When the LA Rams released Todd Gurley, many saw it as an acceptable risk to part ways with a former star with waning production, despite relatively little in savings. When the Rams then used their first pick on a running back, one year after using a third round pick on Darrell Henderson, fear of an over-emphasis of the position crept in for some, while others simply preferred a different running back.
Over dobbins?— Dr Jeff E’s Cat (@jrs101780) April 25, 2020
Les Snead selected Cam Akers with the 52nd overall pick, ignoring outdated beliefs that running backs don’t matter and conceding that Henderson was mostly like a complementary player at best. Some preferred J.K. Dobbins, who was selected four picks later by the Baltimore Ravens.
In fact, of the top 10 running backs selected, six are with teams who are in the divisional round of the playoffs (Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Akers, Dobbins, A.J. Dillon, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Zack Moss), while three others were in the wild card round (Jonathan Taylor, Antonio Gibson, Darrynton Evans). The only team to select one of the top-10 running backs to not make the playoffs was D’Andre Swift and the Lions.
Many of these teams were playoff bound with or without those players, but would the LA Rams would be alive right now if it weren’t for Cam Akers?
Since given his chance to become the full-time starter at running back, Akers has carried the ball 114 times and gained 471 yards in five games, for an average of 4.1 yards per carry and 94 yards per game. But as is often the case, “averages” are misleading and stats fail to paint the picture of how explosive and valuable Akers has been as the number one running back for Sean McVay, which includes how his presence has elevated those around him.
On Saturday, Jared Goff was more like — to borrow an analogy from True Detective — “somebody’s memory of a quarterback and that memory is fading away.”
Without a threat at the NFL’s most important position, the Rams built its offense around Akers and his 28 carries for 131 yards. The 44-yard reception sure helped a lot too. It’s amazing what a team can get with the 52nd overall pick these days.
#Rams-#Seahawks —— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) January 10, 2021
This is a good tape for rookie RB Cam Akers & the L.A. run game.
Akers got some clean looks to the 2nd level. Made defenders miss in space. Finished runs behind his pads.
Can see his traits on zone schemes. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/ZTzBPQBnxb
If Derrick Henry had come out of Alabama in 1994, he would have been the number one pick. If Cam Akers had declared for the draft as a prospect in 2006, I believe a team in the top-20 could have been compelled to select a player with his skillset. It is true that running backs are being valued less than other positions in the draft and free agency, but I wouldn’t say that makes them dispensable.
I’d say that makes them the league’s best bargains.
Akers has proven to be a bargain with where he was selected already and that’s one of the main reasons that Snead and McVay have led the Rams back into the second round of the playoffs.