The Los Angeles Rams have become known over the past few years for making splashy acquisitions and signing players to record-breaking extensions.
But this offseason has played out differently. The Rams unceremoniously cut star running back Todd Gurley, then traded speedy receiver Brandin Cooks. The two standouts will account for nearly $30 million in dead-money cap charges in 2020.
The Rams wasted little time replacing the two former first-round picks, and they didn't do it by signing splashy free agents, but instead went quietly into the second round of the NFL draft.
"We had a game plan to start," Rams general manager Les Snead said after Day 2 of the draft. "The good thing is our first two picks were the first two picks that we wanted to get done."
With the No. 52 overall pick, the Rams selected Florida State running back Cam Akers, and with the No. 57 pick, which was acquired from the Houston Texans in exchange for Cooks, they went with Florida receiver Van Jefferson.
"To be able to have the players that were there at 52, 57 in the running back, receiver spots were instrumental," said Rams coach Sean McVay, who is entering his fourth season in charge and is looking to rebound from a 9-7 season that kept the Rams from earning a third consecutive playoff berth.
"As far as filling Todd Gurley's shoes, just going to come in and play," said Akers, who turns 21 in June. "Wherever the team needs me to be, whatever they need me to do, that's what I'll do."
Make no mistake, Akers is no Gurley, who leads the NFL with 1,483 touches over the past five seasons. And Jefferson doesn't have the top-end speed to stretch a defense the way Cooks can. But Snead and McVay expressed confidence in the skill sets that both bring.
McVay said Akers "adds great value" to a running back rotation that includes second-year pro Darrell Henderson and sixth-year pro Malcolm Brown. Henderson, a third-round pick from Memphis in 2019, is expected to produce a breakout season, and Brown has been a long-trusted hand in spot roles.
"We feel we've got three really good backs," McVay said. "What does that mean in terms of the distribution of carries? I think that's to be determined based on how things play themselves out."
Van Jefferson's 2020 NFL Draft profile
Take a look at former Florida WR Van Jefferson's skills as he catches and dashes his way through goal lines and into the NFL Draft.
A three-year starter at Florida State who declared for the NFL draft with a season of eligibility remaining, Akers averaged 958 rushing yards per season and proved himself as a complete back. He caught 69 passes for 486 yards and seven touchdowns in three seasons.
But it was Akers' bruising running style that caught the Rams' attention.
"He runs like a warrior, he runs angry, he runs like he wants to punish a defense," Snead said. "One of the things you really appreciate about him is, they struggled a little bit at Florida State these last few years, wasn't as stout upfront on the OL. He was one of their better players."
Said Akers: "I'm looking forward to everything. Whether it's blocking, running, catching, special teams, whatever I need to do. I got my big-boy pants on and I'm ready to do it."
Jefferson transferred to Florida after three years at Mississippi and joins an experienced trio in Los Angeles that includes Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp -- both coming off 1,000 receiving yards seasons -- and Josh Reynolds, who is expected to earn increased time following Cooks' departure.
Jefferson said he was surprised to get a call from the Rams on draft day after limited interactions with them throughout the draft process, with the exception of an informal meeting with receivers coach Eric Yarber at the NFL scouting combine.
"I didn't have a FaceTime meeting with them throughout the whole process, so I didn't know that there was interest," Jefferson said. "I'm excited to be there, excited to learn from guys like Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and I can't wait to get out there."
In two seasons at Florida, Jefferson caught 84 passes for 1,160 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The son of New York Jets assistant Shawn Jefferson, who played receiver in the NFL for 13 seasons, McVay referred to Jefferson as a "Coach's kid" who "looks like he's been running routes in training camp since he's 10 years old."
"The way that he just understands the nuances of the game, has a great ability to get parallel at the line of scrimmage and work edges against some elite corners that he went against and we're really excited about him," McVay said.
Jefferson can play any of the Rams' three receiver spots, McVay said.