As a franchise, the Vikings have always had great running backs to help drive their offense: Chuck Foreman, Robert Smith, Adrian Peterson, Dalvin Cook, Tommy Mason. It’s a staple and though there are gaps in time, Minnesota always seems to find a lead back. On Wednesday, the Rams and Vikings agreed to trade embattled back Cam Akers in exchange for a swap of draft capital. What does Akers bring to the table? Here is the best, worst, and most realistic case scenario for Minnesota with this trade for Cam Akers.
Best Case Scenario
After a slow start to the 2023 campaign, Minnesota sits dead last in rushing yards at 69 total yards. Currently, Cleveland leads the way with 404 yards, over five times that Vikings total. Unimpressively, if you double those rushing stats, Minnesota still sits bottom five. With much hype and anticipation in an Alexander Mattison leap, it never materialized. Akers provides new life for a team that looks to fill the shoes of the departed Dalvin Cook. Eerily, Akers took over for Dalvin at Florida State and may do the same in Minnesota, as Akers and Cook are, measurably, incredibly similar.
For Minnesota, the best-case scenario is one where Akers finds quick success. He brings familiarity to the table as he reunites with O’Connell and Phillips and the learning curve will be lessened because of this. The addition of the former Ram signals Minnesota’s want to add an element that is sorely missing from their offense. As a player, Akers is a strong, elusive runner who can be a three down back and can be every down back for the Purple and Gold. Though he had a solid rookie campaign, a season-ending injury took away the entirety of his sophomore year. Akers ultimately had a career year last season and now is ready to continue his grind. Unfortunately, Akers never really found favor in Los Angeles and Minnesota is a fresh start that can use him right. Though Mattison does many things well, Akers could quickly look to establish himself as the lead back in this offense and could be a near one-to-one replacement for Dalvin Cook. In this reality, Akers provides a dynamic running game to an electric passing game and Minnesota’s offense jumps to top of the league.
Worst Case Scenario
Some see the signing of Dalton Risner and Cam Akers as panic plays to try and save the season. After an 0-2 start, Akers may be a quick ditch effort by GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to solve a position that just isn’t up to par. However, what’s the worst-case scenario in this situation? Honestly, it’s just a lack of establishment from either back. As a whole, the Vikings didn’t rush a ton in the first two weeks of this season, having just 26 attempts. Akers may solve this, but he may also just eat touches from Mattison and/or Ty Chandler.
Truly, the worst-case scenario is no running back here flourishes. In other words, the Vikings implement a true committee approach that doesn’t allow any back to get hot. Rather than seeing a true workhorse step up, each of Mattison, Akers, Chandler, and (maybe) Gaskin just put-up pitiful numbers. The run game doesn’t get fixed and Minnesota loses *checks notes* about 40 spots of draft capital in the 2026 draft in the *checks notes again* 6th round… Worst case, Minnesota has a poor run game, but nothing changes much.
Realistically, Minnesota gambles on high upside with very little risk in this trade. In reality, the trade for Akers speaks more about Chandler and Gaskins than it does about Mattison. Minnesota has faced arguably the two best defensive fronts in the league and getting a run game going in that regard is hard. Even though the Vikings are dead last in rushing attempts, they rank top ten in total offense. Truly, no back would succeed the last two weeks, there’s just been poor offensive line play. Akers provides a solid RB2 option. If Mattison fails to start producing or gets injured, insert Akers. Looking closer, the trade for Akers may also be more of a tool to light a fire under Mattison’s behind. For now, look for Mattison to continue to be the lead back and for him to drastically improve as Los Angeles and Carolina are up next. Additionally, look for Akers to provide some semblance of a one-two punch in this backfield as he works into the lineup. Though he may not have a huge snap share, he’ll get touches.
In a vacuum, the poor run game is on Mattison. However, many have written off Mattison after just 19 rushing attempts. The season is early, and this coaching staff chose Mattison over a handful of other options in the offseason. The trade for Mattison isn’t a massive shifting of the guard and nothing indicates it is. Swapping late round picks for a guy who was a healthy scratch two weeks into the season… That’s an upside shot, not new identity move. Akers will provide depth and another option. Fans however should expect to continue to see Mattison be out early and often in this offense. Could he turn into the next great Minnesota Vikings running back? Maybe but temper expectations for now and give it a few weeks.