It appears that the 2023 version of Alvin Kamara is going to be a far cry from previous years. With a potential multi-game suspension likely (remember, he was able to delay this last season), his availability is a big question mark, but what's equally concerning is his production and efficiency when on the field. Kamara owners were largely disappointed last year, especially when they watched Taysom Hill become more active near the goal line. Now he'll have Jamaal Williams to contend with as well, and we all saw how effective he was near the goal line last year in Detroit. He's fine to take with a later pick and stash, but lower your expectations on what this once elite, PPR-machine can deliver.
The looming suspension that has been drastically impacting Kamara's Fantasy value became official a week into camp: three games stemming from an altercation in Las Vegas. Beyond missing those games, there are still major question marks in Kamara's formerly elite Fantasy profile. His passing game role without Sean Payton remains the biggest concern. Kamara didn't catch more than two passes in a game from Week 13 on. This is a far cry from the days where he was catching 81 passes a season under Payton. Kamara also loses touches to Taysom Hill in the red zone, the Saints signed the most efficient red-zone RB in 2022 (Jamaal Williams) and they drafted Kamara's likely long-term replacement in Kendre Miller. Kamara will likely be drafted in the middle rounds by a Fantasy manager who still remembers the best version of a runner who just turned 28.
The biggest unknown with Kamara was the suspension. Now, as of August, we know he'll be out for the first three games.
Sure, he’s likely a declining player. But he's also likely to continue seeing strong touch volume when active.
His current ADP sits in RB3 range. At that level, the upside seems well worth the risk – especially in full PPR setups.
What We Learned Last YearKamara got too many carries in 2021 and might have still gotten too many last season. After limited use in his 2017 rookie campaign (7.5 carries per game), he finished three straight years in the range of 12.2 to 12.9 carries per game.That soared to 18.5 carries per game in 2021, and Kamara averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per carry – at least 0.9 short of every previous season.He fell back to 14.9 carries per game in 2022 and slightly improved his yards per rush (4.0). The advanced metrics showed similar just-slight improvement.Kamara climbed from 46th in Football Outsiders’ rushing DYAR and 47th in rushing DVOA in 2021 to 41st and 40th, respectively, in 2022.Kamara did leap from 47th in rushing success rate to eighth. He ranked 15th in that category in 2020.His Pro Football Focus elusive rating actually declined vs. 2021, to the second-lowest number of his career. Kamara ranked 41st among 61 RBs with 70+ carries.His yards after contact per attempt matched the lowest number of his career and ranked 46th at the position.Kamara did rebound in rushing grade and ranked 30th, ahead of Breece Hall, James Conner, Jamaal Williams and Najee Harris, among others.Kamara’s receiving grade dipped slightly from what had been his career low in 2021, though he still ranked 23rd among 61 RBs with 20+ targets.Kamara posted career-low numbers in receiving DYAR and DVOA, ranking 24th and 31st (respectively) among 51 qualifiers.His 8.6 yards per catch was his second-lowest mark but not far off his career rate (8.7). Kamara has averaged fewer than 4.0 receptions per game for two straight years after exceeding 5.0 in each of his first four seasons. But we can attribute much of that to declines in passing volume and the retirement of super-efficient Drew Brees.Kamara has finished each of the past five years among the top 11 RBs in opportunity share. He has finished top-9 in four straight seasons.What to Expect in 2023Kamara’s drops in efficiency and advanced metrics would be more concerning if he weren’t still doing so well on touch volume. Despite missing two games last year, he still ranked ninth in the league in total touches; sixth in touches per game.New Orleans probably doesn’t want him repeating that level of usage, though. The Saints gave RB Jamaal Williams a three-year contract in free agency. And then they drafted RB Kendre Miller in Round 3.Taysom Hill ranked second in carries for last year’s team – 127 behind Kamara. Mark Ingram ranked second among RBs with just 62 carries.There were 103 rushing attempts by Saints RBs not named Kamara. If Williams and Miller don’t beat that number by a lot in 2022, then something’s going wrong.The Saints also upgraded at QB. Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton started the 17 games last year. The team said with the contract (four years, $150 million) that it believes Derek Carr will be a lot better.Will that mean more passing volume and less of a rushing lean? Seems likely.Pete Carmichael has been Saints OC since 2009. From that year through 2019, the team ranked lower than 15th in pass attempts just twice.They have finished the past three years 25th, 30th, and 26th.New Orleans ranked among the top 12 in run rate each of those seasons.Kamara’s usage will keep him heavily involved either way.
Kamara enters 2023 facing a three-game suspension and following a down season in which he ranked a career-worst 14th in fantasy points per game (his first finish worse than eighth). Kamara actually scored 20% of his fantasy points in one game (Week 8) and was limited to five weekly finishes better than 18th (four of which came consecutively). On the plus side, Kamara has finished top five among RBs in targets and top 12 in yards in all six NFL seasons despite often missing games (at least one in each of the past five seasons). Kamara's massive passing-game usage is enough to keep him in the top-10 mix when active, but the suspension, his age (28) and the arrival of goal line threat Jamaal Williams mean he's best valued as a mid-to-back-end RB2.