A lot of hype was made surrounding Alexander Mattison after Dalvin Cook was let go in the offseason.
Mattison has started all seven Vikings games so far and has operated as the primary back in six of the seven.
Cam Akers was traded to the Vikings following another unceremonious healthy scratch with the Rams.
After being traded to the Vikings, questions began to arise about the significance of Akers’ role in Minnesota.
Weeks 4-6, Mattison still maintained a decisive hold on the backfield opportunities but was still consistently inefficient. Meanwhile, Akers continued to look like the more capable back, even in a diminished role.
Enter week 7, and after only playing nine snaps, Akers saw more run and more opportunity.
Despite playing fewer snaps than Mattison, Akers led the backfield in touches 12-10. He rushed 10 times for 31 yards and caught two of his three targets for an additional 30 yards.
Meanwhile, Mattison only totaled 42 yards and was out-touched 12-6 after the first quarter.
When asked about the impression Akers has left on him, head coach Kevin O’Connell said, “The potential for it is absolutely there…I’ve really liked what Cam has done since he’s gotten here.”
Cam Akers Outlook Rest of Season
While it may be a bit premature to outright state that Akers is taking over the backfield, the numbers suggest that maybe he should.
Since the 2020 season, Mattison’s efficiency as a runner has continued to drop. Since averaging around 4.6 YPC his first two years, Mattison has averaged 3.7 and 3.8 YPC, respectively, and has failed to eclipse 90 rush attempts either season.
Meanwhile, after a slow start to the season last year, Akers re-defined league winning back.
From Week 13 through the end of the season, Akers paced for:
Those numbers would have amounted to 306 PPR points, which would have made him the RB4, ahead of Derrick Henry.
Now, notice how Akers was averaging 19.3 opportunities per game. That’s not going to be the case unless Mattison is not in the picture for some reason. With the hefty contract the team paid him, Mattison is unlikely to just disappear.
However, if we simply analyzed their respective opportunities, we might be able to obtain a clearer picture of what to expect going forward.
Using my opportunity-based xFP model, in week 7 Akers should have scored 9.7 fantasy points (-1.6 vs expectation) while Mattison should have produced 10.6 (-4.4 vs. expectation). Mattison has consistently underperformed his expectation all 2023.
It’s worth noting that Akers only saw one opportunity in the red zone while Mattison saw three.
As for the season as a whole, Akers is currently scoring -2.36 fantasy points over expectation vs. Mattison’s -4.65.
Why are both Akers and Mattison not performing to expectation? Well, the answer might surprise you.
The Vikings rushing offense ranks 30th despite being PFF’s top-ranked run-blocking team going into week 7. Surprisingly, the Vikings remain the only team in the league without a TD run.
Things should open up for the Vikings rushing attack, with the easiest remaining strength of schedule for RBs — starting with a soft matchup against the Packers in week 8.
While the backfield is likely going to remain a committee for the remainder of the season, the tea leaves say Akers is the back to start. With Jefferson due back, even 12-15 touches would be enough for Akers to be a ROS RB2.
Buy low on Cam Akers now before the takeover is complete!