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Will he play in Week 11, and is he still elite?

Alvin Kamara’s knee injury threw fantasy football managers into a tailspin last weekend, forcing some of us to scramble to replace one of the most reliable RB1s. What is his injury outlook ahead of Week 11, and with Mark Ingram flashing in his absence, can we be 100% confident that Kamara will remain a locked-in RB1 when he returns?

Alvin Kamara’s injury outlook in Week 11

Last weekend, Kamara missed only the fifth game of his 68-game NFL career. With Michael Thomas out all season and New Orleans’ remaining receivers unable to fill the vacuum, the star RB has carried the Saints on his back. He’s amassed 503 yards and 3 touchdowns on 146 carries. Additionally, Kamara has been the team’s No. 1 receiver, catching 32 of 42 targets for 310 yards and 4 TDs.

The good news for fantasy managers is that Kamara returned to practice on Wednesday. As referenced above, he’s been fairly durable and rarely overworked. Barring a setback, he will travel to Philadelphia and start against the Eagles. So fire him up as an RB1, right?

Kamara’s fantasy outlook this week and beyond

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with starting Kamara every week. But a strong case could be made that the fantasy asset we know and love is not the same elite player. His 19.8 points per game (No. 4 among fantasy RBs) is phenomenal. We’re accustomed to this.

The problem is that he’s been working harder for his points. Kamara entered this season averaging 5.0 yards per carry. This year, he’s down to 3.6. Why? In all likelihood, defenses are locking in on the Saints’ clear-cut No. 1 offensive weapon. This is New Orleans’ worst passing attack since before the Drew Brees era. Kamara is accustomed to running on a defense that has to respect the pass. That’s no longer the case.

The stats tell the story

A glaring stat highlights the issue. According to Next Gen Stats, Kamara averaged a 3.66 rushing efficiency last year, which translates to “the total distance a player traveled on rushing plays as a ball carrier (measured in yards) per rushing yards gained. The lower the number, the more of a North/South runner.”

For context, 3.66 was a solid showing, on par with high-functioning RBs like James Robinson (3.65), Derrick Henry (3.57), and David Montgomery (3.71).

This year, Kamara is the fourth-least efficient runner with a 4.61 efficiency rating. He’s expending more energy and producing fewer yards. When we factor in Ingram’s capability as an experienced back who can step up when needed, it’s fair to wonder if Kamara will sustain his 22.3-touch-per-game clip, which is several touches above his career average.

Simply put, we can trust Kamara as a must-start RB when he returns. However, he is no longer a reliably elite (or even near-elite) RB. He needs more touches than ever to maintain a semblance of his former greatness. If those touches dip, his production will likely dip as well.

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