2021 Fantasy Football: The Case for Rams Running Back Cam Akers

by Nicholas You
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The Los Angeles Rams selected Cam Akers in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Florida State. Unfortunately, he instantly found himself in a potential timeshare with incumbents Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown. Many fantasy football pundits felt like Akers would undoubtedly assume lead back duties sooner than later.

Not only does the former FSU standout have the size to be an early down back, but he also flashed strong pass-catching potential. Akers reeled in an impressive 69 receptions in his three years in college. Combining these traits with his 89th percentile size-adjusted speed score and 66th percentile burst score (per Player Profiler), Akers looked to be a bigger, juiced up version of Darrell Henderson.

Late 2020 Breakout

Fantasy football managers who were bullish on Akers’ 2020 prospects were disappointed, to say the least. In Week 1, the Rams put Akers on the field for a third of the team’s offensive plays. However, he rushed 14 times for a measly 39 yards. Thereafter, Akers left the field in the first quarter of the Ram’s Week 2 matchup against the Eagles with a rib injury.

Due to injuries, it wasn’t until late in the season when McVay decided to play Akers in over a third of the team’s offensive snaps. However, once Akers was given the opportunity, he broke out in grand fashion.

In Week 13, Akers played in 79% of the offensive snaps and bulldozed to 171 yards. As the playoffs approached, Akers rushed for 340 yards over a four-game stretch while also securing eight receptions. During the Rams’ two playoff games last year, Akers posted 221 total rushing yards, two touchdowns, three modest receptions, while averaging 4.8 yards per attempt.

Bullish 2021 Outlook in Fantasy Football

So what does this mean for Cam’s 2021 prospects in redraft fantasy football leagues?

McVay has said this offseason that he views Akers as “an every-down back”. This is a good indication that McVay may be looking to give Akers a Gurley-esque workload in 2021. McVay has even suggested that Akers could play out of the slot or even as an outside receiver. This would put Akers’ ceiling at another level, especially in PPR formats.

Once Akers seemed to get over the early season rib injury, he started to raise his level and get up to the advanced play in the NFL.

The Rams committed to giving Akers at least 15 carries per game towards the end of the season. This could project to roughly 300 touches in a Rams offense that traded for Matthew Stafford. Malcolm Brown is no longer with the team and although Henderson will still siphon some touches, Akers appears primed for a lead role.

Defenses will have to pick their poison this season with the Rams offense. They a considerable quarterback upgrade (Stafford over Goff) and potent passing offense between Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. The high-powered offensive attack should force defenses to play off the line of scrimmage. This should give Akers breathing room to make plays out of the backfield.

Akers was able to make big plays with an injured Jared Goff and backup John Wolford under center. The addition of Stafford will only make his job easier. The main concern around Akers’ 2021 prospects is the Rams offensive line. According to offensive line rankings, the Rams’ o-line has slipped a bit with the loss of Austin Blythe in free agency and Andrew Whitworth coming off an MCL injury and nearing retirement.

On the plus side, the zone blocking scheme that the Rams employ is friendly to offensive linemen. This should allow for decent run blocking for Akers to break loose for chunk gains. Cam Akers should be a target at the end of the first round/early second round as your RB1.

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