Running back continues to be the position of highest demand in fantasy football, which is no surprise. In most leagues, you must start two of them and can also start a third at a flex position. In the RotoBaller Top 100 consensus staff rankings, 15 of the first 30 recommended players are running backs.
In the RotoBaller rookie rankings, five of the first eight recommended players are running backs, and will go off the board quickly in the first round of rookie drafts in dynasty leagues. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor are widely considered to be the best prospects in the long term.
But new Rams running back Cam Akers is second overall in the RotoBaller rookie ranks because he has the clearest path to an immediate starting job among all the top-rated rookie running backs. He is consensus ranked 25th at RB by the RotoBaller staff for seasonal purposes in PPR formats.Editor's Note: Love the strategy of season-long fantasy sports? Live for the short term gratification of DFS? Try Weekly Fantasy Sports on OwnersBox - a new weekly DFS platform. Sign up today for a FREE $50 Deposit Match. Sign Up Now!
Team: Los Angeles Rams
College: Florida State
Height/Weight: 5’10”, 217 lbs
NFL Draft 2020 Slot: Round 2, Pick 20
Cam Akers' college stats via sports-reference.com, including bowl games in 2017 and 2019
The Scouting Report
When you watch film on Akers, it is apparent why the Rams were high on him. They even picked him over J.K. Dobbins, who was preferred by many analysts. Akers has excellent vision, is patient, runs well in tight quarters and can make tacklers miss. He is a very willing inside runner and is determined near the goal line.
Akers is also a versatile pass-catcher and has three-down back potential in the NFL because he is an accomplished pass blocker. He averaged 2.91 yards after contact, which was best among all of the incoming RBs. The accompanying film breakdown on Akers here further demonstrates his well-rounded abilities and skills.
There were some concerns about Akers not having enough speed, but his 4.47 40-yard dash time ranked fifth among all running backs at the combine, and he further boosted his appeal with a very impressive “Duce Staley” drill to showcase his footwork. The only significant concern coming out of FSU may be ball security.
Akers rushed for over 1,000 yards twice with the Seminoles, breaking the freshman rushing record set by Dalvin Cook. He has drawn comparisons to Brian Westbrook, Devonta Freeman and Duke Johnson. Likening him to Johnson, who has never been a truly productive runner at the NFL level, seems to be off the mark in terms of how he will be utilized as a pro.
I need a cigarette after watching Cam Akers do the Duce drillpic.twitter.com/I3XlqdkGmV
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 29, 2020
You know the Rams are happy with their selection of Akers when you watch the below clip of Rams scout Michael Pierce praising Akers as the "the total package.” He also indicated Akers can outproduce D'Andre Swift as a pro. Rams GM Les Snead raved about how Akers “punishes” defenders. Head coach Sean McVay said “we feel like he is a big time guy.”
"I think he’s a total package as a back."
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) May 7, 2020
The Rams took some criticism for taking a RB with their first choice in this season’s draft, but considering they selected Akers while waiting on other pressing needs should be a signal to fantasy owners that the Rams felt he was one of the premier players on the board regardless of position. Savvy fantasy players will take note when an NFL front office is enamored with a certain player and may look on him more favorably.
Drafters in the FFPC have been elevating Akers on their boards as you can see below. I selected Akers as my RB2 with the sixth pick in the third round of the recent SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio post NFL Draft Fantasy Football Draft. He was the 19th RB off the board. I am not hesitant to draft rookie RBs who are projected to assume significant workloads.
Last season, I won my most important fantasy football league with Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders as my starting running backs. If you are going to wait on a second running back until the third or fourth round, this year’s rookie class has some promising upside prospects that can make quick and important contributions at the NFL level. Akers is among the top first-year RBs in that regard.
Cam Akers' recent ADP trends via Playerprofiler.com
Fit and Outlook
Darrell Henderson and Malcom Brown return as the only “competition” for quality touches. McVay has indicated he may opt for a committee approach, but that scenario should be dispelled quickly. NFL Insider Adam Caplan told SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio prior to the NFL Draft that the Rams were skeptical that Henderson could be anything more than a part-time RB. Henderson may complement Akers as a third-down and change of pace type at most. Brown is a trusted depth piece for the Rams. But Los Angeles would have not taken Akers with their first pick in this year’s draft if they expected Henderson or Brown to truly vie for anything more than occasional touches.
Scouts and analysts were certainly impressed by Akers’ abilities to overcome adversity around him at FSU, as he often worked behind shaky offensive lines. Akers also rebounded from a disappointing second season with the Seminoles as he battled an ankle injury. Throughout his time at Florida State, he continued to play at a high level despite the team being mired in mediocrity. Some analysts have suggested Akers could blossom even more in the pros.
So from a mental perspective, Akers should be up to the challenge of adjusting to the NFL. He also enters a concerning situation in terms of blocking, as Pro Football Focus ranked Los Angeles’ offensive line 31st in the NFL last season and Football Outsiders ranked the unit 19th in run blocking. The line was undone heavily by injuries, and there is hope that better health can lead to more stability this season.
As noted, Akers is familiar with a situation in which he has to create some of his own running room, so the Rams can be optimistic about him dealing with the offensive line issues. But transitioning to the NFL may not be not easy for any player, so there could be some ups and downs for Akers early if the blocking does not improve much.
There is obviously a great opportunity for Akers to start right away in what can still be a very potent offense. He is versatile and seems to be prepared to make adjustments to the pro game. Plus, he should be the main TD finisher on scoring drives. You should confidently target him as a top-20 RB and a lower-end RB2 in seasonal drafts. In dynasty leagues, if you need an impact RB immediately, he should be the second rookie drafted at the position. If you want more longer-term upside, he should be taken after Taylor.
ROOKIE SEASON PROJECTIONS: 1,035 rushing yards, seven rushing TD, 35 receptions, 270 yards, one TD
More NFL Rookie Analysis