Experienced and successful against good college programs
Ready to contribute immediately
Can he handle a big work load of carries in the NFL?
Never was the feature back for an entire season
Quick, but not overly fast and can be caught from behind
Summary: The SEC is a run-based conference that plays a lot of smash-mouth football, and Kamara was a standout running back for two of the conference's legendary programs. There is no doubt that he is a quick, athletic and versatile back who has play-making potential for the NFL.
Kamara started out his career at Alabama. He had an arrest for a traffic violation and had a warrant issued after failing to appear in court, but NFL teams say that there is nothing to really worry about Kamara off the field. He ended up leaving Alabama primarily because the program had a crowded backfield and he wanted to see the field sooner. Prior to Kamara's leaving, Nick Saban heaped praise on Kamara, and even after Kamara left, Saban said they knew that Kamara was a real talent with special ability. Kamara landed at Tennessee where he formed a dangerous tandem with power back Jalen Hurd.
In 2015, Kamara averaged 6.5 yards per carry for 698 yards with seven touchdowns. He showed his receiving skills with 34 receptions for 291 yards with three scores. As a junior, Kamara was excellent at the start of the year and eventually Hurd quit the team. In 2016, Kamara averaged 5.8 yards per carry for 596 yards and nine scores. He also caught 40 passes for 392 yards and four scores. The juniot averaged 9.7 yards per punt return per well.
As a runner, Kamara is a play-maker. He is quick, sudden, and a threat to rip off a chunk run on any touch. Kamara has moves in the open field to juke defenders or weave around them with excellent cutting ability. He also has a quick step to break into the open field. Kamara possesses vision, cutting ability, and runs with excellent knee bend to stay behind his pads. While he isn't the biggest of backs, he has a quality build and weight to help him take hits.
The NFL is a passing-driven league, and Kamara fits it perfectly in that regard as he is a tremendous receiving back. As a receiver, he has soft hands and is a very good route-runner. Kamara could end up being one of the better receiving backs in the NFL. Tennessee would line him up as a slot receiver, and he was excellent in that role. He also was solid as a blocker. Kamara is an excellent returner on special teams, but as a pro, he probably won't be called on to do that because his team will want to protect him.
In the NFL, Kamara isn't the biggest of backs to take on a huge work load of carries. He does run the ball well between the tackles, but he was never the feature back in college. There is doubt around the league that Kamara can handle being a 20-carry-per-game back and hold up for a whole season. Some scouts feel that Kamara would be better as a rotational back and more of the feature back in the passing offense.
Here is how one top scout expressed the concerns on Kamara, "He just has no track record of being THE guy and handling the load for a stretch. There's a poor history trying to project part time guys as lead backs in the NFL: Reggie Bush, Ronnie Brown, Laurence Maroney, Felix Jones for instance were just as dynamic if not better as college players and had even more tape than Kamara did, and they all struggled making that transition. It's harder projecting to a 16-game schedule (let alone an extensive career) for running backs that haven't done it majority of their collegiate careers. There's always an outlier so it's a "never say never" situation. To me, he's a 2, and I would feel good about getting him in that range as a pick. That's a good second-round pick for any team employing that role. That would be his best best. Get in a situation where he can replicate what he's been doing already, prove/grow into more extensive role being the goal."
If Kamara goes to a team with a good offensive line and quarterback, he could provide an immediate impact and be a difference-maker. Kamara could go late in the first round, but the second round seems like his most likely destination.
Player Comparison: Jamaal Charles. There are two Jamaal Charles-type backs in this draft class with Stanford's Christian McCaffrey being one and Kamara being the other. Charles (5-11, 199) and Kamara are almost identical in size. Both can run the ball between the tackles with the explosiveness to rip off yards in chunks. They are tremendous receivers out of the backfield with shifty moves in the open field. Like Charles, Kamara could be a three-down difference-maker in the NFL.
NFL Matches: Indianapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, New York Giants, Detroit, New York Jets, Carolina, Minnesota
There are a lot of teams that could take Kamara despite not having a need at the position because he is a play-maker who could have a huge impact at providing wins for his team.
In the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, there are a lot of teams that could consider taking a running back. Perhaps the highest Kamara could hope to go would be in the middle of Round 1. The Colts (14), Eagles (15), and Ravens (16) all need long-term starting running backs. Of those three, the Colts are probably the least likely to take a tailback because of their vast needs on the defensive side of the ball. Philadelphia with Doug Pederson's offense would be a good fit for Kamara's running and receiving skills. Baltimore has tried a few different runners, but needs a lead back to carry the ground game. Tampa Bay could consider taking Kamara given Doug Martin's situation and uncertain future with the organization.
However, going in the top 20 seems too high for Kamara. Being selected late in the first round by one of the playoff teams is more feasible. There are a lot of fits among the playoff teams for Kamara. In the NFC North, the Packers lost Eddie Lacy this offseason and will need a starting running back. Kamara would be a great scheme fit for Green Bay. The Lions had the 30th-ranked rushing offense in 2016 and haven't had Ameer Abdullah panned out thus far.
The Giants fielded the 29th-ranked rushing offense last season and badly need some talent in the backfield. A speedy and play-making back like Kamara would really diversify their offense.
If Kamara slips to the second round, he shouldn't have a long wait. The Jets have Matt Forte, but the skilled veteran is aging. Kamara could make a big difference for whomever is the Jets next starting quarterback following Josh McCown - perhaps Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty.
Adding Kamara to Cam Newton could be a dynamic combination of running ability for the Panthers. Jonathan Stewart just turned 30 prior and has had durability throughout his career. If Kamara gets to the Panthers' second-round pick, he could be too good to pass up.
The Vikings need a replacement for Adrian Peterson, and Kamara would diversify their offense. Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Baltimore would all be prime candidates to select Kamara with a second-round pick - if he falls that far.