NFC South

Draft Guide Exclusive – Clash of the Titans: Christian McCaffery vs Alvin Kamara – J. Salmeri

by Joe Salmeri

Simply put, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara are studs. They came into the 2017 draft class together and each one has looked nothing short of spectacular. This comparison is so enticing due to both McCaffrey and Kamara having very similar play styles and both revolutionizing the running back position. 

Kamara and McCaffrey are second to none when it comes to route running and catching the ball out of the back field. Last year McCaffrey and Kamara finished 3 and 4 in PPR, McCaffrey was 3 and Kamara 4. The big thing to keep in mind here is that McCaffrey did this on 91% of the snaps for the Panthers, while Kamara did this on 65% of the snaps for the Saints. Their numbers were similar, for the most part, considering that Kamara played significantly less snaps compared to McCaffrey. McCaffrey rushed for 1098 yards on 219 carries, Kamara rushed for 883 yards on 194 carries. McCaffrey caught 107 passes for 867 yards and Kamara 81 for 709 yards. Kamara totaled 18 total touchdowns on the year, while McCaffrey totaled 13. Based on these end of the year totals, both players are very similar in what they do on the field. Both can be 3 down backs, running both outside and between the tackles, and both are the best backs in the league when it comes to route running (challenged only by Le’veon Bell). McCaffrey and Kamara can run every route in the playbook and they are so versatile that opposing defenses must plan around how they are going to contain these dynamic young stars.

Now that we know the numbers and know what each of these guys can do on the field, let’s settle this debate on who should be drafted first in fantasy drafts. Judging by the numbers we saw, I believe most people would say McCaffrey should be the top choice. That said, a big part of the reason why this is such a good debate is that Mark Ingram, the guy taking touches away from Kamara, is now on the Ravens. On top of this, there have also been talks on limiting McCaffrey’s work load a bit with the drafting of Elijah Holyfield out of Georgia, though his workload should not be limited too much – McCaffrey is a homerun threat each time he touches the ball. 

The Saints, on the other hand, attained Latavius Murray from the Vikings in free agency to fill Mark Ingram’s absence. The belief is that Murray will take away some touches from Kamara, but not as much as Ingram did. The Saints didn’t have a problem letting Ingram go for a reason, and that reason is that the Saints believe in the ability of Kamara being a potential three down back in the league like McCaffrey was last year. Why wouldn’t you want your most explosive offensive weapon touching the ball as much as possible? Of course, while you also must protect the health of running backs and can’t feed them the rock every single play, I still believe we will see an increase in Kamara’s touches this coming season as well as a slight decrease in the amount of touches for McCaffrey as the Panthers do not want to risk injuring the 3rd year star. 

The essence of the debate to me is simple: the better offense (Kamara) vs. more opportunity (McCaffrey). When the season is all said and done, it will not surprise anyone if McCaffrey has more touches on the season than Kamara. Who comes out on top in the end will rely on how often Sean Payton wants to use Kamara and if Kamara’s usage rate can climb to 80% this year, which I believe it will. 

I believe the better option to take in PPR drafts is Kamara. The Saints, by far, have the better offensive line and the better all-around offense. They are much more explosive and score at a much higher rate than the Carolina Panthers. When you add all this up, I believe we are looking at Kamara very easily finishing in the top 3 when it comes to running backs in PPR. 

Kamara’s efficiency is insane – he averages close to 5 yards per carry, 9 yards a reception, and scored 5 more touchdowns than McCaffrey with less touches. However, it cannot be ignored that McCaffrey’s efficiency is also off the charts as he averages 5 yards per carry, and 8 yards per catch. If McCaffrey’s workload can remain the same as last season, he can challenge Kamara for fantasy points without question.

 If you take my advice and draft Kamara over McCaffrey, you are betting on Latavius Murray not being involved in the offense as much as Mark Ingram was. After researching and reading different reports, I do not believe Murray will see the usage rate that Ingram saw. 

If you draft McCaffrey over Kamara this season, you are betting on the belief that his usage rate will stay the same and that Kamara will not touch the ball much more than last year. If Kamara gets the chance to have anywhere close to over 80% of the backfield work, my guess is that he will finish first in PPR points this year for running backs (barring any injury setbacks).

 You cannot go wrong with drafting either Kamara or McCaffrey and you should hope you are lucky enough to be in a position to draft one these PPR monsters. After gathering all the information I could on these two backs, I believe Kamara will have the slight edge over McCaffrey this season in fantasy simply due to the fact that his workload should increase about 15-20% more and if he can keep his efficiency with more touches – which I believe he will –  on this loaded Saints’ offense, then there is no stopping Alvin Kamara this year in the fantasy football world.



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