Alvin Kamara snubbed from ESPN’s top-10 running backs rankings

One of the more interesting exercises ESPN runs each summer is polling dozens of NFL personnel to rank different position groups, speaking with sources ranging from general managers and team executives to position coaches and regional scouts. It gives us a great idea of how players are perceived around the league, highlighting those whose stars are rising and others who may be growing dim.

And the first entry in this year’s series feels like a slight to Alvin Kamara. The New Orleans Saints running back won the team’s touchdowns record in 2023, but his contract is set up for the team to cut him in 2025 and he’s understandably pushing for an extension in 2024. But how much money that may cost the team is a sticking-point. We don’t know what kind of offers Kamara might find on the open market, but as far as ESPN’s sources around the league are concerned, he isn’t a top-10 player at his position.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler shared the top-10 rankings his voters decided on, and Kamara didn’t make the cut. He wasn’t even the first honorable mention (or the second, third, or fourth). Here’s more from Fowler’s piece:

Kamara has been a fixture in the top 10, ranking as high as No. 2 in 2021, but Kamara’s production has been less efficient in recent seasons. He has averaged 3.87 yards per carry since 2021, which is good enough for 830 yards per season. “He might have hit a wall a little bit,” an NFL running backs coach said. “He’s still a great all-purpose back and can run all the different schemes, has burst and contact. But the production hasn’t been there. Though I think [offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak’s] system will be really good for him.”

It’s true that Kamara’s numbers have fallen off. He’s averaged fewer yards per carry but more rushing attempts per game than we saw earlier in his career as the Saints lean on him more and more, and the sky-high scoring output we saw with Drew Brees leading the huddle hasn’t resurfaced while the Saints looked for Brees’ replacement. Between a massive downgrade at quarterback, a deteriorating offensive line, and subpar play calling Kamara hasn’t gotten much support and his production reflects that.

But as Fowler’s source said, there’s reason for optimism in 2024. A modernized offense with Kubiak calling plays will do so much for a playmaker like Kamara. If the offensive line’s youth movement pays off with younger, more athletic blockers like Taliese Fuaga, Nick Saldiveri, and even Trevor Penning finding their way, that makes Kamara’s life easier, too. And we can’t say that Derek Carr won’t throw him the football (Kamara’s 5.8 receptions per game last year tied his career-high). The question is whether Carr can put him in a more advantageous position rather than just check it down when under pressure.

Hopefully Kamara turns it around. But he’s reaching that age and state of wear and tear that tends to separate good running backs from the greats.

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Alvin Kamara snubbed from ESPN’s top-10 running backs rankings

Author: John Sigler

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