Despite his hot finish to the 2022 season, there was still uncertainty over the role Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers would play the following year. So far this offseason, LA’s front office has seemingly doubled down on their commitment to the Florida State product.
Don’t believe me? Look no further than the team not adding a running back through free agency or waiting until the 6th round to address the position with Zach Evans from Ole Miss. Pro Football Focus unveiled their rankings of the top 25 players under 25 entering the ‘23 season. As expected, zero Rams made the list but that all could change if Akers, at 23 years old, has a breakout campaign. It’s quite possible as for now, the backfield will run through him.
From Week 14 on, Cam Akers led the Rams Running Backs in opportunities with a 98-24 differential.— Andrew Hayslip (@FF_AHayslip) May 18, 2023
He contributed 452 of the team's 549 rushing yards.
They really didn't hammer the position this offseason. So like, go nuts on Zach Evans, but this is an Akers backfield. pic.twitter.com/DCpWndNRg4
In anticipation of the upcoming season, I’m going to state my realistic expectations for Akers in hopes that he indeed morphs into a breakout performer fans are expecting.
Improve pass blocking to keep Stafford upright
Anyone that had eyes could see that LA’s O-Line couldn’t stop the opposing pass rush to save their lives. Akers isn’t the sole solution to these woes but he could become a more versatile player if he were to improve in this area. Improving without the ball in his hands will make Cam more dynamic and increase his chances of being on the field more. Luckily, he’s well on his way if last season is any indication.
Below are the top 5 RBs in pass blocking grade last season, per PFF.— Nick Penticoff (@NickPenticoff) May 14, 2023
1. James Robinson - 81.5
2. Antonio Gibson - 75.1
3. Tony Pollard - 74.9
T4. D'Andre Swift - 73.9
T4. Cam Akers - 73.9
T5. Samaje Perine - 73.8
T5. James Conner - 73.8
The Rams are going to need all the help they can get in returning Stafford and the offense to form. A big piece of that puzzle is having an all-around running back unafraid to get his hands dirty in key situations. Akers clearly has the potential to be that guy and all he really needs to do is continue building on the highs he established towards the end of last year. Throwing nasty blocks like this on a 49ers defensive lineman will do the trick too.
Cam Akers with probably the best blitz pickup block I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/jPaPGGTo7X— Brian Shacochis (aka Shack, aka Shacknado) (@DynastyTools) January 1, 2023
Start at least 10 games
This will be a tougher one to follow given his injury history and having a hungry rookie breathing down his neck. Including the postseason, Akers has started 19 of 35 games in the NFL. He has never surpassed starting 10 games in a season once. Although, he was pretty close with nine during a campaign that was all over the place.
Again, health is going to be something out of his control. Cam did miss most of the Super Bowl season due to an Achilles tear and didn’t appear to regain his form until Week 13 against Seattle. Fair or not, another slow start could cost him precious starts. Unfortunately, LA has a brutal opening slate that can decide the season within the first five weeks. However if Akers’ hot finish can translate to a new year, the Rams will be in good hands.
Approach 1,000 yards rushing and 10+ total touchdowns
Notice how I said approach here. As much I believe Akers will have a stellar breakout year, I don’t see him hitting 1,000 yards rushing. The reason is based on his track record in the pros. He hasn’t proved himself to be a consistent playmaker just yet. The flashes have been there of course but the sample size is small to say the least.
Cam Akers rushing last three games:— Andrew Cooper (@CoopAFiasco) May 17, 2023
23 att, 118 yards, 5.12 Y/A
19 att, 123 yards, 6.47 Y/A
21 att, 104 yards, 4.95 Y/A
For his career, Akers has five games rushing over the century mark with three of them coming in his final three starts of 2022. Either that is serious fool’s gold for fantasy owners or there’s a legitimate possibly to grow from there. My bet is on the latter as I have a feeling Cam will have a strong season even if it’s nowhere close to peak Todd Gurley.
Having 635 of his 786 rushing yards and six of his seven rushing touchdowns in 10 games to close out the year is nothing to overlook. Through all the ups and downs, Cam Akers has sold me on the 2023 season.
Cam Akers finished with 409 rushing yards during the last 4 weeks of the season. Averaging over 5 yards per carry each contest— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) January 10, 2023
That’s more rushing yardage than the top 5 leading rushers had during their last 4 contests
Through all the ups & downs, has Akers sold you for 2023? pic.twitter.com/82pBffZq2P
The real question is, has he sold you?