What would a breakout season for Cam Akers look like in 2021?

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It wasn’t exactly clear who the Rams’ starting running back was going to be last year. They had plenty of options with Darrell Henderson Jr., Malcolm Brown and Cam Akers, but before Week 1, no one truly knew who was going to get the bulk of the carries.

That was the case for most of the season with Sean McVay rotating his backs to either ride the hot hand or out of necessity due to injury. Heading into this season, there’s a much clearer picture in the Rams’ backfield.

All signs point to Akers being the lead runner, based on the way McVay has spoken about the second-year player and the way he finished his rookie season with six games of 80-plus scrimmage yards from Week 11 to the divisional round of the playoffs.

A breakout season is something many fans and analysts expect of Akers, but what would such a campaign look like?

Simply eclipsing 1,000 yards from scrimmage wouldn’t warrant a “breakout” label in my mind. It’ll take much more than that for Akers to truly emerge as a star in the NFL. James Robinson’s rookie season in 2020 would be a good baseline for Akers.

Last season, Robinson rushed for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns in only 14 games, adding on 344 yards receiving with three more touchdowns. So in total, he had 1,414 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns as a rookie, which should be deemed a breakout year for the Jaguars running back.

In Akers’ final six games of last season, he had 152 total touches for 792 yards and three touchdowns. That’s a remarkable pace, and absolutely not one he should be expected to keep up in 2021. But if he were to, he would finish with 425 touches for 2,244 yards and about eight touchdowns.

More likely, he could average around 90 yards from scrimmage per game on about 18 touches per week, which works out to 1,530 total yards in a 17-game season. Surely, that would be considered a breakout year.

Pro Football Focus put Akers in a group of second-year breakout candidates this season, writing this about the Rams running back.

PFF’s Ian Hartitz recently wrote about Akers’ chances to get a Todd Gurley-sized workload in the Rams’ offense next season. In that article, there was an interesting nugget from head coach Sean McVay about his plans for Akers in Year 2:

“He’s obviously a great runner, but he’s got ability as a pass-catcher coming from the backfield, and we can displace him and put him in the slot or the outside receiver location.”

If this is the case, Akers may see north of 65%-70% of the Rams’ snaps next season, putting him in prime position to continue his 2020 hot streak.

The biggest question with Akers is his workload. Brown is gone, but Henderson is still in the backfield with Akers, which could lead to a continued share of the touches. But McVay sees Akers as an every-down back, given his skill set as a runner and ability to line up out wide as a receiver.

“Well, I think the more you can have the ball in Cam Akers’ hands, we’re in a good position,” McVay said in January. “This guy’s going to be a big-time player. He got more and more confidence as the season went. I have tremendous confidence in him, and I think [RBs coach] Thomas Brown did such a great job being able to help him continue to mature throughout the season, and I think this guy has an unbelievably bright future.”

Henderson will get his touches, but the backfield should belong to Akers. There’s no reason he shouldn’t get at least 15-20 touches a game this year.