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What is Cam Akers capable of this season?

Fantasy football fans are asking the same question about Akers after missing most of 2021

NFL: Los Angeles Rams Kickoff for Charity Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the Tennessee Titans re-working the contract for star running back Derrick Henry on Thursday, it’s an opportune time to re-visit the running back situation for the defending champions and whether or not Cam Akers will ever reach a lucrative payday. The Los Angeles Rams drafted Darrell Henderson three years ago to be a complementary piece and spot-starter next to Todd Gurley, but they took Akers in the second round in 2020 to be the true heir apparent to Gurley.

Is that still a possibility, even if Akers will never challenge for league MVP?

As a rookie, Akers dealt with a handful of injuries throughout 2020 and carried the ball 145 times over 13 games, not taking over as a starter until Week 13. Then a torn Achilles ahead of 2021’s training camp set him back until a Week 18 return against the San Francisco 49ers.

Comparing Akers as a beast at the end of his rookie campaign (221 yards and two touchdowns in two playoff games) to the version we saw this past January (172 rushing yards, 2.5 YPC, no touchdowns in two playoff games), it seems that the national perspective on the third-year Rams back is split. Nowhere could that be more obvious than among those who play fantasy football, as several factors remain unclear. But many remain low on Akers’ value.

For one, we don’t know exactly where Akers is at right now with regards to his health and preparedness for the start of the season. He missed part of training camp with a soft tissue injury and of course did not appear in the preseason, as none of McVay’s starters do. For now, we’re all going off of the Akers we saw for brief periods of time in the previous two seasons.

Second, the offensive line welcomes new starters at left tackle and right guard and the run blocking was not spectacular in the postseason.

Third, the Rams have a new offensive coordinator in Liam Coen.

Fourth, did Akers improve his pass protection and pass catching? He had eight catches for 76 yards in the playoffs, surpassing his value as a runner probably. He also fumbled two times against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And fifth, we’ve never seen a season of NFL football with Cam Akers as a starting running back. In many ways, he still feels like a rookie.

That’s what could make L.A.’s decisions with his future so interesting if Akers has the type of season that he wants to have. Should Akers reach 2,000 total yards, for example, he would be entering the final year of his contract in 2023. But if he gets hurt again...he will be entering the final year of his contract in 2023.

For now, the conservative estimates on Akers if he doesn’t get injured should probably sit between 60-70 rushing yards per game and 10-20 receiving yards. Not only does this feel like an acceptable expectation given Sean McVay’s offense and Akers’ ability/usage, but takes into account the snap share that will take place with Henderson and fifth round pick Kyren Williams.

On the low end, that would put Cam Akers at roughly 1,020 rushing yards with 170 receiving yards. On the high end, 1,190 rushing yards with 340 receiving yards, for 1,530 total yards.

How many touchdowns? That’s harder to judge but we can say that L.A. has set themselves up nicely to score a lot of times through the air and Akers has only scored three times over his 14 regular season games, plus two times in six playoff games, for a total of five over 20 games.

I would not expect anything more than 10 total touchdowns, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

In fact, that’s the whole deal with Akers: Who knows what will happen. Akers gets his chance to prove fantasy football experts wrong just by suiting up next Thursday against the Buffalo Bills.

What’s your expectation?