NFC West

No Gurley, No Problem: Cam Akers is the Future

LOS ANGELES – Cam Akers was selected by the Rams in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Although he had to wait until Day 2 to hear his name called, Akers has unshakable confidence in his game.

“I’m somebody who can come in and be a game changer, [who can] be everything this team and the fans need me to be, and everything they’re expecting me to be,” said Akers, during a virtual post-draft press conference. “I can be a three-down [or] a four-down back, if necessary.”

Confidence has never been an issue for Akers. He has been an absolute stud of a football player since his youth football days, scoring a staggering 36 touchdowns in a season, including 6 in one game, at the age of 12.

In high school, Akers played quarterback for the Clinton High School Arrows in Mississippi, where he threw for over 3000 yards and 31 touchdowns and ran for another 2100 yards and 34 touchdowns in his senior season alone. You read that correctly: 65 touchdowns in one season.

Akers was clearly a superior athlete, but it was his competitiveness that fascinated his high school coach Judd Boswell. “He’s probably the best competitor I have ever been around,” said Boswell. “He’s a great athlete, but what sets him apart is his competitive nature. It’s unequal to anyone I’ve ever played with and anyone I’ve ever coached.”

Akers was a 5-star recruit and a top-3 nationally ranked prospect, and he signed with the Florida State Seminoles in 2016. At the time of his signing, Florida State was at the top of the college football world, coming off of a National Championship in 2014 and an Orange Bowl victory in 2016; however, the Seminoles fell off drastically during Akers’ career. He played for three different head coaches in his three seasons, and the Seminoles posted a disappointing 18-20 record over that span.

Despite the organizational turmoil, Akers showed resilience and consistency as the only bright spot on a bad team. He rushed for over 1000 yards in two of his three seasons and scored 34 total touchdowns for his career, 18 of which came in his final season. Additionally, Akers showed a strong work ethic and desire to improve, according to his former RB coach Donte’ Pimpleton.

“He’s on another level right now preparation-wise, putting in the work to be great,” said Pimpleton. “He’s put in the work in the offseason to actually come in and learn [the position]. I mean, he’s only played running back for three years.”

The lack of team success caused Cam Akers to be somewhat overlooked during his college career, but all of that changed at the 2020 NFL Combine. Akers was considered a power back, known for his yards after contact, but there were questions about his speed and athleticism. After posting a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, a 4.42 in the shuttle run, and a 35.5 in the vertical jump, all of those questions were emphatically answered: another testament to his work ethic and competitive nature.

Now a member of the Los Angeles Rams, Akers is poised to fill the gap left by the departure of former All-Pro Todd Gurley; however, Akers is intent on earning his stripes, despite the cloud of expectation surrounding him.

“I’m looking forward to everything, [contributing] in any way that I can, whether it’s blocking, running, catching, special teams, whatever I need to do,” said Akers.

That should be music to head coach Sean McVay’s ears, as he’s known one of the more creative offensive-minded coaches in the NFL. McVay is salivating at the opportunity to utilize Akers’ versatile skill set in the Rams’ offense, but he is also very pleased with what he’s heard about Akers’ character.

“I think what says as much about Cam as anything is the amount of texts I got as soon as we made that pick,” said McVay. “This is a guy that’s so revered. You can’t find somebody that doesn’t love this guy [and] what he’s about.”

Akers is destined to fill a glaring need within the Rams’ offense, after the organization cut ties with franchise running back Todd Gurley in March. Along with Akers, the offensive backfield is made up of Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson, and John Kelly. While Gurley dealt with injuries throughout last season, Brown and Henderson filled in.

Brown and Henderson were less than impressive. Both averaged a decent 3.7 and 3.8 yards per carry respectively, and neither player turned the ball over last season; however, they both lack the ability to create big plays. Defenses were able to focus their efforts on stopping the pass, which heavily contributed to the offense’s struggles. Brown scored 5 touchdowns (Henderson had none), but they were all from within 10 yards of the goal line. Additionally, neither is a threat in the passing game, as they had only 6 catches on 12 targets combined.

Akers is far more dynamic compared to the two. He averaged nearly 5 yards per carry during his college career, including 19 runs of more than 20 yards and 80 runs of more than 10 yards. He scored 14 rushing touchdowns last season and caught 30 passes for 4 scores as well.

Pairing Akers’ versatility as a playmaker and with the Rams’ zone-run scheme and McVay’s creative playcalling seems like a great fit on paper. The offensive line should improve from last season, and the addition of second-round pick Van Jefferson to a receiving core that includes Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Tyler Higbee should open up running lanes for Akers to gash defenses with his speed and explosiveness.

Les Snead, the general manager for the Rams, expects Akers to make an immediate impact. “Ultimately, we did feel like he was going to give us an element of size, speed, power, ability to catch the football, ability to protect the passer,” said Snead. “[He is a] very versatile weapon for us, and [the Rams] definitely will take a really good weapon any day of the week.”

There is a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the 2020 NFL season, as the COVID-19 pandemic puts the anticipated September start date in jeopardy; however, if everything goes to plan, Cam Akers is poised to turn some heads this season, possibly making a push for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. It’s important to remember that Akers has only scratched the surface of his ability, as he’s only been a running back for three years. The sky is truly the limit for this kid.

As far as filling Todd Gurley’s shoes goes, Akers is more focused on becoming the best version of himself and helping the Rams win at all costs. “[It’s] just a blessing to be in this position, and a blessing to be a part of such a great organization,” said Akers. “[I’m] just going to come in and play. Wherever the team needs me to be, whatever they need me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”

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