According Dynasty League Football’s July ADP, Alvin Kamara is currently being drafted in dynasty football startup drafts sixth overall as the no. 5 running back. The only players being drafted ahead of him on average in 1QB dynasty leagues are Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, and Dalvin Cook. Is such a high startup ADP justified for Kamara, or is it riskier than it seems?
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Is Alvin Kamara in the First Round a Mistake?
Kamara’s 2019 season was disappointing largely due to playing through a litany of injuries for the majority of the year. He suffered a high ankle sprain prior to the Saints’ Week 6 matchup against the Jaguars and compounded that with a knee injury early on in that same game. Despite playing through injury last year, Kamara finished as the no. 11 fantasy running back in PPR formats and was the no. 8 fantasy running back in fantasy points per game.
In 2018 when healthy, Kamara was the no. 4 fantasy running back and the 10th highest fantasy scorer across all positions. From an efficiency standpoint, he ranked third in rushing DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) and fourth in rushing DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) among running backs.
Additionally, his involvement and elusiveness as a receiver out of the backfield give him both a high floor and ceiling in fantasy. Kamara has logged exactly 81 receptions in each of his three seasons in the league. And as a receiver, he ranked second in receiving DYAR and fourth in receiving DVOA among running backs in 2018.
Kamara’s efficiency as both a runner and pass-catcher makes him a valuable three-down back and one of the few elite fantasy running backs in the league in receiving such a high workload. However, his current contract status as well as that of Drew Brees make Kamara’s long-term value more tenuous than currently perceived.
There’s no doubt that Alvin Kamara is a talented running back, but he’s also had a lot of help. Much like Ezekiel Elliott‘s job has been made easier by the Cowboys’ stout offensive line, Kamara has likewise benefited from running behind an elite offensive since entering the league in 2017. Over the last three seasons, the Saints’ offensive line has ranked best in the league at run-blocking in 2019, second-best in 2018, and second-best in 2017.
While Kamara could still be productive on a worse team, he would likely face an uphill battle. We’ve seen other elite fantasy running backs falter in maintaining their output when moving to less efficient offenses or playing behind lesser offensive lines. Le’Veon Bell is a stark example, a former top fantasy running back in an efficient Steelers offense who has since struggled to produce after signing with the Jets.
Additionally, the Saints have been an offensive powerhouse with Brees at the helm. Since his tenure began in New Orleans in 2006, the Saints have on average been top-three in offensive yardage gained and top-five in offensive points scored. They have also never ranked outside of the top-10 in offensive yardage, and the lowest they’ve ever been in points scored was 12th in 2007.
Although there are numerous factors to take into account, head coach Sean Payton didn’t fare nearly as well without Brees during his three years as the Giants’ offensive coordinator from 2000 to 2002. Over that span, New York ranked 15th, 21st, and 22nd in offensive points scored, respectively, though their offensive yardage was still high at 13th, ninth, and sixth, respectively.
The success of the Saints’ offense since 2006 can likely be attributed to both good coaching and good quarterback play due to the synergy between Payton and Brees, much like the Patriots’ success over the last two decades is likely due to the merits of both Bill Belichick as well as Tom Brady. That said, Brees is 41 years old and at risk of retiring even if New Orleans signs Kamara to a new contract after 2020. How the Saints’ offense would fare under a new quarterback yet to be determined is anyone’s guess.
Alvin Kamara is a fine hold for contending dynasty teams, and he’s definitely in the second tier of dynasty running backs behind the top three of McCaffrey, Barkley, and Elliott. He’s in line for a bounce-back season and potentially elite fantasy production in 2020. But beyond that, a lot of variables come into play. Though his talent will remain intact, Kamara’s usage and his team’s overall offensive efficiency will impact his fantasy production.
The potential downsides to him playing for a new team in 2021 and the possibility that Brees will be gone even if Kamara stays in New Orleans shouldn’t be ignored. Kamara may well maintain fantasy RB1 production for the next few years, but there are some big risks not being accounted for in his current dynasty valuation as a top-six dynasty football startup pick. I’ve recently adjusted Kamara down to 14th overall in my dynasty rankings, which can be found here.
Both Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor move in front of Kamara due to longevity of being on their rookie contracts for the next four years, as do a few premium wide receivers in their prime. Rebuilding teams in dynasty should definitely consider selling Kamara for either top-tier rookie running back, and even a deal akin to J.K. Dobbins plus a second-round rookie pick should be worth consideration.
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