With the Patriots emerging as Super Bowl champions, it means a number of things. First, the legacies of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the New England dynasty have been cemented forever. Second, as Belichick himself said, the team and we as fans are 5 weeks behind in free agency and draft talk. This draft season is expected to be much more fun than last year, when the Patriots didn’t have a first round pick for a reason that is lost to history.
This year, the Patriots draft slot is 32nd by virtue of being the best team in the NFL, so guys who are going to go early like Myles Garrett, Jonathan Allen, or Jamal Adams are not going to be discussed in this series. Additionally, while any position is up for grabs to be discussed and picked, there will be a heavy focus on positions of need for the Patriots.
With all that out of the way, let’s get this started! First up: Alvin Kamara, a running back out of the University of Tennessee.
Alvin Kamara, RB, University of Tennessee
Alvin Kamara is a redshirt Junior who will turn 22 over the summer. After spending time as a backup to Jalen Hurd, Kamara took over as the starter this year when Hurd got hurt, and then announced he was going to transfer from Tennessee. Alvin originally committed to Alabama as one of the top running backs of his class out of Norcross, Georgia, but had to redshirt his freshman year due to a knee injury. After some behavioral issues and an arrest for a traffic incident, Kamara transferred to Hutchinson community college, per NFL.com. While there he won offensive player of the year, and then transferred to Tennessee after the season. He is listed at 5’10’, 215 pounds.
Kamara has perhaps the best balance in this class, he is extremely tough to bring down. While he doesn’t have elite top-end speed, he has good burst and agility. He was utilized often in the passing game, and has very reliable hands. Kamara wasn’t asked to sit in pass protection often, but showed a willingness and ability to make tough blocks when he did.
While his relatively light workload in college (just under 150 touches per year in his two seasons at Tennessee) could lead to some questions about his ability to be a feature back, he showed that ability during his year at Hutchinson, when he rushed for over 1,200 yards and had 21 touchdowns. His light workload over the past two years will also work in his favor for teams who view him as a feature back, as there is less wear and tear on his body.
Although Kamara shouldn’t have too much of a concern with his size translating to the NFL, he is a bit undersized. If he makes it to the combine and lives up to his 5’10” listing and makes it to about 220 pounds, all concerns are gone, but school listings are often generous, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see him come in below both his listings.
As mentioned above, he doesn’t have elite top end speed. I don’t get a great sense of field speed translating to 40 times at the combine, but I would expect him to run around a 4.5, give or take a couple tenths of a second. If he comes out and runs in the low 4.4’s, that would be a huge boost to his stock. Kamara fumbled the ball 7 times in about 300 carries at Tennessee, which is a bit alarming but also correctable. He does have some injury concerns, suffering the knee injury that forced him to redshirt at Alabama as well as a sprained LCL and meniscus in his left knee while at Tennessee.
Here, we see Kamara take the hand-off out of shotgun, fight through traffic, and shake off arm tackles with ease on his way to a touchdown.
In the same game against Vanderbilt, Kamara drops down before heading out for a slip screen. He takes in the pass and immediately spins away from a diving tackle attempt. Numerous Commodores attempt to tackle Kamara up high, something that is impossible to do against him, his balance is just too good. He shakes off 3 of these tackles, and flies through two more arm tackles on his way to the end zone.
In a 2015 game against Bowling Green, this isn’t a play that will end up on highlight reels, but is indicative of translatable skills to the NFL. Kamara takes the hand-off on a jet sweep, exhibits the patience to carry it laterally, and the vision and burst to cut upfield as soon as his hole opens up, letting his blockers maximize his gain on the play.
This, however, is one for the highlight reel. He gets to the edge, slows down, and makes a move that looks like he’s slipping before popping up and keeping his balance to explode by the defender, who took a really good angle, for the touchdown.
This play is Kamara in a nutshell. He has the vision and burst to see his lane, hit it and bounce outside with one sudden motion, and while he doesn’t have the breakaway speed to outrun the defensive back, his balance allows him to stay upright for the final 15 yards into the end zone.
Another one for the “won’t appear in a highlight reel” collection, Kamara reads Jonathan Allen off the edge, takes it laterally until he finds his hole, and finishes strong, falling forward through the tacklers for a couple extra yards.
Lastly, in his game against Georgia this year, another example of his insane balance. Kamara lines up in the slot, breaks on an out route toward the sideline, secures the catch and not only shakes the tackler, but stops his feet before they slide out of bounds, and bursts ahead untouched the rest of the way until he’s crossing into the endzone.
While the conventional hype is that Christian McCaffrey is the perfect Patriots running back, and he would also be a great fit, Kamara is just as good of a—if not a better—fit than McCaffrey. The Tennessee running back is currently my favorite player in the class, at any position. Kamara can run between the tackles as well as in space, has the agility and decisiveness that the Patriots love, and can be implemented both in pass protection and pass receiving, something the Patriots heavily value out of their running backs.
Kamara is a round one caliber running back, and with a good combine could solidify himself as a late first/early second lock. It’s tough to see the Patriots take any running back at 32, or having a chance to get him in the second round at 64. If they acquire an early second or extra first in a Jimmy Garoppolo trade, however, they would be wise to add this playmaker to the arsenal.