We still don’t know whether it will be Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill under center for the Saints this season, but we know that it won’t be Drew Brees as the surefire Hall of Famer retired this offseason.
Alvin Kamara was the top scorer at the running back position in the half-PPR format last year, and he’s been a top-4 RB in three of the last four seasons.
It remains to be seen how the change at quarterback will impact the New Orleans offense as a whole, but there’s no doubt that Kamara is still one of the top talents at the running back position.
Kamara will be among the top running backs drafted again, but there might be some uncertainty given the quarterback changes that are taking place in the Big Easy.
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Alvin Kamara finished as the RB1 in fantasy scoring with 22.4 half-PPR points per game. However, he was notably worse in games with Taysom Hill under center – across four starts for Hill, Kamara scored just 12.9 half-PPR points per game. It’s also worth noting that Kamara’s scoring average was boosted by 2 half-PPR points per game after a monstrous Week 16 outing in which he scored 6 touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings. Still, Kamara is one of the few running backs who combines elite rushing production with elite receiving production, and it makes him one of the most well-rounded offensive players in the game.
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I had a hard time projecting the Saints’ offense this season, and I ultimately landed on Taysom Hill as the full-season starter after he was the first-choice quarterback last season when Brees was hurt. Hill and Winston are incredibly different players, but I expect Kamara to be a top-five fantasy RB regardless of who is under center for this team. If Hill is under center, I expect this to be a heavily run-oriented offense, and Kamara will potentially see a career-high in rushing attempts. If Winston is under center, he will boost Kamara’s upside with an uptick in passing volume.
ADP & Auction Value
ADP: 5, Round 1, RB3
Auction Value: $44
I must admit, I was a bit surprised to see Kamara’s ADP landing him above such running backs as Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, and Ezekiel Elliott. That isn’t to say that Kamara doesn’t have a chance to outproduce those players, but he has the most outside variables up in the air at the moment. If Taysom Hill is the starting quarterback for the Saints, and Kamara produces like he does last year with Hill, he’ll be aggressively overdrafted at this ADP. I’d much rather have one of the other running backs available early in the first round who doesn’t have a complete offensive transition occurring around them.
Crunched the numbers and if Alvin Kamara can just score 6 rushing TDs every week he’ll be fine without Brees
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 14, 2021
In Alvin Kamara’s four games with Taysom Hill last season, he averaged 12.9 half-PPR points per game. That would have made him the RB20 in half-PPR per-game scoring between Miles Sanders and D’Andre Swift. There was a clear outlier game with Hill where he scored just 5.7 half-PPR points, to be fair to Kamara. If you pull that game out, Kamara would have scored 15.3 half-PPR points per game with Hill. That would have made him the RB11 in half-PPR per-game scoring. Despite the uncertainty at the quarterback position, it would be somewhat shocking to see Kamara not finish as a top-12 running back in fantasy. Still, at his current ADP, a deflated floor makes him a scary proposition early in the first round.
Alvin Kamara was the RB1 overall in half-PPR scoring last season, and he absolutely has that type of upside once again this season. The Saints still have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, while head coach Sean Payton and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. have shown that they know how to maximize Kamara’s unique skillset. Even if the shift under center means less volume, a less likely proposition considering Kamara has never seen staggering volume anyways, his elite efficiency isn’t going anywhere. Concerns over the quarterback position aside, Kamara is arguably the most talented running back in the NFL, and I expect him to figure it out, even in a modified offense.
Most yards after catch by a RB last season…
Alvin Kamara – 731
J.D. McKissic – 503
Austin Ekeler – 473
Nyheim Hines – 470
Dalvin Cook – 438
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) June 7, 2021
New Orleans Saints Offense
Even as Drew Brees has seen his arm talent decline, the Saints have fielded a top-five scoring offense in every season since 2015. The Saints have benefitted from Michael Thomas, one of the best receivers in the NFL, but he only played in 5 games last season and clearly wasn’t himself. After all, this is a receiver who had over 90 catches and over 1,100 yards in every season before last year, including over 125 catches and over 1,400 yards in 2018 and 2019, both First-Team All-Pro seasons. The Saints haven’t quite found a secondary receiving option next to Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders, who had 61 catches for 726 yards last season, is no longer on the team. Guys like Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, and Adam Trautman will be more heavily leaned upon as pass-catchers this season. Latavius Murray is still in the offense, and he’s consistently seen a solid number of touches – that’s not changing this season. Still, with limited pass-catching options outside of Michael Thomas and an offense going through a quarterback transition, Kamara will easily see 250+ touches with this team.
Strength of Schedule
Unfortunately for Alvin Kamara, the quarterback change isn’t the only complicating factor for his 2020 season. The Saints face the 9th-toughest schedule for fantasy football running backs this season. The Buccaneers allowed the 4th-fewest fantasy points to RBs last year, and the Falcons allowed the 9th-fewest, so these are two of the better run defenses in the NFL. The Panthers allowed the 9th-most fantasy points to RBs, so they offer some reprieve in the NFC South, but it’s not an easy division for Kamara to navigate. The Saints do have to play the AFC East, a division full of defenses in the Jets (19th), Bills (18th), Patriots (15th), and Dolphins (12th), who ranked middle-of-the-pack against running backs last season. The Saints will also take on the NFC East this season with Washington (2nd) and Philadelphia (11th), two of the better run defenses in the league; New York (22nd) and Dallas (26th), will offer more of a reprieve. Finally, rounding out the schedule are a few lighter matchups in the Seahawks (17th), Titans (25th), and Packers (28th). All in all, this is a manageable schedule for Alvin Kamara, and it certainly isn’t enough to scare me away from him in fantasy this year.
It’s always difficult to project players for fantasy football in the event of a quarterback change, and that’s especially true when that quarterback change is shifting away from a future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees. However, the Saints have known this day was coming and should be prepared to move forward with either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston under center. Alvin Kamara still stands as one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, and I fully expect him to finish as a top-six RB this season for fantasy. However, I will likely lean towards Saquon Barkley or Derrick Henry at the #3 pick, where Kamara is currently going off the board. Those players have a lot simpler projections with fewer outstanding, unpredictable variables.
Alvin Kamara in four games with Taysom Hill as a starter: 10 catches, 51 yards, 0 TD.
Alvin Kamara in 9 games with Drew Brees as the starter: 67 catches, 648 yards, 4 TD. pic.twitter.com/PwKeB7Ssc1
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 18, 2020
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