Alvin Kamara came out of nowhere to be one of the best players in the NFL and, in turn, in fantasy football in 2017. The running back enters his second season in the New Orleans Saints offense after putting up 320.4 fantasy points (in PPR) in his rookie season. Here’s the case for and against fantasy owners drafting Kamara in the No. 1 spot.
Why you should draft him at No. 1 (from Henry McKenna)
While sharing a backfield with Mark Ingram, Kamara scored the third-most points in among FLEX-eligible players. With Ingram suspended four games, Kamara’s value only got higher. Surely, he’ll have a monster start to his season. And when thinking about how his 2018 could compare to 2017, you can see how small Kamara’s workload was in those first three weeks when the Saints didn’t quite seem to know what they had. In Weeks 4 to 17, he averaged 13.9 touches per game. In Weeks 1 to 3, he had just 6.6 touches.
Kamara is set up to put his 201 touches in 2017 to shame. He may not catch more than 81 receptions, but he should get an increased workload in the running game with just 120 runs. At 6.1 yards per carry, the Saints would be dumb not to make Kamara a workhorse, at least for the first four weeks.
From an efficiency standpoint, Kamara may not match what he managed in 2018. But his volume will rise a great deal, which should make him a more valuable player in 2018. And if he’s more valuable than he was in 2017, then he’s absolutely a consideration of the top spot.
Why you should not draft him at No. 1 (from Jason Lisk)
First of all, let me say that taking Kamara at first overall isn’t even an option, and I’m going to talk about his risk factors as it applies to taking him in the same tier as other feature backs in the middle of the first round. Why take Kamara–a high yardage per touch guy and high touchdown rate guy as a rookie–when you can just grab Gurley, who is those things but is a known commodity as the guy who will get 90% of his teams’ running back touches?
Yes, last year, he was 3rd in PPR points. David Johnson was out most of the year. Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for six games (and had a higher PPR average). Saquon Barkley wasn’t in the same league yet.
My colleague discusses how Kamara averaged 13.9 touches per game after Adrian Peterson left. He did a lot with those touches. But the question is what will happen–his touches going up, or his per touch numbers going down? I’d say both are likely.
There are 10 other running backs since 1978 who averaged over 5.5 yards per carry as rookies, on at least 80 carries. (Karlos Williams hasn’t played since, and Aaron Jones also did it last year). That group, which features a mix of flash-in-the-pans and some big names like Adrian Peterson, Bo Jackson, and Clinton Portis, averaged 4.57 yards per carry a year later. Still above average but a sizable dropoff, since that yards per play number is highly volatile and dependent on big plays.
He’ll still be a reception machine and has a pretty safe floor. But to justify the #1 pick, or going in front of these other bellcows who will be playing this year, he’s gonna need to get to 350 PPR fantasy points.
If we assume some regression, like history shows us, to simply very good in both yards per catch and per rush, as well as touchdown rate (a ridiculous 13 on 201 touches), then he’s going to need something like 2,000 yards from scrimmage. At 5.0 yards per carry and 9.0 yards per catch (Marshall Faulk’s career average), that’s 250 carries and 80 catches. That’s over 20 touches per game.
Which brings me to Mark Ingram. He’s suspended for the first part of the season but will be back. It would be different if the suspension were coming in the fantasy playoffs, but Kamara should see his workload go down once Ingram returns, and we’ll see just how much. I expect Kamara to get more touches than Ingram, but this isn’t a Todd Gurley or Ezekiel Elliott situation. Add in that Kamara has never had that many touches in college or the pros, and there is plenty of downside to go with his fantastic upside. I’m not saying don’t take him, but I would have him behind the five workhorses, who are safer bet for volume carries.