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Since landing in New Orleans in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft, Alvin Kamara has put made three straight Pro Bowl teams. He is coming off a season that would have been impressive for the majority of running backs in the NFL but fell well below his high standards. Kamara scored 18 touchdowns in 2018 and had over 1,500 all-purpose yards in each of his first two seasons, but he was held back in 2019 by his knee and ankle injuries which kept him out of the Saints' Week 7 and 8 games. He finished as the RB13 in PPR leagues, which rendered him valuable but not the elite fantasy weapon managers were expecting when they spent a first-round pick on him.

2019 Recap

RUSH YDS RUSH TD REC REC YDS REC TD FANTASY POINTS FPPG
797 5 81 533 1 248.5 17.8

Kamara buoyed his fantasy stats with 81 receptions, the 3rd-most by a running back behind Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler. At just under 1,400 total yards from scrimmage, he was still pretty effective, but the major difference in his stats was the decrease in touchdowns. He regressed from 13 and 18 total touchdowns in his previous two seasons to 6 last year, and it certainly hurt his fantasy output. However, his injuries and missed time can certainly help attribute to why this happened and I believe we should be expecting much-improved production from Kamara in 2020.

2020 Projections

RUSH YDS RUSH TD REC REC YDS REC TD FANTASY POINTS FPPG
880 10 81 690 4 322 20.1

Kamara has caught exactly 81 passes in each of his first three seasons, so I'm slotting him in for the same number next year. He's one of the best in the business at picking up yards after the catch as an outlet receiver, as evidenced by his career 8.5 yards per reception. 14 touchdowns are right in his career range as well, and these numbers should be totally achievable as long as he's able to stay healthy.

ADP/Auction Value

ADP: 1.6
Auction Price: $50

Kamara is going to be drafted as a clear cut first-round running back yet again, and despite a down year from him in 2019, he should be able to return value as a top-ten fantasy option this season. The Saints have a high-powered offense and it's clear they want him to be heavily involved. Kamara is averaging a Jamaal Charles-esque 5.0 yards per carry for his career and his elite talent cannot be denied.

Floor

Even in a down season where he missed two of his team's games, Kamara still earned 171 carries. It seems pretty unlikely that he sees fewer than around 180 in 2020, and with his career-low yards per carry at a still-elite 4.6, it would be surprising to see him far below 800 yards on the ground next season. Of course, the real value of Kamara in fantasy comes from his receiving ability, which is unlikely to go away this year. He still figures to be the Saints' number-two weapon in the passing game behind All-Pro Michael Thomas, and Kamara has established an impressive level of consistency as a receiver. It would be shocking to see him perform worse than he did last season provided he's able to stay on the field for all 16 games.

Ceiling

Kamara averaged 5.7 catches per game in 2019, which would be good for about 93 receptions in a 16-game pace. 100 catches isn't entirely out of the question and the Saints figure to have one of the most high-powered offenses in the league. Drew Brees starting all 16 games would be a massive factor as well, as Kamara's production declined with Bridgewater under center. The fact that Kamara has been an elite running back for fantasy for several years despite never rushing for 1,000 yards is the epitome of modern football, although this could be the season he sets his career-high in rushing.


New Orleans Saints Offense

The Saints were the 3rd-highest scoring team in football last year despite seeing 3 different quarterbacks behind center. Pete Carmichael Jr. has been the offensive coordinator for over a decade, and this team has a clear winning formula on that side of the ball. Emmanuel Sanders was brought in this offseason, and he should finally address the team's need for a second wide receiver next to Michael Thomas. There is a chance Sanders cuts into Kamara's receiving work a bit, but he's 33 and will likely contribute more with his veteran experience and competitive personality. It's more likely Sanders cuts into the 167 combined receptions from Jared Cook, Latavius Murray, Tedd Ginn, Taysom Hill, and Tre'Quan Smith. While Thomas is clearly the number one weapon for the Saints, Kamara is a close second and should return to his high volume of touches, especially in the red zone, in 2020.

Strength of Schedule

The Saints have the pleasure of taking on the Panthers twice in 2020, who gave up the most fantasy points to running backs in the entire league. The Falcons and Buccaneers, the Saints' other divisional foes, fared much better in this metric last year ranking inside the top ten for fewest points allowed to running backs. The beautiful thing about Kamara, though, is he isn't an ordinary running back. He can produce in a variety of ways, and it takes a special kind of coverage linebacker to keep up with him in open space. Kamara's receiving ability makes him pretty much matchup-proof. The Saints will also take on the Chargers, Chiefs, and Raiders in 2020, all of whom ranked in the bottom ten run defenses in 2019 per Football Outsiders. Tougher matchups do pop up against the Broncos, Eagles, Vikings, and 49ers, who feature some of the better front-seven talent in the league, but Kamara's versatility and involvement in the passing game should give him a solid baseline even against those opponents.

Bottom Line

If you're in a league where Kamara drops past the first round in your draft, take him and run. He is just far too talented and in too good of an offensive scheme to not produce if he can stay healthy, especially in PPR formats. There are a variety of reasons why his numbers were down in 2019 - injuries to Drew Brees and himself being the most prevalent - but there's no reason he shouldn't be able to return to elite RB1 status in 2020, and he has a chance to establish career numbers in this high-powered offense. He also seems to be pretty motivated to produce after seeing Christian McCaffrey sign a new contract worth $16 million a year - Kamara will be a free agent after this season.



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