One of the top players in the NFL and fantasy football, Los Angeles Rams RB Cam Akers projects to be an early pick this year as many suspect a bounceback in 2022 after missing nearly all of last season. With the NFL season and fantasy drafts closing in, what is Akers’ fantasy outlook in 2022, and could he prove to be a value at his current ADP in fantasy football drafts?
Cam Akers’ fantasy outlook for 2022
Akers might be the player fantasy managers debate the most this season. He might have one of the widest ranges of outcomes for a player inside the first three rounds of 2022 fantasy football drafts. The talent is undeniable, but will we see that version of Akers in 2022?
In 2020, Akers took control of the Rams’ backfield starting in Week 13, surpassing both Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown. Over the final five weeks (four games), Akers rushed 86 times for 340 yards and a touchdown. He also caught eight passes on 11 targets for 96 yards.
He was the RB23 (13.9 PPR) over this stretch, and the only fault was the lack of touchdowns. It is also why his 0.57 fantasy points per opportunity came in as low as it did. If you include his two playoff games, Akers averaged 24.3 opportunities per game (0.67 pts/opp) and 118 total yards after becoming the lead back.
Then, just two weeks from the start of training camp, Akers tore his Achilles. His season looked to be over. Yet, Akers had one of the most remarkable recoveries since Adrian Peterson’s ACL. Akers managed to make it back in just six months, appearing in their Week 18 game.
The Rams wasted no time giving Akers a significant role
After a five-carry “tune-up” in Week 18, the Rams wasted no time getting Akers reacclimated, thrusting him into a No. 1 role. Akers rushed 67 times for 172 yards in his four playoff games, catching eight of 10 targets for 76 yards. That’s 19.25 opp/game with no ramp-up outside what he did during rehab.
That is what we need to focus on when it comes to Akers. All that has been mentioned is his paltry 2.4 yards per carry and that Akers lost his juice. What did you expect from someone who just ripped their Achilles? Akers “won” just by being back out there.
Adding further context to this feat, once he came back, 95% of his rushing yards came after contact, meaning he was able to generate power at the point of contact.
Also, Akers faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the No. 1 rush defense last year, and the San Francisco 49ers (twice) in three of his five games (including Week 18). If anything, what he did was impressive and not as negative as it is being portrayed.
Akers owns one of the few remaining “workhorse” roles in the NFL. Head coach Sean McVay prefers to use a primary back whenever he can. The RB1 in his offense carries a 20-touch upside any given week. The only thing holding Akers back is his utilization as a receiver in the passing game, which is critical in PPR formats to hit the upper echelon of weekly rankings.
Akers is coming off his first full offseason as a professional and is healthy. As an RB2, Akers is a fantastic addition as a high-volume rusher with top-10 upside for fantasy football in 2022.
How the Rams’ depth chart impacts Akers’ fantasy projection for the season
The 2022 NFL offseason, especially once free agency opened, was as crazy as we have ever seen. As far as the Rams’ backfield is concerned, Akers enters the season relatively uncontested for his role. Sony Michel is now a Miami Dolphin, leaving Henderson as the RB2. Henderson also brings his own injury concerns, missing six games in the last two seasons (not including five missed postseason games out of a possible six).
Henderson did play well last season when Akers was out, averaging 18 opportunities and 82 yards per game with eight touchdowns. In the final year of his contract, Henderson will see some carries, but in games where Akers has seen nine or more, Henderson averages just 3.2 rushing attempts per game. His value will come in the air as Henderson can work out of the backfield and is coming off a career-best 40-target season.
The player to watch is rookie Kyren Williams, more so for his impact on Henderson than Akers. Williams was my absolute favorite player to watch film on this offseason, with his game mirroring Austin Ekeler — minus some juice. Williams punches well above his size, and despite his underwhelming metrics, he’s got game. What he also has is tenacity. Williams reset the scale for how I view running backs in pass protection. I can absolutely see him cutting into Henderson’s role in passing situations.
Williams is a better blocker should Matthew Stafford need to check for more protection vs. a specific defensive front or package while being a more natural pass catcher. For their “Eff them picks” mentality, the Rams made this one count. Williams’ role and style are different and won’t impact Akers, but Henderson could be in danger of splitting an already diminished snap share.
Akers’ ADP for 2022
It feels like you are either all-in or all-out on Akers for fantasy in 2022. As the RB18 with an ADP of 36, he is either a third-round target or an absolute fade. He is currently dealing with a soft tissue injury but, based on all reports, is minor, and Akers will be good to go for Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.
If you made it this far, you likely already know where I fall on Akers’ over/underrated debate. To me, the volume Akers brings to a fantasy roster allows the ability to chase either upside with a breakout candidate or to add more PPR potential, perhaps even a little bit of both with Travis Etienne (RB20, ADP 44).
Now, as much as I like Akers, I don’t think I would want him as my anchor in a Hero RB build. His value is best when paired with an equally talented running back. At the moment, Akers is my RB15, ahead of both David Montgomery and Ezekiel Elliott. An incredibly gifted rusher in one of the NFL’s most potent offenses, Akers is coming in as a value based on his ADP for fantasy football drafts.