The fantasy football world has seen some major changes at the running back position this week. First, Travis Etienne was lost for the season after suffering a foot injury. Now, the Patriots and Rams have pulled off a trade that sends Sony Michel to the left coast. New England received two conditional picks (2022 fifth & sixth rounders) in exchange for Michel. The deal has significant fantasy implications for both backfields, but let’s start in L.A.
The Rams have had tough luck at the running back position, losing Cam Akers for the season and releasing Raymond Calais after a foot fracture. That left them with Darrell Henderson, Xavier Jones and Jake Funk atop the depth chart. Head coach Sean McVay seemed to indicate some concern with Henderson’s lack of durability, saying, "it's never been an 'ability' question with Henderson," it's keeping him "available."
That statement rang true when Henderson suffered a sprained thumb in practice, which might have pushed the Rams to deal for Michel. While I still see Henderson as the top back, Michel will get his share of the workload for McVay and the Rams. What's more, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic told me she feels like Michel could actually take the starting job.
“It’s too early to know for sure, but I think DH starts to open the season,” she told me via text message on Wednesday morning. ”But I wouldn’t be surprised if Michel overtakes him. I don’t see consistent 15-carry availability for Henderson.”
Henderson was never going to be a featured back, which I discussed in my fantasy busts column because he's not built to be an 18+ touch per game back. Remember, he couldn’t push a declining Todd Gurley for carries as a rookie, finishing outside of the top 90 fantasy runners. The Rams then drafted Akers, who ultimately took over as the team’s top back down the stretch last season. If McVay and the organization had faith that Henderson could be a true featured back, I doubt Akers would have been selected.
I have no shares of Henderson on my current rosters, and I don’t trust him as more than a low-end flex starter. Will he have his share of explosive plays? Absolutely. But will he be a consistent source of fantasy points? I don't believe that for a minute. As for Michel, he’s now a high No. 5 fantasy runner (flex/bench) who could become a nice draft bargain should he regain some of that lost luster found in New England.
The real winner of this trade is Damien Harris, who has a clearer path to touches for the Patriots with Michel out of the mix. I now see him as a high-end flex option with RB2 upside. He’s likely to be a top-50 overall selection in many redrafts. Where Harris will lack as a fantasy option is in the passing game, where James White remains the top option. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, who has looked great in preseason work, also sees an uptick in value. He's now worth a late-round look as an RB5 with potential.
"The Fantasy Case Against" Series
Justin Herbert | Jalen Hurts | Zach Wilson (Dynasty) | Alvin Kamara | Darrell Henderson | Derrick Henry | Michael Carter | David Montgomery | Saquon Barkley | D’Andre Swift | Brandon Aiyuk | Ja'Marr Chase | Julio Jones | Justin Jefferson | Kenny Golladay | Kyle Pitts | Travis Kelce
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!