Alvin Kamara's perfect fit with the Saints should have been obvious on draft day
The ultra-efficient, dual-threat running back is the perfect prototype for Sean Payton
In New Orleans, Sean Payton has long been one of the league's most creative screen-game designers.
When the Saints won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2009 season, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas combined for 86 receptions, 657 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season. In the playoffs, they amassed 22 receptions, 206 yards, and three receiving scores.
We all remember the mastery put forth by Payton during the Darren Sproles era in New Orleans. For a reminder of the brilliance Sproles showcased with the Saints from 2011 to 2013, he had the most receptions (232) among all running backs, the most yards (1,981) and receiving touchdowns (16) all by wide margins during that period.
Athletically, Kamara is an explosive freak.
Per MockDraftable.com, his vertical jump of 39 1/2 inches at the combine placed him in the 92nd percentile among all running backs who've participated in that drill in Indy since 1999. His broad jump of 10-foot-1 put him in the 97th percentile. And he didn't hit those marks as an light, undersized back.
At 5-foot-10 and 214 pounds, Kamara is compactly built. For context on his size, he weighed in heavier than the following backs at their respective combines:
And it's not like Kamara was simply a springy athlete with untapped football skill. Here are his stat lines for his two seasons at Tennessee. Notice anything?
Combined together, Kamara averaged a rather ridiculous 7.0 yards per touch with 23 touchdowns in his two-year collegiate career. He scored on 10.9 percent of his touches, an astounding figure. He currently averages 8.35 yards per touch with the Saints.
Kamara's been an alpha dog for a while.
He was the country's No. 1 all-purpose back in 247's rankings back in 2013, and unsurprisingly chose Alabama. But with an overloaded backfield that featured Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon, and Kenyan Drake, he transferred to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas and became 247's No. 2 overall junior college prospect in 2015.
However, when he picked Tennessee for his second stop in the SEC, high school All-American Jalen Hurd already had a stranglehold on the starting running back gig after a fine freshman season in 2014. Therefore, the monstrous 6-foot-4, 220-pound Hurd was given the bulk of the carries in Knoxville during Kamara's time there.
In fact, Kamara finished third in carries to Hurd and quarterback Joshua Dobbs in both of his campaigns with the Volunteers. Crazy, right? As Kamara gradually became more involved in Tennessee's offensive game plan and was outperforming Hurd, the former unquestioned No. 1 back abruptly decided to transfer in-season. Down the stretch, with Hurd off the team, Kamara accumulated 415 yards on 57 touches (7.28 yards per) with seven touchdowns.
What we're seeing from Kamara in his debut season in the NFL is not new behavior.
So it's no wonder Payton -- along with the Saints' front office -- traded a 2017 seventh-round pick and a 2018 second-round pick to move up for Kamara. Payton likely envisioned a super-charged Pierre Thomas in his backfield alongside Mark Ingram.
Kamara's extraordinary athletic gifts and natural receiving ability, coupled with Sean Payton's affinity for and imagination with the screen game, have created a dynamic force in the Saints backfield that's hurtling toward the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
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