The NFL offseason is underway, which means it’s time for front office members and teams alike to evaluate their current rosters and identify ways to improve in the upcoming season. The New Orleans Saints have a lot of issues on their offense, but running back Alvin Kamara is not one of them. According to former Jacksonville Jaguars star turned NFL analyst Maurice Jones-Drew, Kamara was the 13th-best running back in football last year.
Alvin Kamara Ranked As 13th-Best Running Back In Football
This ranking shows that, even though Kamara isn’t the player he once was, he is still an above-average running back that should be a key part of the Saints offense for at least another season or two. According to Jones-Drew, “Kamara proved to once again be a bright spot in a unit working to find consistency from week to week, and he became the only player in NFL history with at least 700 rush yards and 400 receiving yards in each of his first six seasons”.
It’s hard to argue with that evaluation. Since entering the league, Kamara has been one of the most electric players in football, capable of destroying opposing defenses on the ground and through the air. Now, while he has clearly lost a step compared to his 2017-2020 heyday, the fact remains that he is still a dangerous player.
With no other starting-caliber running back on the roster, Alvin Kamara finished the year with 897 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 223 touches (4.0 YPC) to go along with 57 receptions for 490 yards and two touchdowns on 57 targets. While his total touchdowns and efficiency were down from previous seasons, it’s hard to put all the blame on him. After all, a running back can only can touchdowns if the offense gets in the red zone, and the Saints didn’t do that too frequently in 2022.
— Johnathan Bulot (@JohnathanBulot) February 2, 2023
What Do the Advanced Metrics Say?
Of course, it’s hard to scout running back based just on their traditional numbers. Perhaps more than any other position in football, running back production is heavily dependent on scheme and the talents of the blockers in front of them. A bad running back can be efficient behind an elite offensive line, and even the most elusive back in the world wouldn’t be able to do a thing if he’s constantly getting hit behind the line of scrimmage.
Fortunately, there are metrics that attempt to isolate running back play. While none of them are perfect, each one can paint a general picture about the overall skill of a running back. According to Pro Football Focus, Kamara finished the year with a 72.7 grade, which ranks 33rd out of 60 eligible players. While this might seem low, it’s worth mentioning that one of the blind spots in PFF’s grading is that they do not award extra points for increased volume. Because of this, guys like Raheem Mostert, James Cook, and Samaje Perine are ahead of Kamara, as they played well in small samples but probably wouldn’t be able to handle Kamara’s massive workload.
PlayerProfiler, meanwhile, paints a better picture for Kamara’s current abilities. According to their tracking, the running back finished the season with 1.76 yards per route run, sixth-best in the league among running backs. This shows that he’s still one of the most lethal pass-catching threats in football. His rushing numbers were solid as well, as he ranked ninth in yards created and 15th in yards created per touch.
The one sign of worry in Kamara’s game is the lack of explosive plays. The former third-round pick ranked 48th in breakaway run rate, and 49th in juke rate. For a player that used to be synonymous with home run plays, this lack of excitement is truly astonishing. Kamara still has the vision, hands, and athleticism to be a good starting running back, but his days of elite play are likely over.
Main Photo: Stephen Lew – USA Today Sports