Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 45: Florida State RB Cam Akers

Leading up to the 2020 NFL draft, which starts April 23, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five and 10 at a time, followed by in-depth reports on our top 50 players. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-8180-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz

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45. Florida State RB Cam Akers

5-foot-10, 217 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.93

TL;DR scouting report: Three-down back with pop and shake who would have thrived behind a better offensive line.

The skinny: Akers was a 5-star Rivals recruit and the No. 3 overall prospect in the Class of 2017.  He picked Florida State over Alabama.

Akers played immediately, rushing for 1,024 yards (breaking FSU’s freshman rushing record held by Dalvin Cook) and seven touchdowns on 194 carries. In 2018, Akers’ numbers dipped — 706 rush yards and six touchdowns, also fumbling five times in 12 games.

He rebounded with a strong final season for the Seminoles, rushing for 1,144 yards and 14 TDs on 231 carries, and catching 30 passes for 225 yards and four touchdowns. He earned second-team All-ACC and tied for fourth on FSU’s single-season list with 18 touchdowns.

Akers, who turns 21 in June, skipped his team’s bowl game and declared early for the 2020 NFL draft. He was a standout at the NFL scouting combine in the workouts and the positional drills, but didn’t run the 3-cone drill or 60-yard shuttle.

Upside: Thickly built, compact frame made for inside running. Grinds through contact with strong lower body. Great contact balance and toughness in the hole — fans through arm tackles and rarely goes down immediately on north-south runs when working through the line of scrimmage. 

Showed pop in finishing runs — excellent power and explosion, even if it wasn’t readily shown on tape under duress in 2019. Determined goal-line runner — seldom denied when he sniffs the end zone. Still plenty of tread on the tires with 655 touches in three seasons but also showed (three games in 2019 with 32 or more touches) that he can be a workhorse.

Nice lateral juke ability — can jump cut and pivot with good suddenness. Flashes a spin move that can freeze back-seven defenders in space. Credited by PFF with 76 avoided tackles on 231 rush attempts, which was among the best rates in college football last season. Doesn’t require gear downshift when he cuts.

True three-down potential with time. Improved as pass blocker over career — willing to take on blitzing linebackers and free rushers. Made the most of a basic route tree as receiver — found ways to generate yards on dump-offs, screens. Dropped passes usually the result of hurried or off-target throws. Sets up blockers well on screens and swing passes and usually makes most of his chances. 

Watch as he took a nice angle here on the swing pass against Miami and tightroped the sideline for a score:

Watch Akers take a great route to the end zone.

Held back in QB-poor offense since 2017 and hemmed in too often behind poor offensive line past two seasons. According to PFF, FSU had the fourth-lowest-graded power-5 run blocking unit in 2019. Hit in backfield on runs before he got going nearly every game past two years. 

Lined up as “wildcat” QB, slot receiver, wide receiver and put in motion. High school QB who can be used on trick passes — 5-for-8 passing for 97 yards in his career, and 4-of-6 (with a dropped pass) for 50 yards in 2019. Perfect fit in a man-blocking scheme but could work in zone system, too. 

Downside: Vision is a question — often tried to make things happen that weren’t there. Patience varies — sometimes too much, sometimes not enough. Presses the issue or rips off cuts into a crowd. Fair to question how well he sees blocks develop. Didn’t hit many home runs last year.

Fumbling is an issue — 11 career balls put on the ground. Was guilty of a few avoidable penalties (false starts, substitute infractions, holds). Still developing as a receiver, with limited route-running and occasionally shaky, unnatural hands. Short arms and small hands.

Lateral quickness and change of direction looks good on tape, but combine shuttle time was disappointing (and didn’t run 3-cone). Needs to learn more one-cut-and-go discipline.

Might have to work his way into full-time role gradually. Still honing instincts as runner and requires development and patience on third downs. Willing pass blocker, but some games (Clemson, Syracuse, Boston College in 2019) were concerning from technique standpoint.

Carry load not concerning but took some vicious hits — had target on his back and couldn’t make enough misses to avoid heavy contact. Inside-running skills might be best suited for short-yardage situations.

Florida State RB Cam Akers was bottled up at times behind a bad offensive line. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Best-suited destination: Akers has the chance to develop into a starting back with the right cultivation, and he should contribute readily until that time comes. Ideally, he’d fit best in a gap-run game where he can develop his third-down potential. 

Teams that could be interested in his services include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens.

Did you know: Akers wasn’t just a high school quarterback — he was voted as U.S. Army Player of the Year, which is given annually to the nation’s most outstanding high school senior football player. 

Despite being recruited predominantly as a running back, Akers led Clinton (Miss.) High School to the state 6A title as a dual threat. He ran for 2,105 yards and 34 touchdowns but also threw for 3,128 passing yards and 31 touchdowns. Akers also held the state career marks of passing yards (13,243) and touchdowns (149) when he left for college.

They said it: “If there’s a [running back] in this class that has a chance to surprise people, it’s him. That offensive line was hot garbage. I watched a game where twice he was hit 3-4 yards behind the line against a light box … twice in one half! How can he do anything? They did whatever they could to get him the ball in space, but it was just a bad system and bad blocking. When he did get space, he did things with it. He’s a good back and would have been a monster at Georgia behind that line. Teams look at heritage, and he has a chance to be really good.” 

— AFC area scout

Player comp: Marlon Mack — similar body type, similar run style and similar issues (shaky hands, poor OL) that Akers dealt with coming out.

Expected draft range: Round 2 or 3.

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