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Expect More From Cam Akers in NFL

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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Cam Akers could shine at the next level.

After committing to Florida State as a 5-star prospect and the No. 3 recruit in the 2017 class, Akers was fully expected to follow in the footsteps of Dalvin Cook. In three years with the Seminoles, Cook rushed for 4,464 yards and 46 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

But things never really came together for Akers. While he did post a pair of 1,000-yard seasons during his college career and scored 18 touchdowns as a junior last fall, Akers never became a dominant runner. He averaged under 5.0 yards per carry at Florida State.

A fresh start with a competent offense as a Day 2 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft is just what Akers needs, and even after an underwhelming college career, he still has the talent and upside to make one NFL offensive coordinator very pleased to acquire his skills at the end of this month.

It’s hard to determine how much circumstances held back Akers during his time at Florida State, but there’s no denying the Willie Taggart era with the Seminoles hurt Akers’ production.

As a freshman in Jimbo Fisher’s final season and with an unproven freshman quarterback, James Blackmon, behind center, Akers rushed for 1,025 yards and 5.3 yards per carry. After Taggart took over the next year, Akers averaged 4.7 yards per rush over the next 23 games.

The Seminoles rushing offense under Taggart was particularly bad. In the coach’s first season at the school in 2018, Florida State was last in the ACC with 91 rushing yards per game. That was an astonishing 50 yards worse than the second-worst ACC rushing offense (Louisville with 141.5 rushing yards per contest).

Florida State averaged a measly 2.79 in 2018 too. That’s historically bad and makes Akers’ 4.4 yards per carry average that season look even better than Jim Brown’s 5.2 yards per rush average from his entire NFL career. The Seminoles’ team rushing average was second worst and their 91 rushing yards each week was fourth worst in the entire FBS.

Taggart’s offense was unimaginative and lacked competent quarterback play, but the Florida State offensive line was the running game’s biggest issue. The position group became a problem for the Seminoles in 2017 during Fisher’s final season. It’s why Deondre Francois couldn’t even stay healthy for one game that year.

Honestly, it’s not out of the question to say the Florida State issues upfront were part of the reasons why Fisher departed for Texas A&M. He saw what happened to the Seminoles offensive line under his watch and what was coming down the pipe at the position. Of course, Fisher had 75 million other reasons to leave too.

Akers was left with a battered group to run behind each week. It’s probably a miracle he came close to averaging 5.0 yards per carry. It also speaks to his football character that he didn’t transfer or complain despite the massive problems surrounding him at Florida State.

With a better offensive line or on an NFL team with an above average quarterback, Akers could shine at the next level. Maybe he can still even follow in the footsteps of his predecessor at Florida State, Cook, who just rushed for his first 1,000-yard season in the NFL during 2019.

The Draft Network’s Joe Marino predicts it will take Akers some time to adjust to the next level, especially in pass protection, which the draft analyst identified as his biggest weakness. But he also compared Akers to Mark Ingram, and wrote he “has everything an NFL team could want in a running back.”

Lance Zierlein at NFL.com delivered a similar skinny and called Akers “one of the more natural runners in the draft.”

Maybe in an alternate reality where Fisher stayed at Florida State or Taggart fixed the Seminoles’ offensive line problems, Akers could have developed into a first-round NFL pick. He has that much talent.

As it is, though, one team in need of help at running back is going to love landing him on Day 2. In a better situation, Akers could fulfill the expectations that come from his talent, and if he does land with a struggling offense, his character suggests he’s going to be part of the solution to making the unit better both on and off the field.