There was a lot of speculation in the runup to Week 7's games about who the Rams would lean on as their No. 1 running back in the wake of Kyren Williams' ankle injury, but there really wasn't much doubt once the game started.
Darrell Henderson got the start for the Rams, and while Royce Freeeman was involved, Henderson ended up leading the team in carries (18) and got the only goal-line touchdown the offense managed, while touching the ball on all three of the plays the Rams ran from inside the 10-yard line. He finished the game with 61 yards on 18 carries with his touchdown, and got the only two targets for either back, too.
Henderson wasn't exceptional, to be clear, and he didn't just step in as the Williams replacement; Williams had 72% of the Rams running back touches entering Sunday, and Henderson was at 61% Sunday. But it was very encouraging usage from a player who wasn't even on any roster until this week. And that's especially true with the passing game usage, as Henderson played 18 of 32 pass snaps, compared to 14 for Freeman; I thought if Freeman was going to have any role, it would be as a pass-blocker/passing downs option, but Henderson beat him out there.
With Williams out for at least three more games, Henderson looks like he's got a real path to being a top-24-ish RB for at least the next couple of weeks. The Rams have a tough matchup with the Cowboys in Week 8, so Henderson probably comes out on the lower end of the RB2/3 range there, but against the Packers in Week 9? He could be a very useful option.
There is, of course, an expiration date on Henderson's value, and there's even a chance they opt not to bring him back from the practice squad next week, or that some other team opts to sign him to a much less valuable role, though that seems pretty unlikely given how much he was used Sunday. So, you probably don't want to break the bank for him with your FAB bids this week. But, if you're desperate for a running back on waivers, Henderson looks like the best guy to have this week.
Here's who else we'll be looking to add ahead of Week 8, including a bunch of rookie pass catchers who look like they might be breaking out.
SEA Seattle • #11
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Smith-Njigba saw the role expansion we were hoping for coming out of the bye in Week 6, and then the production followed Sunday. With DK Metcalf out with rib and hip injuries, Smith-Njigba scored his first NFL touchdown Sunday and led the team with four catches, 63 yards, and seven targets. I've been waiting for the breakout from Smith-Njigba, and while Metcalf's absence certainly helped, he also ran routes on 81% of dropbacks in Week 6, so this wasn't just about him getting on the field more – and his seven targets sound even better when you realized Geno Smith only threw it 24 times. Smith-Njigba was arguably the best prospect in the WR class in this year's draft, and he's starting to show signs of figuring it out. Rookie wide pass catchers often need some time to get up to speed, and we've been preaching patience with Smith-Njigba. Those of you who dropped him already will regret it.
Josh Downs WR
IND Indianapolis • #1
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Downs looks like quite a find for the Colts as a third-round pick, and unlike some of his rookie peers, he's been involved in the offense from Week 1, when he had seven targets. But he's been stacking good performances of late, with 15.7 PPR points in Week 5, 13.1 in Week 6, and then 23.5 this week. And his six targets Sunday are even better than you think, since Gardner Minshew attempted just 23 passes, giving Downs a very strong 26% target share. For the season, he's at 19.2%, which is solid, if not spectacular, and you'd hope he can continue to build on that in more pass-heavy game scripts. Downs looks like he'll be in the WR3/4 range moving forward, with plenty of room to grow.
ARI Arizona • #31
Age: 25 • Experience: Rookie
Demercado was one of the biggest disappointments in Fantasy Football in Week 6, but on Sunday he got the kind of role we were hoping for when James Conner went down. Demercado played 78% of the snaps for the Cardinals, rushing for 58 yards on 13 carries and adding four catches for 17 yards on five targets, all of which led the team's running backs. In fact, Damien Williams' one carry was the only touch a running back got for the Cardinals besides Demercado's role, as Keaontay Ingram didn't play an offensive snap Sunday. This usage kind of came out of nowhere, so who knows if you can count on it to sustain in Week 8. And it'll be tough to trust Demercado with a tough matchup against the Ravens on the way – not to mention the Browns in Week 9 after that – so I would prioritize Henderson if I can only add one running back. But, with James Conner expected to miss at least two more games, Demercado's role should make him a viable Fantasy option moving forward.
BUF Buffalo • #86
Age: 24 • Experience: Rookie
If you invested in Kincaid in drafts, you've probably been pretty disappointed watching fellow rookie Sam LaPorta having the season you were hoping for from Kincaid. But let's not write the first tight end selected in the 2023 NFL Draft just yet. This Bills offense still needs someone besides Stefon Diggs to step up as a consistent option for Josh Allen, and Kincaid is still one of the best candidates – Gabe Davis got off to a nice start this season, but has 27 yards over the past two games and still looks like the same boom-or-bust guy he was a year ago. Kincaid still has the talent and opportunity to be a must-start guy for Fantasy, and for the first time Sunday, he looked like it.
NE New England • #84
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Bourne's usage this season has been very predictable: When either DeVante Parker or JuJu Smith-Schuster is out, he's been a must-start Fantasy option, with 24.4, 19.3, and now 16.3 PPR points in three games. In his other four games, he has 27.4 combined points. That may not bode incredibly well, with Smith-Schuster presumably working his way back from the concussion that has cost him the past two games, but an offense as desperate for playmakers as this one has to keep him involved, right? It'll be tough to trust Bourne next week – and his fumble Sunday may not have helped his chances of remaining a focal point – but he's shown too much upside to leave on the wire.
NE New England • #15
Age: 28 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Much to the chagrin of Rhamondre Stevenson managers, Elliott still has a legitimate role in this offense, and Sunday, he was actually the primary runner for the Patriots. Now, Elliott wasn't great, because he isn't a great player at this point, but the Patriots offense has at least shown some signs of life over the past few weeks, and with Elliott getting 11 carries in Week 7, he probably needs to be rostered as an emergency injury or bye week fill-in, especially since the Patriots don't have their bye until Week 11.
Jalin Hyatt WR
NYG N.Y. Giants • #13
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
The Giants probably need to do more to get Hyatt involved, because they desperately need what he brings to the table, which is downfield playmaking. He only had the two catches Sunday, but both went for 30-plus yards – and four of his nine catches overall have done so. The rest of the team? They've combined for two catches of 32 and 31 yards total. I can't say Hyatt is a high-priority add, or someone you're likely to be starting in Week 8 (especially with no teams on bye), but there's plenty of upside on an offense that is still absolutely desperate for someone to step up in the passing game.