RSP Boiler Room No.83: RB Alvin Kamara (Tennessee), Fine Points of Decision-Making

Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio examines Running Back Alvin Kamara's on field ability for the 2017 NFL Draft

I admire the construction of the Kamara Train, but until he learns to build a smarter railway, I’m content with getting my ticket at a later date. 

There’s a lot of love for Alvin Kamara among the draftnik community. Don’t include me.

I like Kamara. He’s a dynamic space player who can do some good work between the tackles. But in a rich class of runners, you won’t see him in my top 5 list of backs.

It’s unlikely he’ll be in my top 10. And unless I see overwhelming evidence of better ball security and decision-making—which is doubtful—he won’t be in my top 15-20.

It doesn’t make Kamara a bad player. I have a process that differs from the NFL’s system of round grades. While I’m critical of that system for compelling reasons as a former operations guy,  there is validity to giving more weight to a player’s projected improvement than his current portfolio of work.

I project player development within my process, but there are limits to how much weight I’m willing to give. If Kamara improves his ball security, I would easily place him inside my top 15-20 and (if) when he matures as a decision-maker,  he could score within my top 8-12 backs.

This week’s Boiler Room examines three plays where his choices hurt his team and will continue to hurt them until he matures.

For analysis of skill players in the 2017 draft class, pre-order a login for the 2017 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – for April 1 download  Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2017 RSPs at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.

Categories: 2017 NFL Draft, Matt Waldman, Players, Running Back, The Boiler RoomTags: , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I never heard of Matt Waldman, compared to other known draft analysts. Who are the 15 running backs that he would rank ahead of Kamara?

    • I’m the same guy who thought LeVeon Bell’s quickness would translate to the NFL, who thought Bishop Sankey and Knile Davis were not NFL-caliber starters, and at the same time, raved about Spencer Ware’s ability to become a valuable contributor in the NFL as a running back while at LSU. I have my share of misses like everyone, but that’s a little bit about my work that you’ll find around here if you care to take a look around. Enjoy.


  2. I believe that last run was the worst of his career. Complete mental lapse. He must have paniced and for a moment forgot it was fourth down and just tried to get out of bounds. But to say there are 15 to 20 guys ahead of him seems a reach. He has ELITE speed and acceleration but maybe didn’t see the field enough over his career to correct such a simple mistake. I believe that mistake in such a critical moment is a great lesson scouts would rather him learn in college than in the pros. But in the end all of the things you point out CAN be corrected. Much of the praise he recieves involves the things that cannot be coached. Much of the Butch Jones staff, as well as Dobbs has praised his coachability so you have to give credit there as well.

    • Michael, no sane human being judges a player on the basis of one play. This is an extreme example of smaller decision-making issues that show up in his decision-making consistently. Coachability and conceptual understanding of pro level concepts are two different things. C.J. Prosise was coachable, but he didn’t understand between the tackles concepts at a level that would make him a criticism-proof prospect. Prosise actually saw my video breakdown of these issues of is game and his camp reached out to me to recommend an RB coach to work wit him pre-draft and pre-training camp. I connected him with Chad Spann. So understand that being coachable is good, but acquiring the knowledge beyond what most college coaching staffs offer is important, too. Kamara either already realizes or will soon realize that elite speed and acceleration don’t mean much without good decision-making and an understanding of how to run between the tackles based on the variety of blocking schemes used in the league. If he does and cares, he’ll work at it and improve. If he doesn’t…. C.J. Spiller, Laurence Maroney, and Chris Henry are all examples of players with elite speed and acceleration that could not get it done in the league because they didn’t advance beyond physical tools that their peers in the NFL also have. I appreciate the fact that you’re a big Tennessee fan and I hope you give the show another listen and appreciate the facts of what I stated about the potential to improve and where he would be IF he acquires the skills beyond the athletic ability to become a good player. Appreciate your opinion even if we disagree about ranking. Just food for thought: I’ve studied multiple games of 47 RBs thus far with a defined system that has been refined over the course of 12 years. It doesn’t mean I’m going to be right about Kamara–and I’d like to see him develop to his physical potential–but there’s a lot more that goes into studying backs than athletic ability.

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