Alvin Kamara: The Case for 1.01
Alvin Kamara took the league by storm as a rookie in 2017 and continued that production in 2018. Heading into 2019 drafts, Kamara is one of the four running backs in consideration to be taken at 1.01. Although he finished behind Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffery, and slightly above Ezekiel Elliott in 2018, Kamara certainly has a case to be selected 1.01.
With the Saints’ high powered offense/rushing frequency, Kamara’s past production, and Mark Ingram joining the Baltimore Ravens through free agency, Alvin Kamara surely has a case to be the 1.01 in 2019.
Saints’ High Powered Offense/Rushing Frequency
Behind head coach and offensive mastermind Sean Payton, the New Orleans Saints offense has been one of the best in the league in terms of fantasy production.
This chart shows where RB1’s have finished in Sean Payton’s offenses. 2017 and 2018 are years where his RB’s ranked the highest which was when Kamara entered the league. Other Saints running backs, including Ingram, were only able to break the top 5 once, while Kamara has done it twice in two years.
These charts show the fantasy finishes of the Saints’ main weapons over various periods of time. Apart from Mark Ingram’s 32nd finish in 2018, in which he served a four-game suspension, the lowest finish for one of there main weapons was 14th. The power and consistency of the Saints offense will be crucial for Kamara’s success. With Mark Ingram leaving and Jared Cook coming aboard, the Saint’s offense will be as powerful as ever in 2019.
2018 NFLs most Run heavy teams:
1. Seahawks (52.44%)
2. Titans (48.51%)
3. Baltimore (47.74%)
4. Bills (46.43%)
5. Saints (45.68%)
Who’s your top 5 for 2019?@DynastySons
— D BROWN (@DBrownFF88) June 25, 2019
The rushing frequency in Sean Payton’s offense is another large reason why Kamara should be considered for 1.01. The tweet above shows the rushing percentages of teams in 2018. With Kamara only being 23 and entering his third season, while also adding a proven change-of-pace running back in Latavius Murray, the Saints will continue to run the ball frequently in 2019.
Kamara’s Past Production and Consistency
When selecting 1.01, as I mentioned in my Ezekiel Elliott article, consistent production from 1.01 is vital. Even with Mark Ingram in the fold, Kamara has still found a way to be consistent. This is proven when looking at his yearly PPR finishes of 3rd (2017) and 4th (2018).
Mark Ingram served a four-game suspension to begin the 2018 season. If you don’t recall, Kamara became a clear workhorse in those four games, and his numbers were historic. He averaged over 33 PPR points-per-game and was impactful in both the rushing and passing game. With Ingram now gone, Kamara will produce numbers closer to what we saw when he was alone, rather than when he had another running back to compete with.
Looking more into consistency, here’s how Kamara lines up against other contenders for 1.01. Saquon Barkley was not included because he was a rookie last year, and this chart uses stats from 2017 and 2018. Kamara wins both the top 5 and top 12 categories. When selecting 1.01, your expecting top finishes on a weekly basis. Kamara has done it most of the three running backs and his fantasy situation only improved.
Mark Ingram Departure
It’s no secret that Mark Ingram took production away from Kamara. However, even when Ingram took 55% of the running back snaps in 2017, Kamara still finished as RB3. With Ingram joining the Baltimore Ravens, the Saints signed Latavius Murray to a 4-year contract. Even with that signing, it’s hard to believe head coach Sean Payton will utilize him exactly like Ingram, who was Payton’s lead back for three years.
This image shows both Kamara and Michael Thomas’ numbers in three weeks without Ingram. In addition to historic efficiency, Kamara also saw an increase in opportunity and average touches per game. With Ingram being a more talented back than Murray and Kamara being a great runner and receiver, Kamara should see closer to 22.8 touches per game rather than 16.1.
Based on the chart above, it’s easy to see that the Saints’ offense was better in 2018 vs 2017. While many factors play a role in an offense, one of the reasons the offense was better was because Kamara touched the ball more in 2018. In 2017, he had 201 total touches, while in 2018, he had 275. With the increase in touches, it also came with an increase in touchdowns as Kamara had 18 in 2018 as opposed to 13 in 2017.
The overall improvement in offense correlates with increased Kamara usage. Sean Payton is too good of a coach to not notice that. Again, with Ingram gone, Kamara will see more touches in 2019.
Addition of Jared Cook
While the Saints added Latavius Murray, they also added veteran tight end, Jared Cook. Cook revived his career in Oakland last year as he was TE5 on a terrible Oakland Raiders squad. He will now join the elite Saint’s offense, which, as I mentioned earlier, produces great fantasy performers. Cook will add another reliable weapon to the Saints’ offense, one which struggled to find a reliable #2 target. Michael Thomas led the team with 147 targets last year, while Kamara was second with 105. With Kamara likely to be on the field more, his targets won’t drop with Cook entering the lineup. It will actually improve his outlook because teams will have to focus on a legitimate threat in Cook. Mix in Thomas, Cook, and a healthy Ted Ginn Jr., the field will be wide open for Kamara in 2019.
As Jeff Smith mentioned at the end of his Christian McCaffery article, you won’t go wrong in selecting any of the top four running backs at pick 1.01. The changes made in the Saints offense mixed in with what Kamara did when acting as the workhorse should have you ecstatic for his 2019 season. Kamara, while carrying the lowest floor, carries the highest ceiling of all the backs. After looking through the stats, taking the risk on him at 1.01 could be the best choice for you.
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