Let’s talk about Alvin Mentian Kamara, who will be 25-years old this season. Like the New York Jets' Chris Herndon, Alvin Kamara was also born in Norcross, Georgia. In his junior season of high school Kamara rushed for 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns. In his senior season he rushed for 2,264 yards with 26 touchdowns, adding in 22 receptions for 286 yards and five touchdowns, helping to lead his high school to their first state championship.
Kamara won several accolades as a result of his senior season, including being invited to the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game. Coming out of high school, he was considered one of the top running back prospects in the nation, ranked the number one all purpose RB by 247Composite.
Kamara initially attended the University of Alabama but unfortunately had a difficult time there. He had knee surgery during his preseason of his freshman year causing him to redshirt the season. He had significant competition at the time, including Derrick Henry, TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake (imagine having 3 of the top NFL running backs all on your college team at once). Adding to his troubles at Alabama, Kamara was banned by head coach Nick Saban for ‘behavioral issues’ and was suspended from the Sugar Bowl contest.
Kamara then transferred to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas in 2014, where Cordarrelle Patterson and other NFL players have also attended. During his first season, and in nine games, Kamara ran for 1,211 yards and 21 total touchdowns. This helped him earn a five-star rating from multiple recruiting networks, and was identified as one of the top JUCO prospects in the nation. At that point he had a couple offers, including the University of Georgia as well as the University of Tennessee, and he chose to sign at the latter.
In 2015, Kamara’s technically sophomore year, he shared the backfield with John Kelly (Rams’ RB) and Jalen Hurd (the now 49ers WR). Kamara ended the season with a healthy 6.5 yards per carry, good enough for 3rd in the SEC, and he was second on the team in receptions with 34, serving as a punt returner as well. In his second season at the University of Tennessee Kamara continued to have some up and down games, as he never had a backfield to his own.
Kamara’s two years at the University of Tennessee saw him with only 210 carries, but he had 1,294 yards and 23 total touchdowns. He was an active participant in the passing game, catching 74 passes for 683 yards. He decided to declare for the NFL Draft and forego his senior season.
Entering the NFL Draft, Kamara started to develop a name for himself as many of the teams started to appreciate that he was a dual-threat ability, and he was ranked by many as one of the top five running backs in the draft. At 5’ 10 ¼” tall, weighing 214 pounds, running a 4.56 second 40-yard dash, Kamara was selected as the 5th running back by the New Orleans Saints in the third round.
Not much was known about Kamara in his fantasy rookie season. He didn’t have many carries at Tennessee, was small, and would share time with Mark Ingram. However, Kamara showed up big time, by catching 81 passes and scoring 13 times. This propelled him into first round consideration the following season.
He followed up this 2017 season with an impressive 2018 season playing in 15 games, rushing for 883 yards on 194 carries, accounting for 18 total touchdowns, while catching 81 passes. His 2019 season saw him miss two games due to injury and was limited in others as well. Yet he still managed 171 carries, rushing for almost 800 yards and five touchdowns and added 81 receptions for over 500 receiving yards.
Let’s review some of Kamara’s injuries throughout his college and NFL career. In August 2012, right before he was scheduled to start at the University Alabama he suffered a significant knee injury which required surgery. While the specifics of the injury have not been clarified, it sounds like he likely suffered a meniscal tear which required arthroscopic surgery.
Then, during his time at the University of Tennessee, Kamara reportedly suffered a sprained LCL as well as a meniscal tear of his left knee. While it does not sound like he required surgery on either of these injuries it held him out for a couple of games.
During Kamara’s time in the NFL he has been relatively healthy. He suffered a concussion in week 14 of the 2017 season but was able to play the following week. Going into the 2019 season, he had a relatively clean bill of health. His knee injury hasn’t bothered him in almost 3 years, and he had not missed much time with any other ailments.
Unfortunately the 2019 NFL season didn’t go quite as planned for Kamara, as he suffered the dreaded high-ankle sprain in week six. I discussed the initial injury here. As we discussed extensively in NFL running back Saquon Barkley‘s profile, high-ankle sprains significantly cut into a running back’s explosiveness, and their inability to cut as fast as they would like to. Most high-ankle sprains do not require surgery, but usually take at least 3, sometimes up to 6 weeks to heal to the point where they are able to return and be effective.
Kamara missed both Weeks 7 and 8, and used the team’s Week 9 bye to his advantage. He returned in week 10 but unfortunately did not receive much work, only rushing four times but did record eight receptions.
When he did return Kamara looked better and better with each week. However, the issue with high-ankle sprains is that most athletes feel that they don’t really fully recover until several months down the road (often after the season ends). Watching him towards the end of the season, it was apparent to me that Kamara had lost his game-breaking ability in the open field after suffering the high-ankle sprain, and despite taking a couple weeks off, he clearly wasn’t 100% back yet.
High-ankle sprains traditionally take at least 6 months to return back to fully in my opinion. Kamara indirectly agrees with this statement. In March 2020, he stated that during the season his leg was only “75% last season, but now he is 100% healthy.” Implying that he wasn’t fully recovered from the high-ankle sprain until after the season had ended.
Kamara has a tendency to post his workouts online working with some elite physical therapists and trainers in South Florida, and he looks really good. Here’s an example of one of them.
Kamara is looking to extend his record, as he already joined elite company, including Marshall Faulk and Christian McCaffrey, as the only three players in NFL history at the running back position to catch at least 80 passes in three consecutive seasons. Kamara has impressively caught 81 passes in each of his three years in the NFL, talk about consistent!
In 2020, the Saints drafted C/OG Cesar Ruiz from Michigan to step-in for the departed right guard Larry Warford, which should improve an already excellent offensive line. Three of their five starters went to the Pro-Bowl, while Ryan Ramzyck made the first team All-Pro. New Orleans also brought back Andrus Peat. The blocking unit forms a hybrid zone scheme.
Additionally, they added TE Adam Trautman in the draft, while Taysom Hill will continue to serve as a versatile player (QB/RB/WR/TE?). Kamara should lead the Saints backfield, with Latavius Murray serving as his back-up.
Joining Kamara are also wide receivers Michael Thomas, newly-added Emmanuel Sanders, Tre’Quan Smith and veteran TE Jared Cook. Thomas will lead the team in targets/receptions/yards while Kamara should finish second. Leaving the remaining targets to Sanders, Cook, and others.
Kamara was disappointing last year overall. He was an easy top-five pick, but finished ninth in PPR formats. However, most of the season he wasn’t even that good. In eight weeks of the 13 weeks played, Kamara finished as a RB2 in half of those eight, Kamara finished as a RB3.
Injuries had its toll on Kamara, but his touchdowns weren’t there either. He had 13 total scores in his rookie season, 18 in 2018, but dropped down to six in 2019. His yards didn’t change overall either. For instance, his 797 yards rushing is just 86 yards less than his biggest season of 883 in 2018. Kamara also played in one less game in 2019.
Kamara did have six games of starting RB numbers, with two top-five performances. With all that said, he is still a top-five running back off the board. He has a high-floor as he is an exceptional pass catcher out of the backfield. Even when injured he is catching balls and running routes. However, the addition of Emmanuel Sanders will take away some opportunities. The Saints haven’t had a WR2 in a long-time.
The ceiling is large. He is capable of scoring multi-digit touchdowns and rushing for 1,000+ yards if given the opportunity. Kamara can garner 300+ points and 1,500 total yards. The offense around him has averaged 28.1 points per game in 2019, fifth most in the league. Saints finished top-ten in yards per game and play, but are still a throwing team. Thankfully Kamara benefits from both ends.
Sports Injury Predictor calculates that Kamara has a 55.4% chance of injury in the 2020 season, and project him to miss approximately 1.6 games this upcoming season. He has been able to stay very healthy over the past couple of seasons, besides his unfortunate high-ankle sprain, which was more of a freak injury then something he is predisposed to.
I’m happy to hear that he believes he is 100% back to normal, and there is a very good chance this is true. While he is at high-risk for sustaining the same injury again, it appears he has went ‘above and beyond’ this off-season to help strengthen his legs with the goal of preventing another similar injury. My injury risk for Kamara is in the moderate range, 5 out of 10.
You know what you’re getting with Kamara: approximately 170 to 220 carries, exactly 81 receptions (lol) and a dynamic player who can finish in the top-five at his position, especially in PPR formats. His injury history does not scare me enough to avoid drafting him, so draft him with confidence!
Injury Risk: Moderate. 5/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Oct 16, 2019||Knee PCL Sprain Grade 2||Kamara suffered a knee injury during the 2019 campaign, and missed Week 7 and Week 8 due to the issue|
|Oct 15, 2019||Pedal Ankle Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1||Kamara suffered an ankle injury during the 2019 campaign, and missed Week 7 and Week 8 due to the issue|
|Dec 7, 2017||Head Cranial Concussion Grade 1||Kamara exited in the 1st quarter of Week 14 with a concussion but was cleared by the following game.|
|Oct 15, 2016||Knee LCL Sprain Grade 2||Kamara missed 2 games at Tennessee in 2016 with LCL and meniscus damage to his left knee.|
|Aug 15, 2012||Knee Tear||Kamara was forced to redshirt at Alabama in 2012 due to a knee injury suffered in mid-August.|