When the Los Angeles Rams cut running back Todd Gurley II earlier this year, it was obvious the team’s immediate need going into the 2020 NFL Draft was to pick a running back that would fill that void. They had to wait until the second round to make that happen, but the Rams got the back that they feel will be beneficial to what they want to do on offense.
It certainly will be a lot less costly than the monster contract the Rams gave Gurley in 2018. With all of that said, the Rams picked up Florida State running back Cam Akers with the No. 52 selection in the second round of the draft. Rams general manager Les Snead likes what he sees in Akers, who rushed for 2,875 yards in his three seasons with the Seminoles.
“First of all, go back to high school, he runs like a warrior, he runs angry, he runs like he wants to punish a defense,” Snead said. “One of the things you really appreciate about him is, they struggled a little bit at Florida State these last few years, wasn’t as stout upfront on the OL. He was one of their better players.”
“A lot of teams went into those ACC matchups saying, ‘We’ve got to stop that man,’” Snead added. “They had a hard time stopping him, so you get an appreciation for someone who looks like he’s enjoying running into, I call it a lot of defenders. A little bit more defenders than maybe guys at Clemson run into based on the skill they have on the field. I think that’s the thing other than, ‘Hey, this is a big man that’s fast and explosive and powerful and looks like he has fun punishing defenses.’”
When checking out his numbers, the most glaring stat that pops out about Akers’ production on the field is that he averaged 4.9 yards a pop running the football. But before he is officially anointed as the guy to replace Gurley, Rams head coach Sean McVay has a wait-and-see approach on how things will shake out with Akers.
“I think it’s to be determined,” McVay said. “I think what he does is he adds great value to that group. That’s where we’re looking at it right now. We’ve got two guys, (RB) Darrell Henderson had some instances where you see the flashes of why we liked him so much coming out of Memphis last year. Really excited about the opportunity he’s going to have to earn some more carries and touches – same thing with (RB) Malcolm (Brown).”
“Then, I think what Cam brings to the table, everything that (General Manager) Les (Snead) just talked about is what’s so exciting about it,” McVay continued. “I think when you just look around the league and you’re always trying to learn and grow. We feel we’ve got three really good backs. What does that mean in terms of the distribution of carries? I think that’s to be determined based on how things play themselves out and when we get a chance to actually compete in practice and in those live opportunities.”
Akers, who rushed for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns in his last season with Florida State, was part of a four-player pickup by the Rams on Day 2 of the draft. Given the Rams missed out on snagging a player in Round 1, Snead and McVay made the best of it.
After selecting Akers, the Rams selected Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson with the No. 57 pick. The team then decided to go defense with their next two draft choices, opting to choose Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis at No. 84 and ending their day with Utah defensive back Terrell Burgess (No. 104) near the end of the third round.
It was a solid day all around for the team. If the needs were a necessity for Snead and McVay to address, they answered the bell by drafting the four players they did on Day 2 of the draft.
“I think it was a great day,” McVay said. “I think to be able to come away with four players, all players that we had a real high appreciation for, and they also happen to fill some needs that we had kind of felt like were things we wanted to try to address going into this thing. To be able to have the players that were there at 52, 57 (overall) in the running back, receiver spots were instrumental to start the day off on the right foot. To be able to get (OLB) Terrell Lewis, a guy that we had really had a lot of appreciation for his skill set.”
While all the players the Rams select during this year’s draft will have the onus put on their shoulders to contribute, all eyes figure to be on Akers, who is stepping in the shoes of a 3-time Pro Bowl selection in Gurley. It is quite a big deal to ask a rookie to follow in Gurley’s footsteps.
Gurley was named the 2015 NFL/AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015. He later earned the NFL/AP Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, a season in which Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns. Akers feels he is ready to take on the challenge as he offered up what he brings to the Rams offense.
“I think I bring a three-down, a four-down back if necessary,” Akers said. “I’m somebody who can come in and be a game-changer. Be everything this team and the fans need me to be and everything they’re expecting me to be.”
Akers view playing for the Rams as a great opportunity.
“Just a blessing to be in this position and a blessing to be a part of such a great organization,” Akers said. “Just as far as filling Todd Gurley’s shoes, just going to come in and play. Wherever the team needs me to be, whatever they need me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”