Until this past week, the biggest question surrounding Alvin Kamara in fantasy football was regarding how early in the first round you take him. Suddenly that certainty around Kamara, who has twice finished fourth at the position in fantasy points in his three years in the league, has vanished. Monday saw it revealed that Kamara was not present at practice and the situation was “contract-related”, and then Tuesday it was reported that the Saints are open to trading Kamara prior to the season.
With uncertainty now swirling, what value does Kamara have for fantasy football and how should fantasy GMs approach this issue?
Kamara’s efficiency as a fantasy asset has been declining
There is no way to look at Kamara’s introduction to fantasy football in 2017 as anything other than spectacular. He came from relative obscurity to rack up over 300 points in PPR formats on his way to finishing in the top three at the position. In that breakout year, Kamara was extremely efficient. Using Pro Football Network’s Fantasy Points Differential (FPD) metric, we can see that Kamara outperformed his expected fantasy points by 34% in his rookie season.
In 2018, Kamara’s efficiency dropped, as he returned an FPD of 24%. That is still an impressive number but it did show an overall decline. Kamara’s fantasy point trajectory in both the rushing and receiving game dropped from 2017 to 2018.
That initial decline went even further in 2019, as Kamara registered an FPD of -8%, with his efficiency both on carries and receptions dropping even further. An injury in 2019 certainly had an effect, but such a severe dip in Kamara’s efficiency last year should still raise eyebrows.
Does Kamara provide security to fantasy teams?
Despite the injury, Kamara was still the 11th highest-rated back in Pro Football Network’s Consistency Score last season. That 11th is the lowest Kamara has ranked in his three seasons in the league and is certainly impacted by missing time through injury. Kamara’s role in the passing game makes him a reliable option, having seen an average of over 100 targets per season since entering the league.
In terms of his returns on a weekly basis, Kamara ranked as a top-24 RB 69% of the time in 2019, the 10th highest at the position. However, for a player you are drafting in the top part of the first round, a top-24 return won’t get the job done. That is where the concerns creep in for Kamara, as he finished as an RB1 just 35% of the time, tied for the 13th most at the position.
What does this uncertainty mean for Kamara’s fantasy outlook in 2020?
The biggest concern is that we see no suitor step forward and Kamara remains in a standoff with the Saints. In that situation, we could see him miss games. However, it seems unlikely that we get to that situation right now and we should see Kamara on the field in Week 1, whether that be for New Orleans or another team.
The concern if he is traded is that he will need time to get up to speed with a new offense and that may impact the returns we see from him for fantasy football early in the season. If he remains with the Saints, their cap situation seems untenable for a long-term deal and therefore, we likely see Kamara playing on the final year of his deal. That could be a benefit for his fantasy outlook in 2020 as the Saints will have no hesitation in giving him a large workload this season.
How should you value Alvin Kamara for fantasy football?
If you are drafting this week, then Kamara is no longer a player you can risk selecting in the top half of the first round. With the likes of Derrick Henry and Joe Mixon expected to be feature backs in their offense and under contract, both offer a higher degree of safety than Kamara.
Kamara certainly has upside and, unless it is confirmed he will miss time, should at the very least be selected in the top half of the second round. At that point, despite the uncertainty and any concerns over performance decline last season, the upside is worth the potential reward.
If you have already drafted and you have Kamara on your roster, then be prepared for a host of “low ball” offers. The same goes for his current draft value; if you are not receiving a first or second-round caliber of talent in return, then do not be tempted to move on. Of course, this is case-by-case dependent and our fantastic team will be happy to try and help you wade through the uncertainty: @PFNDynasty on Twitter.