The Incredible Efficiency of Alvin Kamara

Chuck Cook – USA TODAY Sports

I posted an article on Saturday on All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas. For my next piece, I figured that it’d be appropriate to take a look at the Saints’ other offensive prodigy (no, not Ryan Ramczyk). Since being drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Alvin Kamara has been one of the most prolific offensive players in football.

His presence helped flip the Saints’ win-loss record from a paltry 7-9 in 2016 to 11-5 in his rookie season. In 2017, Kamara was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and he was selected to the All-Pro second team. Kamara took on a bigger role in the Saints’ offense in 2018, when he finished with 18 touchdowns on the season (second-most in the league behind Todd Gurley’s 21).

The word “electrifying” is thrown around a lot to describe football players, but I’m not sure anybody encapsulates it better than Alvin Kamara. He’s one of the most exciting players I’ve ever seen play because of his balance and quickness. He slithers past would-be tacklers on a play-by-play basis and it feels like nobody can consistently bring him down. The stats back the eye-test up in this regard.

Over the past two seasons, no player has matched Kamara’s combination of volume and efficiency in breaking tackles. This season, he’s averaging a broken tackle for every 4.1 carries. The next closest player is Phillip Lindsay with 7.3 attempts per broken tackle. Kamara’s uncanny ability to stay on his feet is simply unmatched.

Given his tendency to fight for additional yards, it’s no surprise that Kamara’s one of the most statistically efficient backs in the game. No eligible player has gained yards and scored touchdowns with Kamara’s efficiency at this point in their career.

Many of those grey unmarked dots represent all-time greats at the running back position. Bo Jackson, Adrian Peterson, Tony Dorsett, Thurman Thomas, Jerome Bettis, Marcus Allen, Eric Dickerson, Franco Harris, Terrell Davis, Walter Payton, Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson, etc. Even one of the greatest basketball players of all-time! Yet Kamara stands above the rest. Granted, he’s playing in a very different era. Many old-timer players were true workhorse backs who pounded the ball in a less efficient era. But even among the players of today, Kamara’s efficiency is unmatched. He is the prototypical back of the new age.

A big reason for Kamara’s incredible efficiency is his value in the passing game. His greatest asset is his receiving ability. There are not many backs who you would line up on the outside for a go-route against an All-Pro safety, but Kamara is special. With Brees transitioning to a playstyle centered around short passes at this stage in his career, Kamara’s ability to be a mismatch against linebackers has been particularly valuable to the Saints. This value is properly reflected in stats such as Expected Points Added (EPA) and Win Probability Added (WPA).

Over the past three seasons, no running back has added more points above expectation to their team than Alvin Kamara. He simply makes plays that have a significant impact — his value can not be understated.

Unfortunately, Kamara’s future with the Saints is not as clear as Michael Thomas’. Kamara is undoubtedly due for a massive payday, but the Saints may or may not be able to cough up the money he deserves. While the Saints’ drafting over the past four years has been utterly incredible, those players cannot remain on rookie contracts forever. There are many mouths to feed in New Orleans. Of course, this speculation can wait. The Saints have a championship goal to focus on.

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