots this season:
1. Ty Montgomery
3. Pierre Strong
Also think we could see a package with Jonnu Smith in the backfield serving as the de facto pass-catching back.
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) August 11, 2022
He’s also drawn rave reviews in camp.
With James White out last year, Brandon Bolden caught 45 passes on 55 targets over the Patriots last 16 games (including playoffs).
James White does not appear to be anywhere close to healthy. This year it appears that role is currently Ty Montgomery’s: https://t.co/dXwEOcen2W pic.twitter.com/ptYCDOjvAd
— Mike Braude (@BraudeM) August 2, 2022
Ty Montgomery has more juice than I remember. Just watched him get the edge several times when the offense was repping their outside run concepts. He’s going to see some real carries.
— Khari Thompson (@kdthompson5) August 2, 2022
Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris are both interesting players, but we’ve routinely heard of how difficult the complex Patriots offense is for rookies to learn. Studs like James White and Damien Harris barely played as rookies. While Rhamondre Stevenson is an excellent player, the Patriots generally seem to have two different roles at running back, and he is lined up for the rushing role.
This news is making Stevenson even trendier and more expensive, with good reason, but Montgomery remains free in drafts.
After the Raiders’ first preseason game, there was concern about many of the team’s running back roles. The Josh Jacobs story seems inconsequential – but Kenyan Drake’s receiving back role does legitimately seem to be up in the air.
Today SI’s Albert Breer reported Ameer Abdullah is expected to play the “James White role” in new coach Josh McDaniels’ offense.
Looking at the advanced stats, it’s not surprising that the Raiders want to use Abdullah in a pass-catching role. Abdullah finished 5th in targets per route run and averaged an elite 1.86 yards per route run.
- Darrell Henderson is being drafted far after Cam Akers, but all reports out of Rams’ camp are that they are likely to see a relatively even split.
- Khalil Herbert’s arrow is pointing up after reports that they are looking to use more of a committee approach this year, while David Montgomery is oddly seeing special team reps.
- Ty Montgomery appears to be the favorite for the “James White” role on the Patriots, as he has a leg up on the rookie competition for the pass-catching role.
- Ameer Abdullah is slowly appearing to be the favorite for passing down work in Las Vegas – with his advanced receiving metrics and likelihood of increased pass attempts, he makes for a fine late-round selection.