Cam Akers vs JK Dobbins

Going into 2021, Cam Akers and JK Dobbins were two of the most exciting young running backs in the NFL. Both players had successful rookie seasons and had risen as high as the late 1st round of redrafts. From a dynasty perspective, they were both being touted as challengers for a place within the top 2 tiers of Dynasty Running Backs. What happened next was a big letdown from a Fantasy perspective. Both suffered major injuries leading up to the start of action in the 2021 NFL season. This left us with a gap that has made their respective outlooks for 2022 and beyond, cloudy.

If you haven’t heard the comparisons between these two players during the off-season then get ready for a wave flooding your timeline between today and the kickoff of week 1. Both players are entering their 3rd year in the NFL with storylines that couldn’t have been closer. A lot of the talk is currently looking at this from a dynasty perspective given the season of Fantasy Football. It’s a fair train of thought, but we shouldn’t avoid the understanding of redraft implications going into 2022. Today we want to look at the comparison through a:

  • Dynasty lens – Evaluating the player as an all encompassing prospect, rookie and year over year producer
  • Redraft lens – Evaluating the player inside of a defined, one-year period of time

Akers has gotten himself back on the field while JK Dobbins is being noted as “on-track” to return for the 2022 season. We still don’t have the clarity on the two players health situations relative to pre-injury status. To lean too heavily on what we have historically seen would be an injustice to sports medicine in the 2020’s.

College Performance

College production doesn’t happen on an even playing field. To keep today’s reference points simple, lets call the Big Ten and ACC even in terms of SRS and SOS.

Cam Akers

Akers played 3 years with Florida State in the ACC. During his JR year he finished 4th in rushing yards and 4th in yards from scrimmage while handling the 3rd most plays from scrimmage amongst his peers.

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/cam-akers-1.html

RAS: 8.79
SPARQ-X: 114.3(63rd Percentile)
40-time: 4.47s
Dominator Rating: 39.8% (91st percentile)

JK Dobbins

Dobbins played 3 years at Ohio State, a conference where he matchup up against Jonathan Taylor for statistical comparison sake. In his JR year Dobbins finished T-1st with 2003 rushing yards and 2nd in yards from scrimmage. Dobbins 6.7 rush Y/A placed him 3rd amongst backs on the year.

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/jk-dobbins-1.html

RAS: N/A
SPARQ-X: 142.7 (142.7 99th Percentile)
40-time: 4.37s
Dominator Rating: 28.4% (62nd Percentile)

Comparing the two player’s individual and per play statistics JK Dobbins has a decided advantage over Cam Akers. His Y/A average was higher in both Rushing and Receiving situations and his overall volume was greater than Akers. Without looking deeper into the scenarios of both surrounding teams let’s leave this section with Dobbins holding the advantage out of college.

Dynasty Edge: Dobbins
Redraft Edge: Neutral

Draft Capital

Cam Akers – 52nd Overall
JK Dobbins – 55th Overall

Basically, we have the same range of picks here from NFL teams with a scouting department tasked with finding the next franchise RB in a loaded 2020 draft class. The Rams chose Akers > Dobbins. This is an incredibly important factor with all things being equal. Scouting departments from the top levels of the sport chose Cam Akers over JK Dobbins, enough said on this point.

Dynasty Edge: Akers
Redraft Edge: Neutral

Rookie year production

Totals

If we were to look for takeaways from each players rookie season we can see that each player had their merits. JK Dobbins stood out with his 6.01 Rush Y/A which was 0.5 Y/A better than his team average. A team average which was supported by both Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards as productive rushers. Akers, on the other hand, remained close to his team’s average Rush Y/A. The area in which he succeeded was as a pass catcher where he displayed a 75% better rate of production by comparison to his teammates. From an analytics perspective, Dobbins turned in the better season, but it isn’t without noting that he had the opportunity of playing for the leagues most active (555 ATT) and most efficient (5.5 Y/A) rushing attack.

Efficiencies

As we get a little deeper into the statistical comparison from 2020 we quickly see that Dobbins grades out as one of the most efficient players in the league. He ran for a league leading 5.4 True Yards per Carry total and was 3rd best in Yards per Touch. As a ball carrier Dobbins definitely has our attention at the position.

Dynasty Edge: Dobbins
Redraft Edge: Dobbins

Offensive Line Strength

From a broad perspective these are both very strong teams in their own regard. The Rams having won the Superbowl make it easy to give the nod their way as the superior team, and overall offense. We know that strong offenses lead towards increased red zone opportunities and elevated TD counts for star players. The Ravens cling to a foundation of rushing volume and efficiency which has had them as staple at the top of yearly leaderboards for the past 3 seasons.

Referencing data from our friends over at the Undroppables we see that both teams Offensive lines were ranked inside the top 5 leading into the 2021 NFL playoffs:

Offensive line strength has a direct correlation to running back efficiency and production. Of course it isn’t everything, but it gives us a good sense of how well a player will be supported in the rushing / pass blocking game. I like to pair my RB selections with strong offensive lines in all fantasy formats. When choosing between two players of similar talent or ADP, offensive line strength is a healthy point to reference. We’ve got some aspect of turnover to be expected highlighted by Rams LT Andrew Whitworth retiring but none the less, we can see that both these teams are inside the top tier of offensive lines. We’ll give the reigning SB champions the benefit of the doubt in the category.

Dynasty Edge: Akers
Redraft Edge: Akers

Dynasty Value

JK DobbinsCam Akers
Dynasty Trade CalculatorRB11 (25.6)RB12 (25.2)
Keep Trade CutRB10 (5101)RB14 (4915)
Fantasy ProsRB15RB12
The UndroppablesRB13RB9

Looking around the industry, at some pretty common references, we see the same general range of low end RB1 – high end RB2 in a dynasty setting. One of the most common reference points across the dynasty community is a players age.

JK Dobbins 23 y/o – Dec 17 1998
Cam Akers 22 y/o – June 22 1999

Akers is roughly 7 months younger than Dobbins. This might seem like a negligible number, but it points to a slight advantage in age for Akers.

Dynasty Edge: Akers
Redraft Edge: Neutral

Injury History

Cam Akers

https://www.draftsharks.com/fantasy/injury-history/cam-akers/10477

JK Dobbins

https://www.draftsharks.com/fantasy/injury-history/jk-dobbins/10478

Aside from a minor shoulder injury that Akers suffered in the 2021/22 playoffs, this is a very similar injury history. Both players suffered significant injuries 5 weeks apart in 2021 and the range of outcomes following these injuries are wide. Now, please don’t go over reacting to these injuries as a career death sentence. More NFL players return from these injury types than fail to. The concern level over an Achilles tear has historically been a dark cloud over a Running Back but I find that to be countered with the 5.5 month time frame in which Akers got back on the field. Peering into the injury and surgical intervention which took place we have seen that a newer and more stabilizing surgical technique may provide us some significant hope for future players suffering the same injury type. With the full off-season of recovery the power, agility and burst in Akers game has a good opportunity to return. It remains to be seen how close to pre-injury form, but if the short time frame to return from injury is any indication, then I would lean towards the side of success.

Flipping over to Dobbins, we have a very common ACL injury which RB’s are all too familiar with. The recovery period is typically labelled around 1 year before a return and up to 2 years before the player returns to form, if they ever do. Some outliers like Adrian Peterson exist but they shouldn’t be the hope for Dobbins, despite every advance that modern medicine has to offer us. Adrian Peterson returned following ACL surgery and won an NFL MVP award within the course of 1 calendar year. An ACL injury recovery has historically been divided into 6 phases with an 8-month period of time expected. A reasonable expectation is that JK Dobbins nears a return to football activities during training camp in 2022 and then takes gradual, yet protected steps in a gradual return to a regular workload. In my humble opinion we don’t see that full workload be re-established during the 2022 season. The Ravens have more to lose than gain by pushing Dobbins into that role early in the upcoming season.

With Akers back on the field late in 2021, I’m giving him a deserved edge in recovery over JK Dobbins. We can evaluate Dobbins once he’s back in uniform but we should certainly be tempering expectations from him in 2022.

Dynasty Edge: Neutral
Redraft Edge: Akers

Conclusion

Dynasty Edge: Dobbins
Redraft Edge: Akers

These two players need to stay closer to each other in Dynasty Rankings going forward. Even if they shift throughout 2022, the bare bones value that each possesses will likely shift back toward each other long term.

The Dynasty Edge is in favor of JK Dobbins. He has shown to be a more efficient runner in Baltimore’s offensive scheme than Akers in Los Angeles. The premium that Baltimore puts on rushing the ball solidifies this comparison for me. My main note of advice for readers who have stuck around to this point – send offers out for Dobbins early in the 2022 season if he is limited to start the year. The more limited he is, the more Baltimore is sheltering a meaningful asset.

For Redraft leagues in 2022, Akers has the better shot at success. Especially to start the season off. With the post-op stability to the injured area, our only real concerns are whether or not Akers burst and agility come back to the level which we previously saw. If they do, right out of the gate, then the we are looking at a situation where the star RB from the defending Superbowl Champions comes in as a value in terms of ADP. I would recommend drafting Akers as a risk/reward type play.

David Carey – @87_Carey

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