By: Dave Stewart (Twitter: @davefantasy)
So, the 2020 fantasy football season has wrapped and the NFL playoffs are underway. If your fantasy involvement is strictly redrafted only, you have loads of time to kill before you really need to get down to draft preparation.
For the dynasty diehards though, the wheels are already in motion, working to improve the roster or gather valuable draft picks ahead of the rookie draft. This is the perfect time for evaluation and acquisition of rising prospects, so you can get out ahead of other managers in your league.
Identifying players who are on the rise is not always easy and the information that you use is important. All It takes is a little time on Twitter to find an argument between the analytic audience and the film grinders about which method is best.
Personally, I find it requires a combination of the two. I do like to pore over statistics, but for me, if the player does not pop on film, I have a tendency to be skeptical.
One particular player that has my attention is Cam Akers. Akers saw a larger workload in the second half of the season and he took advantage of it. Working behind Darrell Henderson for much of the year, Akers did not see double-digit carries in any game until week 10.
He appeared to hit his stride in week 12 against San Francisco, where he took 9 carries for 84 yards and cashed in a 4th quarter touchdown. The entire touchdown drive consisted of three Akers carries for 68 yards.
From week 12 on, he carried the ball 95 times for 424 yards and he did not play in week 16. Last Saturday, Akers put on a show against Seattle in the Wild Card round with 176 total yards and 2 touchdowns. He rushed with power against the Seahawks, indicative of what he has done this season.
Of his 625 rushing yards, 304 came after contact, equalling 48.6% of his total yardage. Short and squat, he is not easy to bring down and has developed a reputation for finishing the run.
The more the Rams put on his plate, the more Akers seems to rise to the challenge. This definitely bodes well for the 2021 season. The larger share of the pie he can get, the better it is for his potential production, obviously.
Akers has carried the ball more than 20 times in four of his last five games. An interesting development has been his role in the passing game. Akers has not been a focus in the passing game, by any definition.
He had only 11 receptions on the year, but seven came in his final three regular-season games. He had five first downs through the air, indicating they are looking to him in critical down and distances. Improvement in pass protection has led to his ability to remain on the field on third down.
Prior to the season, running backs coach, Thomas Brown, confirmed that he believed Akers would eventually become an every-down back. Another factor leading to a positive 2021 outlook for Akers is the likelihood of reduced competition for touches.
Although Henderson will be back with the Rams, Malcolm Brown is an unrestricted free agent and could be moving on. If Akers continues with the type of workload he has had over the last five games, he will be looking at 15 or more carries per game. His increased time on the field on third down should lead to an increase in receptions, as well.
Given this information, Akers figures as a high-end RB2, if not a low-end RB1 for the 2021 season. Although his value is on the rise, I cannot see it being lower than what it currently is. The time to strike in a trade for Akers is at present. If you are doing a startup draft soon, he should be an early round target. He has a bright future in Los Angeles.