The Los Angeles Rams will probably have Malcolm Brown leading the backfield in Week 6. Fellow running back Todd Gurley suffered a quad injury in Week 5’s action and is doubtful to play. Over the past two seasons, the Rams starting running back has been one of the most valuable fantasy commodities in the entire league. However, the 2019 Rams haven’t been as explosive as their 2017 and 2018 counterparts. Let’s take a dive into what to expect out of Brown with Gurley sidelined.
Fantasy Football: Malcolm Brown Outlook Without Todd Gurley
Malcolm Brown Himself
Malcolm Brown isn’t the most experienced running back in the league, but the Rams clearly believe in his ability to get the job done. Last offseason, the Detroit Lions tried to acquire Brown as a restricted free agent. Despite not having much in terms of cap space, Los Angeles managed to match Detroit’s offer and give Brown a two-year, $3.3 million contract, which is decent money for a backup running back. The Rams wouldn’t have done this if they didn’t think Brown could fill in for Gurley in a pinch.
So far, Brown’s been up for the task. While he’s been the clear second-fiddle to Gurley, Brown’s played well when on the field. So far, Brown has 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 rushing attempts, good for a healthy 4.4 yards-per-carry average. The Rams offensive line isn’t as good as it used to be, but Brown’s still managed to be productive with the blocking provided. Brown is one of the more elusive running backs by Pro Football Focus’ measures and his 19.3% DVOA (per Football Outsiders) would be fifth-best in the league if he had enough carries to qualify for the leaderboards.
Based on how the Rams treat him and on the measurables, there is every reason to believe in Brown’s ability to be a starting-caliber running back. However, there is a big elephant in the room in third-round rookie Darrell Henderson. The Rams drafted Henderson for this exact situation, as they knew Gurley’s health was a considerable risk. However, Henderson shouldn’t dramatically affect Brown’s workload. So far this year, Henderson has played just two offensive snaps all season long, and both came in Week 1. He’ll certainly see some work with Gurley out, but this is going to be Brown’s show. From a pure usage standpoint, look for Brown to take the Gurley role while Henderson takes the Brown role.
Brown’s going to see the majority of the work, but he’ll have a tough time being efficient in Week 5. The Rams have the unfortunate task of facing off against a surprisingly great San Francisco 49ers team. After looking like one of the NFL’s worst units in 2018, San Francisco now looks like one of the best. The team owns an impressive 4-0 record and allows just 14.3 points-per-game. The underlying numbers tell a similar story, as the defense ranks second in overall DVOA and fifth in run-defense DVOA.
Whether or not the 49ers can maintain this elite level of play for an entire season is up for debate. However, what’s not questionable is this unit’s ability to take running backs out of the gameplan. San Francisco’s defense limits opposing rushing attacks, while their fourth-ranked DVOA offense drives up the score. The Rams might have to throw to keep up with the 49ers, and that doesn’t bode well for Brown. Even when Gurley was on the field, Los Angeles wasn’t utilizing him as frequently in the passing attack. Brown isn’t nearly the receiver that Gurley is, so that trend is likely to continue into Week 6.
Ultimately, Brown should see the majority of the snaps in a high-powered offense. This alone makes his fantasy-relevant, but the unfavorable matchup and projected gamescript limits his ceiling. You can probably get RB2 production out of Brown, but don’t expect a week-winning performance off your waiver wire.
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