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Why FSU’s historic lows could raise Cam Akers’ draft stock

“If you told me four years from now that Cam Akers ended up being the first- or second=best back in this draft, I would not be surprised at all.”
Florida State running back Cam Akers (3) runs for a touchdown during the first quarter of last season's home opener against Boise State. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]

When Cam Akers signed with Florida State as the No. 3 overall recruit in the 2017 class, he was joining a program that had played in five consecutive major bowl games and was not far removed from a historic 29-game winning streak.

Then things fell apart. Akers’ three seasons at FSU coincided with the Seminoles’ worst stretch since 1974-76. The blocking in front of him ranged from bad to historically bad.

With a decent offensive line and stable coaching staff, it’s not a stretch to think Akers could have joined Dalvin Cook and Warrick Dunn as one of the three most accomplished backs in FSU history. Instead, he left as the Seminoles’ sixth all-time leading rusher. His only bowl performance was in Shreveport.

Related: Cam Akers leaving FSU football for NFL draft

But as Akers goes through the draft process at this week’s scouting combine in Indianapolis, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah sees a positive to all the negatives Akers experienced in Tallahassee.

“Florida State wasn’t any good,” Jeremiah said. “And sometimes when you’re a player that’s on a team and a program that’s in a place that that program was at last year, he had all the reason in the world to shut it down. And he didn’t do it, which told me a lot about him as a competitive kid.”

Akers certainly did not shut it down (until he skipped the Sun Bowl). The ’Noles would have lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe, if not for Akers’ 248 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 102 yards in his final FSU game, a 40-17 blowout loss at Florida.

The stats and tape can tell NFL teams (including the Bucs) almost everything else they need to know about Akers. He carried the ball an FSU-record 586 times over his career, finishing with 2,874 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns.

Florida State Seminoles running back Cam Akers (3) runs the ball down the field in the second quarter against the Florida Gators on Nov. 24, 2018. [BRONTE WITTPENN | TIMES | TAMPA BAY TIMES]

As for the tape, Jeremiah sees Akers in the second tier of backs, behind D’Andre Swift (Georgia), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU) and J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State). The biggest question Jeremiah has about Akers is whether he’s fast enough to crack into the top tier. Akers has a chance to silence that critique at the combine.

“He’s talented…” Jeremiah said late last week in a teleconference with reporters. “He runs through contact. He’s strong. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s got good patience. He’ll press and bounce —he’s got a good feel for that.

“If you told me four years from now that Cam Akers ended up being the first or second best back in this draft, I would not be surprised at all.”

Related: NFL draft: Jacob Eason is a wildcard quarterback. Will the Bucs be interested?

And if that happens, a portion of the credit would belong to FSU. Just not in the way anyone envisioned three years ago.