Last week, the NFL announced that Mark Ingram would be suspended four games for violation the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. When this was announced, a storm of fantasy pundits had to get out there and let us know how this would affect the fantasy value of Alvin Kamara. And because we are on the internet, all of those opinions were dumb and bad. Yes, I know that you are reading this on the internet. Football Absurdity at least has the decency to let you know in advance how dumb and bad we are.
There are people out there who would have you believe that Alvin Kamara is not as valuable as he is. I hate them. Why do I hate them? Is it because the information they are providing lacks context? Is it because their hot takes defy common sense? Is it because they have dumb faces? Yes.
Andrew Olsen on Saturday Down South would have you believe that Alvin Kamara won’t get any more carries with Mark Ingram suspended. His reasoning? Because Sean Payton said so. A person who operates under the assumption that a head coach in the National Football League is anything other than a filthy liar needs to get their priorities in order.
But for the sake of argument, let us take Sean Payton at his word. Mr. Payton said don’t expect Alvin Kamara to get 15 more carries. If I were a fantasy expert, which you know I am because why the hell else are you reading this, I would provide a different take. I think it’s very clear that Sean Payton just said Alvin Kamara is absolutely, guaranteed, for sure getting 14 extra carries a game while. Maybe 13 extra carries if he is having an off-night.
Or maybe, just maybe, it is just possible that the amount of carries Alvin Kamara gets in a game isn’t an all or nothing endeavor. There are all sorts in infinitesimal increases that could still add to Alvin Kamara’s overall value.
Joe Pollock wants to make sure you don’t trade Ezekiel Elliott for Alvin Kamara. Joe Pollock thinks you are an idiot. Thank you, Joe, for creating hypothetical scenarios that no sane person was considering. Joe also wants to make sure you don’t hit on your bosses wife. If this was just a clever way to point out that people’ had unrealistic expectation for Alvin Kamara’s usage, it wasn’t very clever. In fact, it was downright disingenuous. A lot of time was spent focusing on how many carries Sean Payton’s running backs have during a season, but not a single sentence was devoted to their catch rate.
This is a very glaring omission, since in the twelve years Sean Payton has been with the Saints, nine of his running backs have been targeted in the passing game 70 times or more. He has had four running backs targeted 100 times or more in the passing game, one of which was Alvin Kamara. To ignore his contribution in the passing game is to ignore half of his overall value.
Even Chris Harris, of ESPN fame, said on his May 10th, 2018 podcast that Alvin Kamara was not going to get 25-30 touches per game. Really, Chris? You are telling us that Kamara isn’t going to reach a volume that has only happened twice since 2009. Got it. Any other important facts we need to know? Don’t forget to let your audience know that the NFL will be utilizing the forward pass in professional football this year.
This is why we need an Absurdity Check! I understand not wanting to get too excited about Alvin Kamara. But don’t, in your attempts to moderate your excitement, abandon reason. Of course, the only running back with the ability to challenge Kamara for touches disappearing for four games is going to have a positive impact on him. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous.
For the first four games of the season, Alvin Kamara just locked down the starting job in an offense that was a top five offense in rushing and passing last season. And it just so happens that Kamara is really good at rushing and receiving. Ergo, Alvin Kamara is gonna eat.
The significance of Kamara in the starting role for four games is there is a very good chance he will stay in that role. Mark Ingram is the past. Alvin Kamara is the future. Ingram is on the last year of his contract with the Saints. Kamara is so valuable to the Saints organization that they traded a 2018 second round pick to trade up and get him. You don’t invest that kind of draft capital and not give a player every opportunity to succeed.
Let us say, just for a second, that you agree with my assertion that the New Orleans Saints investment in Alvin Kamara is correct and that I am the most handsome man you have ever seen. What then, Waleed? Well, now we can try to extrapolate a reasonable expectation of usage for Alvin Kamara. I’m not even going to do anything fancy with this number. I am just going to look at the usage of Mark Ingram last year and pretend that we give those numbers to Alvin Kamara. Which, if Kamara ends up the starter for the entire season, is a very reasonable expectation.
Last year, Mark Ingram had 230 carries and 58 receptions for a total of 288 touches. Alvin Kamara had 120 carries and 81 receptions for a total of 201 touches. That is a 43% increase in usage for Alvin Kamara. Even if Kamara regresses from his unsustainable touches to touchdown ratio, his volume increase will almost assuredly make up for this.
And I’m not 100% convinced that he is guaranteed to regress that much. The math part of my brain knows that it is impossible for Kamara to sustain the numbers he had last year over a 16 game season. The part of my brain that watched Alvin Kamara play football last season thinks he is an unbelievable talent and there is a very real chance he is just that amazing.
To me, it is absurd that there is even a question about whether Alvin Kamara is being overvalued with the Mark Ingram suspension. The question isn’t whether Alvin Kamara is going to end the year as a top ten running back, but whether he is going to end the year as the top running back.