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NFL draft profile: No. 31 — Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara, explosive runner with lots of tread

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Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
5-foot-10, 214 pounds

Key stat: Averaged 7.0 yards per touch from scrimmage with 23 TDs rushing and receiving in his two seasons at Tennessee.

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Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara is a tremendous playmaker despite limited opportunities. (AP)
Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara is a tremendous playmaker despite limited opportunities. (AP)

The skinny: Elite prep back committed to Nick Saban and Alabama but redshirted as a freshman following a knee injury. But he was suspended twice that season — once for behavioral reasons, the other time for an undisclosed violation — and arrested on charges of driving on a suspended license, driving without a safety belt and failure to appear. Kamara was granted a release following the season and transferred to Hutchinson Community College (Kan.) for a year, where he won conference offensive player of the year, scoring 21 touchdowns in 2014.

Kamara returned to the SEC with Tennessee, sharing the load for parts of two seasons with Jalen Hurd in the Vols’ run-based attack led by QB Josh Dobbs. Kamara averaged 6.5 and 5.8 yards per carry, respectively in 2015 and 2016. He also averaged 8.6 and 9.8 yards in each of his two seasons as a receiver and scored 24 TDs in 24 games with Tennessee. After missing time in 2016 with two different knee sprains, Kamara, who turns 22 at the start of training camp, declared early for the 2017 NFL draft.

Best-suited destination: Kamara has three-down potential in the NFL for teams that seek well-rounded backs, especially those that are not enamored with bigger backs or those with elite speed. Those teams include the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.

Upside: Always seems to be falling forward for extra yardage. Tackle breaker in the open field. Made the most of his opportunities despite running the ball only eight or more times in 10 of his 24 college games (and eight games with 15 or more touches). Was a monster against Texas A&M when Hurd was hurt (and eventually left the team) — Kamara totaled 312 yards from scrimmage on 30 touches (18 runs, eight catches, three punt returns, one kickoff).

Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara, keeping his balance and running with power. (Draftbreakdown.com via YouTube)
Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara, keeping his balance and running with power. (Draftbreakdown.com via YouTube)

Lined up as a slot receiver, or even out wide. Returned punts (10.9-yard average on 26 returns, 1 TD) and dabbled on kickoffs, too. Catches the ball extremely well. Lot of tread left on his tires after only 310 touches at Tennessee and 190 touches at Hutchinson. Kamara runs with purpose, power and balance. Earned trust of coaching staff and succeeded in second chance after early problems.

Downside: Lack of long speed (4.56 40-yard dash) could limit big-play potential at next level. Ball security has been a bit shaky at times. History of knee injuries a concern, despite low mileage. Even with strong lower-body, Kamara might not project to be a true short-yardage or workhorse back. Pass protection still requires some improvement; without knowing his assignments on certain plays, it still appears as if Kamara picks up the wrong rusher at times. Operated in an option-based spread system and will need to adjust to a pro-style scheme. Three of his biggest games came against weaker defenses (Bowling Green, North Texas, Kentucky) and was bottled up against better fronts, such as Florida, Alabama and Georgia the past two seasons. Still needs to read his blocks better and will miss opportunities. Background still requires scrutiny despite appearing to turn over a new leaf at Tennessee

Scouting hot take: “You might like him a bit more than I do, but you can see the potential there. Not sure he’ll make as many guys miss at our level, but he has good leg drive and I think he’s a better short-yardage runner than he’s [given credit for].” — NFL running backs coach

Player comp: Frank Gore

Expected draft range: Top 50 picks, with a chance to go in Round 1

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley
No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu
No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson
No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell
No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker
No. 34: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon
No. 33: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
No. 32: Florida CB Quincy Wilson

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!