Fantasy Football: Why Alvin Kamara Is the New Orleans Saints Running Back to Own
The New Orleans Saints backfield was getting plenty of fantasy football love this offseason, with both Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson being drafted in the top five rounds, per FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
Barely even registering on their ADP data, Alvin Kamara was a late-round flyer, going in the 14th round as the 61st running back off the board.
Through four weeks of the season, it has been Kamara who leads the backfield in fantasy scoring, sitting as the RB18 while Ingram isn't far behind at RB25 and Peterson trails the two by a huge margin at RB80.
Alvin Kamara is too good. pic.twitter.com/ximRxtjepE
— Houston Kress (@VolRumorMill) October 1, 2017
A deeper dive indicates that this production from Kamara has been no fluke, and he's likely to be a force in fantasy football for the rest of the season.
Kamara played a surprising 50% of the Saints' offensive snaps in their Week 1 meeting with the Minnesota Vikings, garnering 7 carries and 6 targets. His snaps fell significantly in Week 2 to 26%, but he still saw 7 targets.
The Saints lost both of those games by double-digit points. As a back used primarily in the passing game, being forced into a pass-heavy game plan while playing from behind created ideal conditions for Kamara.
His volume fell significantly in Week 3, as the Saints scored a fairly one-sided win over the Carolina Panthers. While he still played 29% of the team's snaps, he was limited to 5 targets and 2 carries.
Week 4 is when the long-term outlook for his workload became especially encouraging.
The Saints scored a 20-point shutout win over the Miami Dolphins. Despite a run-heavy approach, Adrian Peterson played only six snaps, and it looks like he's being phased out of the offense after his awful start. Among the 61 backs with at least 15 carries on the year, A.P. ranks only 44th in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry, (NEP is our metric that measures the expected points a player contributes compared to the league average on a given play. You can read more about in our glossary.)
Kamara, on the other hand, saw his 2nd-highest share of the team's snaps this season, at 35%. He was used heavily when he was on the field, tallying 10 targets and 5 carries.
His 18% share of the team's targets already ranks top-5 among backs who have played at least two games this year. With volume like this, he has a very real chance to bloom into an every-week fantasy starter.
With a 0.34 Rushing NEP per carry, Kamara ranks first in that aforementioned batch of 61 backs. His 33.3% Success Rate (percentage of carries on which he generates positive NEP) isn't anything special, though it's tied for the top among the Saints' backs. What stands out is how far ahead of his teammates that Rushing NEP per carry mark is -- Mark Ingram ranks 54th in the NFL, ten spots behind Peterson.
Kamara has been efficient with his passing game volume -- his 0.29 Reception NEP per target is tops in the New Orleans backfield.
He's also dominating fantasy points per snap, with 0.39 as compared to 0.22 for Ingram and 0.19 for Peterson. That edge comes despite the fact he isn't getting used any more often than the other two when he's on the field, with a carry or target on 47% of his snaps, a mark that matches Ingram's 47% and sits well behind Peterson's 67%.
The Saints offense has traditionally been fantasy-friendly for running backs. Over the past six seasons, they have supported four RB1's (top-12 in fantasy scoring), four RB2's (13th-24th), and two RB3's (25th-36th).
Despite a strong performance against a weak Miami offense, the Saints' defense is nothing special, ranking 20th in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play (which adjusts for the quality of competition). They're not a team likely to be playing with a big lead and dealing with run-heavy game plans very often. Kamara's usage while playing with a lead last week was big, but he will still likely see even more snaps and targets when trailing.
With his impressive efficiency and the potential for an increased workload, the rookie is rapidly becoming the New Orleans running back to own in fantasy football.