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Toss Up: Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey

You’ve got a Top-3 pick! Who should you take: Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey?

Congratulations, you’ve landed one of the top three picks in your fantasy football draft. Now the question: Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, or Alvin Kamara? We can make a case for all three. Add Ezekiel Elliott to this tier as well, if he ever decides to play football again. Much like Jerry Jones, we’ll ignore him for now.

So who’s it going to be? The bell-cow generational talent on the mundane offense? The pass-catching phenom who never comes off the field? Or the smoothest & most elusive back in the game, albeit on a perceived snap-count? The Fantasy Authority has you covered, at least on the latter two. Ryan Murphy will take Christian McCaffrey, while Dan Haas sides with Alvin Kamara on this edition of Toss-Up. Let’s go!

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Alvin Kamara

ADP: 1.02 Standard, 1.03 PPR

Have you ever seen 8 Mile? If not, stop what you’re doing and go watch it. If you have seen it, then you’ll know exactly how I’m going to frame my argument—we’ll call it the anti-argument.

At the end of the movie, Eminem basically calls out all the insults that his rival can use against him and leaves the opposing rapper with nothing left to say. A true mic drop.

When given the choice between Kamara and other top tier running backs, opponents say he’s never had a full-time role with more than 194 carries in a season. They’ll say Latavius Murray is a threat to his workload and goal-line duties. They’ll say his touchdown efficiency will regress. I say, they’re wrong.

Indeed, Kamara never had the running back job to himself, with the exception of the first four games of last season while Mark Ingram was suspended. All he did was gain 611 total yards and score 6 total touchdowns—good enough to be the top fantasy RB during that span. If we are ready to buy into Christian McCaffrey as a workhorse running back who can withstand the pounding of the position while being listed at 5-11, 205 lbs, why is it that we think Kamara, listed at 5-10, 215 lbs, can’t handle full-time duty?

Perhaps it’s due to the presence of Murray. Many analysts are ready to anoint him the new Ingram. There’s just one problem: he’s not nearly as good of a player. Over the past six seasons, Ingram averaged a robust 4.7 yards per carry (YPC). Say what you want about YPC but over a large enough sample, it tends to stabilize. Can you guess how many times Murray has reached that lofty number in any of his past four seasons? Exactly zero. Is Murray an athletic freak? Sure, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to success at running back in the NFL.

That being said, I’d also argue that having a guy like Murray to take away some of the burden is actually a good thing for Kamara. We don’t want him being in the game for every snap, like McCaffrey.  The probability of an injury goes up the more chances you have to get hurt. Long-term, that’s a losing battle.

Finally, people will say that Kamara’s touchdowns will regress from the 15.5 he’s averaged in his first two seasons. Among all runners who carried the ball at least 10 times inside the 5-yard line in 2018, nobody had a higher touchdown percentage than Kamara’s 56% on 16 carries. Simply put, he’s the Saints’ goal line back in an offense that will see plenty of scoring opportunities.

Take away all these arguments and what you’re left with is a running back who Sean Payton once compared to the great Marshall Faulk. A back who’s been given the green light. A back who’s been so efficient at 1.4 PPR fantasy points per touch that if he sees any uptick in usage, his ceiling becomes limitless.

Here, now tell these people something they don’t know about him.

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Christian McCaffrey

ADP: 1.03 Standard, 1.02 PPR

Christian McCaffrey isn’t being taken as the consensus #1 overall pick in fantasy football this year and I’m not sure why. McCaffrey lit the league on fire his sophomore season, finishing as the RB2 overall in PPR scoring. CMC led the league in RB snap share at 94.5% and was first in targets and receptions at 124 and 103, respectively. He was 7th in yards per touch, 4th in red-zone touches, and top-ten in carries. McCaffrey also scored 13 total TDs, ranking 7th among RBs.

He did all of this while his star dual-threat QB, Cam Newton, was playing through a significant shoulder injury for a majority of the season. Newton missed Carolina’s last two regular-season games. So, clearly, McCaffrey did it all last year, even with his QB at less than 100%. The arrow is pointing straight up in 2019 as McCaffrey’s ceiling projects even higher. I wrote about Cam Newton’s value as a late-round QB option last month, as he is fully healthy after undergoing shoulder surgery in January. We will hope his preseason week 3 injury scare amounts to nothing serious.

D.J. Moore & Curtis Samuel have both been drawing rave reviews in Panthers’ training camp, only adding to Carolina’s offensive firepower. Norv Turner will be entering his second season as the offensive coordinator after finishing 11th in Offensive DVOA in 2018. He knows a thing or two about overseeing bell-cow, dual-threat running backs. We miss you, LaDainian Tomlinson.

The Panthers’ offensive line finished 11th in the league last year in adjusted line yards, per Football Outsiders. Evan Silva has them ranked 10th in his list of the best offensive lines in the NFL going into 2019. They added veteran C Matt Paradis & drafted LT Greg Little in this year’s draft, helping their case. Expect even more improved running lanes for CMC and better pass-protection for Newton this season.

There have been a few rumors that CMC could see goal-line work vultured away as the Panthers’ would like to lighten his workload. By whom, you might ask? The Panther’s RB depth chart is as follows: McCaffrey, Jordan Scarlett & Cameron Artis Payne. I don’t see any threat to his workload in 2019. If his usage was an actual concern, Carolina would’ve signed a veteran bruiser-type back in the offseason, or spent a high draft pick on one.

Christian McCaffrey returns from an elite 2018 campaign with a healthy QB, a re-vamped O-line, emerging playmakers on the outside, and one of the game’s most innovative play-callers in Norv Turner. He has the most receiving upside of any back in the league. There should be no hesitation when it comes to the first pick off the board this year.

 

We hope we helped you feel more confident about the difficult decision of: Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey ? Thanks for reading and please check out other draft content at The Fantasy Authority! Be sure to follow Dan and Ryan on Twitter @Dan_Haas and @themurph32 for any fantasy football advice!

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