The Los Angeles Rams may have drafted running back Cam Akers with the 52nd overall pick hoping that he’d become as valuable as Todd Gurley was for them as an all-pro, but it is not necessarily the only outcome that would make the selection worth it for the team and definitely not necessary for them to get back to the Super Bowl in 2020.
Neither team in the Super Bowl last season even featured a single back with more than 800 rushing yards or 140 attempts. That was true of plenty of other good teams too.
Most attempts and yards: Damien Williams, 111, 498, 4.5 YPC
Second: LeSean McCoy, 101 attempts, 465 yards, 4.6 YPC
2020: Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire is in, McCoy is gone, Williams opted out
Most attempts: Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, 137
Third: Matt Breida, 123
Most yards: Mostert, 772
Second and third: Breida, 623, Coleman, 544
2020: Mostert, Coleman, Jerick McKinnon return, Breida traded to Dolphins
Additionally, the Baltimore Ravens were the league’s most dominant regular season team and they split the carries between Mark Ingram (202), Gus Edwards (133), and Lamar Jackson (176), with both Ingram and Jackson topping 1,000 yards. They were each over five yards per carry. And Justice Hill even found room for 58 carries and 225 yards.
That was less than a 2:1 split between Ingram and Edwards.
The Minnesota Vikings had an exact 2.5:1 split between Dalvin Cook and backup Alexander Mattison. Mike Boone had 49 carries, 273 yards, and three touchdowns of his own. The Green Bay Packers had roughly a 2.3:1 split between Aaron Jones and backup Jamaal Williams.
The Seattle Seahawks began to split carries between Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny in the second half, with better success than they were having on the ground previous to that, before Penny tore his ACL in early December.
The Philadelphia Eagles gave 179 carries to rookie Miles Sanders in 16 games, plus 119 to veteran Jordan Howard in only 10 games. Boston Scott had 61 carries for 245 yards and five touchdowns in only 11 games.
The New Orleans Saints had 171 carries to Alvin Kamara (for 797 yards) and 146 for Latavius Murray (637 yards), with 27 more going to Taysom Hill.
The New England Patriots were maybe leaning heavier on Sony Michel than most remember, as he had 247 carries as compared to 67 for James White and 64 to Rex Burkhead, but White and Burkhead also combined for 99 receptions and 926 receiving yards. In fact, White was on the field for 43-percent of the snaps, compared to 37-percent for Michel and 23-percent for Burkhead.
The Buffalo Bills gave 166 carries to Frank Gore for 599 yards, 151 carries to Devin Singletary for 775 yards, and 109 carries for 510 yards and nine touchdowns to quarterback Josh Allen.
Even the Tennessee Titans gave 54 carries to Dion Lewis and 67 carries to their two quarterbacks behind the 303 carries of Derrick Henry.
When Gurley nearly won MVP in 2017, he had 279 carries, while Malcolm Brown had 63 and Tavon Austin had 59. When he nearly won MVP in 2018, Gurley had 256 carries in 14 games, well ahead of the 43 of Brown and the 43 of C.J. Anderson, all of which was happening to rest Gurley anyway.
Todd Gurley was in on 74-percent of the snaps in 2016, 76-percent in 2017, 75-percent in 2018, and 71-percent in 2019. Were he not injured, Gurley may have been an 80-percent back. Last season, Henry was in on a career-high (by far) 59-percent of Tennessee’s offensive snaps.
The Rams must not be expecting to get another 70 or 80-% back with Akers or Henderson. It could happen, but the rest of the NFL doesn’t seem to be going that way and LA doesn’t even know yet who their best back is. That’s why the running back by committee approach could be both necessary and beneficial.
After all, at least 10 of last season’s playoff teams appear to have had some form of a running back by committee, one that Sean McVay was not used to running when he had Todd Gurley. Now he has Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, and Malcolm Brown.
And we could regularly see all three.