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Saints' Kamara in Bush/Sproles role could be fantasy football thorn

By Alex Butler
Saints' Kamara in Bush/Sproles role could be fantasy football thorn
Running back Alvin Kamara is expected to take over the Darren Sproles role in the New Orleans Saints' offense. Photo courtesy of Vol_Football/Instagram

May 2 (UPI) -- There must be enough footballs to go around in the New Orleans Saints backfield if Alvin Kamara is expected to get work behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson.

Saints executive vice president and general manager Mickey Loomis said as much this weekend, after the franchise picked up the Tennessee tailback in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

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"That has been a key element in our offense over the last 11 years," Loomis told reporters Friday. "Sean [Payton] and our offensive coaches have a great ability to take advantage of the type talent that Alvin and his predecessors here have had. He'll fill that role and we are pretty excited."

Kamara, 21, was compared to Thomas Jones in his NFL.com draft profile. He is listed at 5-feet, 10-inches and 214 pounds and ran a 4.56-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine.

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"He could not have gotten a better match for his talents with a play-caller and a system than what Sean Payton runs in New Orleans," NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said of Kamara. "What he could do with Reggie Bush out of the backfield -- run the ball, throw it to him, put him in different mismatches -- they can do with Kamara. They're gonna need that if Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram are gonna run the ball. This is what he gives them."

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Kamara had 1,294 yards and 16 touchdowns on 210 college carries. He also had 683 yards and seven touchdowns on 74 college catches for the Volunteers.

"He's that type of player that gives you a lot of different versatility and we just had a real high grade on him in that role," Payton told reporters. "I think he will play on fourth down in the kicking game. I think he has real good makeup and IQ. I think he will be a good fit for our team and our system in that room. That was a pick we were excited about."

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The Saints wanted Kamara so badly that the team traded up in the third round to snag him with the No. 67 pick overall. It surrendered its 2018 second-round pick and a seventh-round selection to the San Francisco 49ers to complete the move. Loomis and Payton picked Marshon Lattimore and Ryan Ramczyk in the first round. It landed safety Marcus Williams in the second round Friday.

"We discussed it a lot," Payton said. "There are a handful of players you just have a clear vision for and he was one of those guys; extremely smart and versatile. We got to Tennessee and he had done everything at the combine. "

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"We spent time on the night before, would be normal for us to have dinner with a group of players, and those guys were fantastic. All of them were there at dinner and the next day we just did football drills and I think he was comfortable, he had done his work at the combine and I said you're not going to run any routes for me and his plan wasn't to and I said I want to see you do some things here, stuff that we do and fortunately for him he ran in and put his cleats on and came back out and he and the quarterback went from the receiver drill to much like you would a private workout and he ran a number of routes and we actually had him catch punts after and you go through process and there are a few guys that just stand out and he was one of them and afterwards we got on the phone yesterday and said those might have been the best 11 routes or the best decision to go get your cleats on that you made in a long time, but he's real smart and I think he has a lot of versatility."

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The Saints had a middle-of-the-pack rushing attack last season, while leading the league in passing for the second consecutive year. When Sproles was part of the offense, from 2011 through 2013, Saints primary running backs averaged 143 catches for 1,160 yards, and 6.6 touchdowns per season. Since he left, Saints backs have posted averages of 116 catches, for 905 yards, and 3.3 scores each year.

Sproles, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, was traded to the Eagles in 2014 in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. That pick ended up being linebacker Ronald Powell. Powell was waived in 2015.

The Saints signed Peterson in April. Ingram is playing on the third year of his four-year contract.

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