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What Cam Akers Brings to the Vikings’ Offense and Why Now?

A look into the Vikings’ latest acquisition

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Vikings’ front office continues to be active into the regular season, this time trading for Rams’ running back Cam Akers.

Why the Vikings Traded for Cam Akers Now

This past weekend the Vikings coaching staff got together to address how to improve the running game. According to Kevin O’Connell, they addressed a number of issues while also acknowledging that they’ve faced a couple of stout defensive fronts their first two games in defending the run. At the same time, Rams’ head coach Sean McVay said that Cam Akers would be a healthy scratch for the Rams game against the 49ers.

There have been some rumblings between Akers and McVay going back to last season, when the Rams first attempted to trade Akers but didn’t receive any acceptable offers. Apparently McVay has challenged Akers a couple times to basically step it up, as he said he was inconsistent in practice and also acknowledging some communication issues as well. Nevertheless, after returning from an injury last season, Akers finished the season strong with multiple 100-yard games and was named the lead back going into training camp this season.

But the Rams have shifted away from the mid-zone running game they’ve used in the past with Akers toward more of a power scheme this year, meanwhile second-year back Kyren Williams has stepped up. And so with continued difficulties between Akers and McVay, the Rams once again began shopping Akers this past weekend.

For the Vikings, the fit with Akers was ideal, as he is familiar with much of the Vikings’ scheme which Kevin O’Connell carried with him from the Rams, and the price was right as well. Akers is in the last year of his rookie deal, and the Vikings agreed to trade a conditional 2026 6th round draft pick for Akers and a conditional 2026 7th round draft pick- the condition for trading draft picks being if Akers has 500+ combined yards this season for the Vikings. Otherwise there will be no trade compensation for Akers, who looks to be about a $1.14 million cap hit for the Vikings as the Rams absorb his $512K signing bonus and about $150K of his base salary for two weeks work this season.

Given that, this is a low-risk opportunity for the Vikings to potentially upgrade their running back room.

What Cam Akers Brings to the Vikings’ Offense

Akers was a second-round pick for the Rams back in 2020, after having taken over for Dalvin Cook at Florida State from 2017-2019. Akers generally compares favorably to Alexander Mattison in terms of athleticism, overall PFF grades, and more recent production.

Both backs are similar in size, but Akers brings more speed to the table than Mattison.

Cam Akers

Alexander Mattison

Of the PFF grade and production comparison between Mattison and Akers, what stands out is that Akers has been more productive recently (i.e. in 2022) and has also been a consistently better pass blocker than Mattison in recent years as well. That combination could make him a better three-down back than Mattison, particularly given the Vikings’ pass-heavy offense, and given that Akers has graded a bit better recently as a receiver as well.

Bottom Line

The Vikings seized the opportunity to pick-up a potential upgrade at running back- or at least added depth- for next to nothing as the Rams decided to trade Cam Akers. Akers should be easy for the Vikings to plug into their offense, having played in a similar scheme with the Rams and is also familiar with the Vikings’ offensive coaching staff.

But Akers does come with some question marks which led to his being traded, and it remains to be seen how quickly and how well he’ll adapt into the Vikings offense. He seems likely to challenge for significant reps in the backfield for the Vikings, but how much of an upgrade he may be remains to be seen.

The signing of Akers also casts some doubt on the return of Kene Nwangwu- currently on IR- to the Vikings active roster as well. It would seem unlikely that the Vikings would carry five running backs (including fullback CJ Ham) on the roster.

Poll

Was the Vikings signing Cam Akers a good move?

This poll is closed

  • 91%
    Yes- low risk potential upgrade
    (1316 votes)
  • 8%
    No- Akers is unlikely to be an upgrade
    (120 votes)
1436 votes total Vote Now