It is time for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to hit the panic button when it comes to their rushing attack. The Bucs are averaging a league worst 67.5 rushing yards through the first six weeks of the season.
Starting running back Leonard Fournette has been unable to find the same success he enjoyed during his first two seasons in Tampa. Fournette has notched 95 carries for 343 yards and one touchdown with the running back averaging just 3.6 yards per carry in 2022. The solution to the Bucs’ rushing woes could lie in Los Angeles with the Rams exploring trades for promising running back Cam Akers.
“If the situation continues as it has so far this season, Rams former starting running back Cam Akers has played his last down with the team,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport wrote on October 16, 2022. “Sources say Akers, who is out today due to what was described as personal reasons, has philosophical and football-related differences with head coach Sean McVay. The coach has left Akers’ future open, and sources say the third-year pro could be on the way out. The belief is that he’ll draw significant trade interest, and the team is open to a deal for the right value.”
What would a trade for Akers cost the Buccaneers? Akers was a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft and the Rams will likely be looking for a day-two selection in return for the rusher. The Rams may find it challenging to find more than a future late-round draft pick in return given Akers’ lack of production combined with his injury history.
In addition to draft picks, Tampa Bay could also offer speedy wideout Scotty Miller to help the Rams with their receiver depth issues. Miller was on the roster bubble during training camp and has been unable to make the same impact he had during the team’s Super Bowl run in 2020.
Akers Has Yet to Break Out as an NFL Running Back
Despite being a highly touted prospect coming out of Florida State, Akers has yet to top 1,000 total yards in a season. Akers has dealt with multiple injuries during his short NFL career including an Achilles issue that sidelined the running back for all but one contest in 2021.
The former Seminoles running back had more than 1,000 rushing yards in two of his three seasons in Tallahassee. Akers notched 231 carries for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns during 11 games for the Seminoles in 2019. Here is how NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein described Akers in his 2020 pre-draft profile.
“Despite a disappointing win-loss record and a lack of blocking up front, Akers maintained a consistent level of play that represents his football character,” Zierlein wrote. “He runs with tempo and flow but alters his rush track at a moment’s notice when needed. He is elusive but lacking the instant burst of a slasher capable of stacking long runs in a single game.
“Akers has above-average open-field vision once he’s into the second level and looks to run through the tackler’s pads as a finisher. He’s a three-down option with good feel for finding the crease near the goal line, but ball security needs to improve. He can be Leg 1 or 2 of a tandem rushing attack and is one of the more natural runners in the draft.”
The Bucs Could Get a Discount on Akers
Fournette could still hold onto the Bucs RB1 role even if the team traded for Akers, but it would give Tampa Bay a potentially imposing tandem like the franchise had when Ronald Jones was on the roster. Akers has yet to reach his full potential but at 23 years old, a fresh start could be what is needed to unlock the rusher’s ceiling.
The Rams running back is on a team-friendly four-year, $6.1 million contract with an affordable $1.1 million salary for 2022. Akers will not be a free agent until 2024 giving the Bucs at least two more seasons with the playmaker on his rookie deal. As the Bucs running back room continues to underperform, the team is looking to trade Ke’Shawn Vaughn, per Heavy.com’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo.
“Buccaneers RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a name to watch at the NFL trade deadline and will be available, per sources,” Lombardo reported on October 16. “Vaughn, 25, has appeared in 25 games rushing for 289 yards and 2 touchdowns.”