Every top running back list in the last four years should include New Orleans Saints’ Alvin Kamara, though rankings are bound to be shaken up season after season.
This year, Saints fans can jump for joy knowing that Kamara is still one of the best backs of the league despite Kamara’s numbers dipping in 2021 — nagged by injuries, Kamara started just 10 games and rushed 240 times for 898 yards, averaging the least efficient rushing rate of his career.
Kamara also recorded a career-low four rushing touchdowns, and he hauled in just 439 receiving yards during a season when NOLA’s passing attack looked its weakest in recent history.
No matter. The Saints get a much-needed fresh start in 2022, and Kamara still has a reserved spot in the upper echelons of the league’s best running backs right up there with Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, and Jonathan Taylor.
CBS Sports’ Patrik Walker ranked the league’s top 10 running backs for 2022 and placed Kamara in fourth:
"It was Kamara who helped keep the Saints’ offense relevant in 2021 — absent All-Pro wideout Michael Thomas and any sort of consistent production at QB following a torn ACL suffered by Jameis Winston — and it’s neither the first nor last time he’ll be tasked with being the bulk of the production. Kamara is truly lightning in a bottle and, without him, the Saints’ offense wouldn’t have been worth any conversation in 2021."
Even better news for Saints fans, however, may be the fact that Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey drops all the way to….outside the top-10!
No surprise here: Saints’ Alvin Kamara ranked as the fourth best running back in the NFL
McCaffrey is listed in the honorable mentions (along with Giants’ Saquon Barkley) due to his ongoing injury concerns; in spite of his unrivaled talent, the Carolina back has only played in 10 games since signing his contract in 2020.
If Saints fans thought Kamara’s absence last year was painful, Panthers fans discovered a deeper level of hurt and only saw McCaffrey play seven times last season. The 2017 first-rounder put together a middling 2021 season of 442 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown, marking a slight improvement from 2020 but an awful regression given his back-to-back 1,000-plus yard rushing seasons in 2018 and 2019.
What does this mean for the Saints? While Kamara may still get slapped with a multi-game suspension, these rankings officially make him the best running back in the NFC South.
Kamara, a five-time Pro Bowler, has served as one of NOLA’s most consistent and productive weapons for the last four years, greatly benefitting from the Saints’ stalwart offensive line. He may not be on Derrick Henry’s level (yet) but he’s won the hearts of Saints fans and has become a cornerstone piece of the running game.
He’ll look to increase his efficiency on the field in 2022 behind a revamped O-line and could even turn into a sneaky dangerous weapon in the passing offense, perhaps aiming closer for the 800-yard receiving totals he achieved during his rookie year.
There’s no question that Alvin Kamara remains one of the best at his position, but to see Christian McCaffrey plummet that far down the rankings? It’s the cherry on top of our tantalizingly sweet hopes for the Saints’ 2022 season.