It’s rare when doing a fantasy football comparison of elite players – Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara – that potential jail time or a suspension factors into the decision.
Kamara was arrested in Las Vegas the night of the Super Bowl in an alleged altercation in which four men were charged with the beating of man that resulted in significant injuries. One of the charges Kamara faces is felony battery. His case has been pushed back months, and his next court appearance is scheduled for early August when the Saints are at training camp.
Seeing as the NFL tends to wait to hand down punishment until courts cases play out, the case may well drag into 2023. We’ve seen instances in which that wasn’t the case, though, so it can’t be entirely dismissed for fantasy calculus this summer.
For our purposes, this comparison is primarily based upon Kamara not facing a league suspension during the 2022 season.
The case for and against Christian McCaffrey
- When healthy, he has been as dominant as any double-threat back in the league. In his first three seasons, he had a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons and caught 303 passes for 2,523 yards.
- McCaffrey is a scoring machine, having generated 47 touchdowns in 58 career games.
- He has averaged 6.2 receptions a game for his career – a number few wide receivers can match.
- He proved he can carry a heavy workload. In 2019, he led the NFL with 403 touches and 2,392 total yards.
- CMC has the speed to get to the outside and make tacklers miss in the open field, turning sweeps and screens into chunk plays consistently.
- In 2019, he became just the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season, joining Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk.
- He has caught 81.3 percent of the career passes thrown his way, including 90 percent over the last two seasons.
- McCaffrey has played in only 10 of 33 games over the last two seasons.
- He hasn’t been limited to just one or two types of ailments, missing time over the last two seasons with ankle, hamstring, shoulder and thigh injuries. This has led to speculation that his massive workload in 2019 means he’s no longer suited to be a featured back in the NFL.
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The case for and against Alvin Kamara
- He is the blueprint for a dual-use running back. In five seasons, Kamara has rushed for 4,238 yards and caught 373 passes for 3,263 yards.
- In his first four seasons, Kamara was model of consistency in terms of receptions. In his first three seasons he caught 81 passes in each of them and landed 83 the following year (2020).
- He has become more of a focal point in the offense as a runner. Prior to last season, he had never rushed more than 194 times while in a platoon with a younger version of Mark Ingram. In 2021, despite playing his fewest games in a season (13), he had his most rushing attempts (240).
- He averaged 18.5 carries a game in 2021. Prior to that, Kamara’s career average was 11.2 carries a game.
- He has been an explosive and consistent scorer, registering 67 touchdowns in 73 career games, including seasons with 21 and 18 TDs.
- His legal issue will be a dark cloud hanging over him and the Saints, especially if his court case in Nevada requires his attendance during the season. As mentioned, the wheels of justice turn at a snail’s pace, and there’s no guarantee anything will be adjudicated during this calendar year. But that’s also not to say the NFL won’t hand down a suspension without a legal conclusion, either. Kamara could be advise his best course of action is to take a plea deal, which would move up the league’s timeline for handling the situation. In other words, there’s just no concrete answer as we head into the heart of draft season.
- He averaged 5.0 yards per carry in his career heading into last season with a season low of 4.6 yards a carry. Kamar produced just 3.7 yards a carry last season, albeit behind suspect quarterback play for half of the year and an offensive line decimated by injuries.
- His 70.1 percent catch rate in 2021 was the lowest of his career by far, as were his 47 receptions (his previous low was 81).
Fantasy football outlook
Neither player is without question marks heading into the 2022 season, but injury red flags are universal. If McCaffrey’s injuries were limited to one part of his body like an ankle or a shoulder, surgery could repair it and would win this head-to-head battle. When your injuries run from your shoulders to your feet, that is a problem.
Kamara saw his game change dramatically without Drew Brees last season, and his yards from scrimmage suffered. Although he hasn’t played every game in a season since his rookie year, he hasn’t missed a ton of time – just eight games in five years.
If both are healthy, you can’t go wrong with either one since each has displayed the ability to be explosive fantasy threats. But, at the end of the day, a decision must be based on the player that you’re convinced will be on the field week after week. At this point, Alvin Kamara would be the best bet to accomplish such a feat. McCaffrey is more explosive, but Kamara has a better health track record. The caveat here is if the league rules on his potential suspension prior to your draft, then all bets are off.