Who is the best running back in the NFL, Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey?
Alvin Kamara has the attention of the entire NFL world following his best performance of his career, in which he tied the record with a dominant six touchdowns in a single game. He finished with 22 rushing attempts (a career-high), 155 rushing yards (a career-high), and six rushing touchdowns (an all-time high), along with three receptions and 17 receiving yards. Naturally, everyone is talking about the Saints running back after this big night on Christmas Day with all eyes on him – especially fantasy playoff finalists.
So now is a great time to see where he ranks among the NFL's best running backs. Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers is the most natural and closest comparison for Kamara. Both of these players are known for their outstanding passing ability, but they are also both excellent runners. Let's take a look at the matchup between Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey.
Running: Kamara vs McCaffrey
Since entering the league as the 67th overall pick in 2017, Alvin Kamara has only had three 100-yard rushing games, including this week. He also has a 97-yard game and numerous games in the 80-yard range. Over the same time period, Christian McCaffrey has a spectacular ten 100-yard rushing games, as well as a few near misses of his own (he was drafted 8th overall in the same draft).
McCaffrey and Kamara's running styles combine raw athleticism with the ability to make people miss with quickness and agility.
Even though they're both small, they can break tackles, even if they're normally better off avoiding the defender altogether. Both of them can work both inside and outside the tackles, and they are equally good at the goal line, so the biggest difference between the two players is volume. In the two seasons since Cam Newton's retirement, McCaffrey has averaged 18.2 rush attempts per game, while Kamara has averaged 12.3.
With more carries, McCaffrey averages 4.6 yards per carrying, while Kamara averages 5.0. In terms of rushing the ball, these two are neck and neck; McCaffrey simply does it more often, resulting in a significant advantage in 100-yard games despite his lower efficiency.
Receiving battle: Kamara vs McCaffrey
While these players' primary position is running back, I don't think a comparison of these two players could be complete without discussing what happens once they leave the backfield.
The Panthers and Saints have two of the best receiving backs in the league, if not the best, and they make good use of them. In 51 career games (7.8 per game), McCaffrey has been targeted 398 times and has caught 320 of them.
Kamara has thrown for 409 yards and caught 320 passes in 60 games (6.8 per game), numbers that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Kamara's receptions have returned 2824 yards (8.7 per catch), while McCaffrey's have returned 2672 yards (8.4 per catch) – almost identical numbers, and both ridiculously impressive. The rushing stats barely distinguish them, and the receiving stats aren't much better. I suppose it's time to get down to business.
Production: Kamara vs McCaffrey
They're both incredibly productive in terms of touchdowns and incredibly efficient.
While Cam Newton was playing quarterback and scoring himself, CMC's scoring was hampered, but he has begun to make up for it since then. He has 45 touchdowns in 51 games [and a crazy 25 in the 19 games after Cam left Carolina] after scoring 29 rushing touchdowns and 16 receiving touchdowns in his first four seasons. Kamara has been one of the most efficient scorers in the NFL, with 43 rushing touchdowns and 15 receiving touchdowns for a total of 58 touchdowns in 60 games for the Saints star.
Christian McCaffrey has 1002 touches [Rushes + Receptions] for 5817 scrimmage yards and 45 touchdowns in just over four seasons. Alvin Kamara has 6164 scrimmage yards and 58 touchdowns on 998 touches.
Who is better, Kamara vs McCaffrey?
I went into this article expecting Christian McCaffrey to come out on top, but I was pleasantly surprised. I want to state upfront that this article was inspired by Kamara having the best game of his life in Week 16 of a season in which the player I'm comparing him to has only played three games. As a result, the exact figures should be taken with a grain of salt.
However, when I compare the stats for two impressive careers in the making, with just four touches of the football between them in their first four years in the league, the third-round selection comes out on top.
In terms of production, efficiency, and – without a doubt – return on investment from their 2017 selection, Alvin Kamara edges out Christian McCaffrey as of Boxing Day 2020. With each passing week, the Saints' storied draft class improves.