Alvin Kamara has undoubtedly become one of the offensive staples of the New Orleans Saints over the last few years. Between his on-field production and his personality in the locker rooms, he’s quickly become a favorite among many Saints fans. But with his current rookie contract set to expire after this upcoming season, let’s take a look at why Kamara deserves an extension in 2021.
During the 2017 NFL Draft, the pickup of Kamara during the third round by the New Orleans Saints — the 67th overall pick — was considered a steal by analysts and draft experts. Kamara was projected to leave the boards earlier in the second round that year against the other RBs available for the draft.
Kamara impressed with not only his physicality and speed during the NFL Combine, but he also had the highest Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test scores of all running backs that year.
What do the stats say about Alvin Kamara?
To say that Kamara has put up some impressive numbers since being drafted by the Saints in 2017 is nothing short of an understatement. Over the course of his three years in the NFL, Kamara has rushed for 2,408 total yards and 27 touchdowns during the regular seasons. But, his versatility becomes more apparent in his receiving numbers. In conjunction with his rushing yardage, Kamara has also completed 243 receptions for 2,068 total yards.
The numbers for Kamara are obviously stellar, but how does this reflect in his production value? We use Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric to get a better look at a player’s individual production value each week in the league. Kamara’s overall OSM grades for 2017, 2018, and 2019 were 16.24, 16.07, and 13.69 respectively. Kamara was voted to the NFL Pro Bowl in all three of those seasons. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these to see what these numbers mean.
For the 2018 regular season, Alvin Kamara finished the year with an overall OSM grade of 16.07. Against all other NFL running backs that year, his OSM grade ranked his production value as RB19 on the season. His 883 rushing yards that year were the 18th most in the NFL, and he was no stranger to the end zone. Kamara scored 14 touchdowns in 2018, which was the second-highest of any running back that year.
Kamara’s production saw a slight downtick in the 2019 regular season but his overall production was still above the NFL average. Some of this can be attributed to both knee and ankle injuries midway through the season that caused him to miss multiple games. He still managed an overall OSM grade of 13.69 in 2019, ranking as RB26 for individual production. He rushed for a total of 797 yards across 171 attempts, giving him an average yards per attempt of 4.7 — the 12th highest yards per carry for running backs that season.
Looking towards the future for the Saints and Kamara
So what does this all mean for Kamara’s contract extension in 2021? Kamara’s versatility as not only a primary back but as a receiver makes him a must-have for the Saints’ offense next season. His OSM data proves his production value as an individual player and shows his ability to create yardage as a reliable key piece of the offensive unit. Even when faced with injury and a shorter season, he is still able to perform at a higher level and maintain consistency.
A lot of the signs are pointing towards quarterback Drew Brees retiring from the NFL soon. The New Orleans Saints’ pass-heavy offense today is built around Brees — the current NFL all-time leader for total career passing yards. But, if Brees is out this year, it would be expected for the Saints offense to rely more on the run game in 2021, which leaves Kamara in the prime position to be a leader in a Brees-less playbook.
Ultimately, Kamara has performed at a well above average production level over the span of his first three years in the NFL. His OSM data shows consistency in his individual production and trends show that is expected to continue on. Kamara’s performance so far for New Orleans has proven the need for an upcoming extension, but if Brees is out after this season, it should be the first extension negotiated ahead of 2021.