The Steelers have certain things they look for in a player when drafting high. Here’s why Florida State running back Cam Akers checks all the boxes to be Pittsburgh’s second-round pick.
If you have been following Pittsburgh’s draft trends under Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin, then you already know that there are certain things the Steelers look for when drafting early. This process, however, has caused them to draft players higher than draft analysts predicted.
The most recent case of this occurring was in 2018. With their first-round draft choice, the Steelers took Virginia Tech safety, Terrell Edmunds. Most experts had Edmunds slated as a 2nd or 3rd round player, but he checked all of the boxes of what the Steelers look for – a young true junior with production and athleticism.
Though running back Cam Akers isn’t a player who has been drawing second-round buzz, he’s one that could certainly be on Pittsburgh’s radar at pick 49 this year.
To say Akers had some tough sledding Florida State’s offensive line this year is an understatement. Though his tape can be a bit underwhelming at times, he fits the bill of what the Steelers typically look for.
For starters, Akers is a true junior – something the Steelers often covet early in the draft. He’s also a plus athlete, and he put that on display at the NFL Combine. Akers ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash and showed great explosion with a 122” broad jump. In addition, Pittsburgh covets size at the running back position, and at 5’10” and 2017 pounds, Akers has plenty to carry the load. He proved to be extremely durable in college.
While Cam Akers earned 586 carries for 2,875 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 27 rushing touchdowns in three years at FSU. He also chipped in 69 receptions for 486 yards and 7 touchdowns. Though statistically, he can’t hold a candle to a player like Jonathan Taylor, the Steelers have shown that they don’t draft strictly based on production.
Back in 2013, Le’Veon Bell earned similar statistics in a very similar workload and checked all the boxes for the Steelers in the second round. Bell ran behind a poor Michigan State offensive line, and as a result, his rushing efficiency was very modest. However, Pittsburgh fell in love with Bell because of his youth and durability.
Most big boards have Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, or J.K. Dobbins as their top back in the 2020 draft. While it’s likely that at least one of these players is available to the Steelers in the second round, it’s possible that they could like Cam Akers more than all of them.
Coming into the 2013 NFL Draft, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball was a more productive, more efficient, and more established player than Le’Veon Bell. However, Bell checked more boxes the Steelers look for. For the same reasons, the Steelers could favor Akers over the top running backs in this year’s class.
While I may not always agree with the way Pittsburgh scouts NFL talent, I give Colbert and Tomlin a lot of credit for the success they have had during their time with the Steelers. If we see them show up for Florida State’s Pro Day on March 28th, just know that there is a good chance that Cam Akers is on their radar in the second round.