Wednesday, December 7, 2022

2022 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Cam Akers’ injury highlights biggest losers from Preseason Week 3

With basically two weeks left until Week 1 of the NFL season, most injuries aren’t that big of a concern at this point. There should be plenty of time for most players who are dealing with nagging injuries to get healthy for Week 1, and missing the final week of the preseason with some minor issue is no big deal.

But I’m starting to get concerned about Cam Akers. Akers has been sidelined for a few weeks with an unspecified soft-tissue injury alongside backfield mate Darrell Henderson, and while Rams head coach Sean McVay told reporters Henderson will be able to practice this week, he couldn’t say the same for Akers following Saturday’s loss to the Bengals in the preseason finale. And, while most reports so far have indicated that the injury isn’t considered a serious concern, Akers still isn’t running at full speed, per McVay. 

“Darrell definitely will (practice),” McVay told reporters. “Darrell was able to run full speed today. We were able to get a workout in on the grass. Cam wasn’t able to do that quite yet, but I’m really excited about getting Darrell back out there for us.”

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Akers made his return from a ruptured Achilles late last season but struggled to make much of an impact in the playoffs, rushing for 172 yards on 67 carries as the lead back through the team’s Super Bowl run. A full offseason of work figured to get him closer to full speed, but questions lingered, given how tough Achilles injuries tend to be to come back from. I had Akers ranked as a mid-range RB2 coming into the preseason, but the fact that he’s dealing with another injury and isn’t cleared to play yet means I have to downgrade him to outside of the top-20. Not just because he may not be ready for Week 1 – I’d still bet he will be, at this point – but because it presents another potential land mine he has to avoid, in terms of avoiding re-injury. 

Akers is going off the board in the fourth round in most drafts, but I wouldn’t touch him until the fifth or even sixth. There’s upside here, but there were also reports prior to the injury that he was splitting first-team reps with Henderson, so he might not even have the three-down role we’re hoping for when healthy. 

We’ll want to see some positive reports from Akers in the next few weeks as preparation shifts to Week 1, but you have to move Henderson up in your ranks at this point, as well. He’s someone who should be drafted around the eighth or ninth round, as both a potential Week 1 starter if Akers’ slow recovery continues and as a bench option with upside beyond that. 

Here are some more players whose value took a hit this weekend.

Patriots offense

There have been weird vibes around the Patriots offense since minicamps when Bill Belichick refused to name an offensive coordinator following the departure of Josh McDaniels. In training camp, it became clear Matt Patricia and Joe Judge would be in charge of the offense, and that isn’t a duo that inspires a ton of confidence, personally – the fact that Patricia is both coaching the offensive line and seemingly calling plays doesn’t help. And seeing Mac Jones visibly frustrated while going 9 for 13 for 71 yards and one pretty egregiously bad pick against a Raiders team resting most of their starters definitely didn’t help. History tells us not to bet against Bill Belichick, but the steady drumbeat out of camp is that this offense has been a problem, and we didn’t see much from them in the exhibition games to refute that. I’m worried. 

Clarity in the Chargers backfield

Given the usage so far in camp and the preseason, I’d pretty much moved Joshua Kelley into the Chargers No. 2 RB spot behind Austin Ekeler. However, Week 3 saw Larry Rountree get the start and play more snaps with the “first-team” offense (led by Chase Daniel), with Kelly serving as more of a clear backup. That makes knowing who Ekeler’s backup is much trickier, and I’m assuming if something were to happen to Ekeler, this would probably be a pretty messy situation – rookie Isaiah Spiller also looms as a potential option, though he’s probably a clear RB4 on the depth chart right now. Given the lack of clarity, I think Spiller is perhaps the best bet for a late-round flier in this offense in the hopes he can emerge as a clear No. 2, but you might be best off avoiding this one.

Garrett Wilson

The Jets invested quite a lot in Wilson, the No. 10 pick in this year’s draft, but it looks like they aren’t going to force him into the starting lineup just yet. Though all reports out of camp have been pretty positive, Wilson was pretty much used as a backup in Sunday’s preseason finale, only playing with the starters when Corey Davis came off the field, per Pro Football Focus. Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios are seemingly ahead of him on the depth chart, and that has seemingly been a consistent feature of the offense so far. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t draft Wilson in re-draft formats, but understand you’ll need to be patient in the early going. Don’t panic if he doesn’t have much of a Week 1 role, you’re drafting him for long-term upside. 

James Cook

Cook got the start Friday, but that was with the second-team offense – and it was with Zack Moss inactive. Does that mean Cook is the No. 3 running back? Potentially, though it’s still possible that this is a scenario where Cook is more of a third-down back and Moss is the actual backup to Singletary. Either way, talk out of camp suggests all three should be active for game days, and with Singletary pretty clearly the lead back, it’s going to be tough for Cook to make much of an impact early on. His pass-catching skills especially could make him stand out in this backfield, but he’s another guy you probably need to be patient with given his likely early-season role. 

Mike Gesicki

In three drives with Tagovailoa, Gesicki was actually second among the Dolphins tight ends in snaps. He ran most of the routes, but this was a three-man rotation with Durham Smythe and Cethan Carter. Gesicki has talked this preseason about having to basically learn a new position, as the Dolphins are asking him to be more of a traditional tight end after he was used almost exclusively as a receiver last season, and we’ve seen that in games; he has lined up as an in-line tight end 24 times compared to 14 in the slot, per PFF, after playing 85% of his snaps either in the slot or out wide last season. There will be growing pains here with Gesicki, and he might not get enough opportunities to be much more than a touchdown-or-bust TE. 

Noah Fant

Over the Seahawks‘ first five drives, no tight end ran a route on more than 50% of the dropbacks, as Fant continues to rotate with Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson. That has been a trend throughout the preseason, and it makes it awfully tough to draft Fant even as a late-round sleeper. I still think he has very enticing skills for Fantasy, but the role just doesn’t look like it’s going to be there in what figures to be a pretty low-volume (not to mention bad) passing attack. In your standard 12-team league with no TE premium scoring, Fant is probably best left for waivers at this point. 

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