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Cam Akers has RB1 upside

By Jared Smola 8:06am EDT 6/5/20

This is a free preview of a Draft Sharks player profile. DS Insiders will have access to 300+ profiles in mid-June.

What You Need to Know:

  • Akers carried 231 times for 1,144 yards and 14 TDs at Florida State last year, ranking top 12 among draft-eligible RBs in both yards after contact and missed tackles forced.
  • He’s also experienced in the passing game, compiling 69 catches over 3 college seasons.
  • Akers looks like the favorite to beat out Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown for the lead job in Los Angeles this season.
  • The Rams have ranked top 5 in rushing TDs in all 3 seasons under HC Sean McVay.

The competition

Akers landed in a nice spot with the Rams, whose backfield is wide open after the March release of Todd Gurley.

Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson are Akers’ competition for snaps and touches. Brown has been a below-average runner through 5 NFL seasons, averaging just 3.9 yards on 197 attempts. He posted a career-best 4.9 yards per carry in 2018 but sunk back to 3.9 last year. Brown ranked 37th in Elusive Rating and 29th in Pro Football Focus’ rushing grades among 68 RBs with 50+ carries in 2019. He’s also a near-zero in the passing game, with just 20 career catches.

Henderson was the hot rookie at this time last year after racking up 3,063 yards and 31 TDs on 8.9 yards per carry over his final 2 years at Memphis. He also tallied 63 catches for 758 yards and 8 scores across 3 college seasons. Henderson tested as a 67th percentile athlete at the Combine and was the 70th overall pick in last spring’s draft. But his rookie season was a disaster. Henderson struggled last summer and entered the season 3rd on the depth chart behind Gurley and Brown. He ended up playing just 93 offensive snaps and totaling 147 yards on 39 carries (3.8 YPC). That included just 6 carries over the final 6 games.

Prospect profile

So there’s a clear path to the lead job for Akers. The Rams used the 52nd overall pick of this year’s draft on the Florida State product — notably 18 picks ahead of where they picked Henderson last year.

Akers is coming off an uneven college career. He arrived at Florida State in 2017 as a 5-star recruit after playing QB in high school. He made an immediate impact, breaking Dalvin Cook’s school record for rushing yards by a freshman with 1,025 on 194 attempts (5.3 YPC). His 2018 was marred by a nagging ankle injury, leading to just 706 yards on 161 carries (4.4). Akers rebounded this past year to set career highs with 231 carries, 1,144 yards and 14 TDs. And that was despite playing behind a bad offensive line. Akers ranked top 12 among draft-eligible RBs in both yards after contact and missed tackles forced, per Pro Football Focus. His 125.9 Elusive Rating was near the top of the class — notably ahead of guys like Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and J.K. Dobbins.

Akers also contributed in the passing game all 3 years in Tallahassee, posting 16-116-1, 23-145-2 and 30-225-4 receiving lines. The 5’10, 217-pounder clocked a 4.47-second 40 time with strong marks in the vertical and broad jumps at the Combine, earning a 54th percentile SPARQ score.

The upside

For our money, Akers looks like the best RB in Los Angeles. We’ll see how the backfield shakes out this summer. But whoever is toting the rock will be in a good spot.

The Rams have ranked top 10 in total yards and top 11 in points in all 3 seasons since HC Sean McVay arrived. More importantly, they’ve finished 9th, 8th and 18th in rushing attempts; 8th, 3rd and 26th in rushing yards; and 5th, 2nd and 4th in rushing TDs.

Last year was a step back, as RB Todd Gurley averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. But that was just as much a Gurley problem as a Rams problem. Gurley ranked a middling 27th among 45 qualifying RBs in both yards after contact per attempt and Pro Football Focus’ Elusive Rating. The Rams — despite a weak offensive line on paper — still finished a respectable 19th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards. Gurley’s 2.2 yards before contact per attempt ranked 19th among those 45 RBs.

Despite the poor efficiency, Gurley still finished 14th among RBs in PPR points and 11th in non-PPR. He tallied 272 opportunities (carries + targets) and scored 14 times. His 12 carries inside the opponent’s 5-yard line were tied for 9th most league-wide.

That followed top-3 fantasy finishes in both 2017 and 2018. Gurley garnered 366 and 337 opportunities in those 2 seasons and carried 18 times inside the 5-yard line in both.

So that’s the upside here. Now, we’re not expecting Akers (or Henderson or Brown) to capture 100% of Gurley’s role. But even half of Gurley's per-game production from 2017 and 2018 would mean 208.4 PPR points. That would have made Akers RB18 last year. Two-thirds of Gurley's production would have made Akers RB7.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

Akers joins a wide-open Todd Gurley-less Rams backfield. Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown are also in the mix, but Akers looks like the favorite for lead duties after turning in a solid career at Florida State and going 52nd overall in this spring’s draft.

The Rams have ranked top 8 in rushing yards in 2 of 3 seasons under HC Sean McVay and top 5 in rushing scores in all 3 years. Gurley ranked 1st, 3rd and 14th in PPR points those seasons. So there’s considerable upside here if Akers does win the starting job.

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