Rams’ top draft pick, running back Cam Akers, proclaims he can be ‘game-changer’

Florida State running back Cam Akers was drafted by the Rams in the second round.
The Rams’ top draft pick, Cam Akers, says he can handle all the roles of a running back in the NFL.
(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

He won’t limit himself to possibly becoming the heir apparent to Todd Gurley.

Running back Cam Akers, the Rams’ second-round draft pick, has a broader outlook.

“I’m looking forward to everything, in any way that I can, whether it’s blocking, running, catching, special teams, whatever I need to do,” Akers said last month after the Rams made him the fourth running back selected in the NFL draft. “I got my big-boy pants on and I’m ready to do it.”

Akers rushed for 1,144 yards and scored 18 touchdowns last season for Florida State.

The Rams drafted the 5-foot-10, 217-pound Akers a little more than a month after releasing Gurley, the three-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2017 NFL offensive player of the year whose balky left knee and gigantic contract convinced the Rams he was expendable.

Akers joins a running back corps that includes Gurley’s longtime backup, Malcolm Brown, second-year pro Darrell Henderson and third-year pro John Kelly.


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Coach Sean McVay is expected to explore a running back-by-committee approach to make up for the void left by Gurley.

“That’s to be determined based on how things play themselves out,” McVay said when asked how he planned to divvy up carries, “and when we get a chance to actually compete in practice and in those live opportunities.”

The Rams are in the second week of their virtual offseason program. NFL facilities are closed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so rookies might not be on the field with teammates until training camp. Rookies can begin attending virtual team meetings next Monday.

Akers said he can be “a game-changer” for a team that is in need of a spark. The Rams finished 9-7 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons under McVay.

“As far as filling Todd Gurley’s shoes — just going to come in and play,” Akers said. “Wherever the team needs me to be, whatever they need me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”

Akers played quarterback and running back in high school in Mississippi, and displayed his passing prowess during his freshman season at Florida State. In a game against Boston College, he ran left with a handoff, and then squared his shoulders and completed an option pass that traveled more than 50 yards.

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His quarterback background helps him break down defenses as a running back, he said.

“Having that edge, having that quarterback thought process when approaching the line of scrimmage and approaching every play,” he said.

Florida State finished with a 6-7 record in 2019, but Rams general manager Les Snead said Akers still showed up on film despite playing with offensive line that was not as stout as past Seminole teams. Akers joined Warrick Dunn and Dalvin Cook as the only players in Florida State history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in multiple seasons.

Louisiana State’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, selected by the Kansas City Chiefs, was the only running back chosen in the first round of the draft last month. Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor were drafted early in the second round before the Rams chose Akers with the 52nd pick.

“He runs angry,” Snead said. “He runs like he wants to punish a defense.”

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Former Florida receiver Van Jefferson, the Rams’ second-round draft pick, saw Akers up close during games between the rival schools. In a loss to the Gators last season, Akers rushed for 102 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown run.

“He’s an elusive back. … a lot of times he would just break out in huge runs,” Jefferson said. “So, that always wasn’t good for being the opposing team, but I’m excited to be on the same side as him.”