I was wrong about Alvin Kamara and Davante Adams last year — but I'm not changing my mind for 2020

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It’s important to hold to our convictions. However, it’s equally important we let them go when concrete contrary evidence presents itself.

Admit we were wrong. Move on. 

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Heading into the 2019 fantasy football season, there were two convictions I held to with all my might. First, Davante Adams should be the first wide receiver off the board. Second, Alvin Kamara should not just be the RB1 overall in drafts, he should be the first pick in any fantasy format. 

Those convictions had two things in common. Neither was a “consensus” opinion — and they were both bad decisions. 

In light of what we know almost a year removed, you’d think it’s time to clearly move on from those takes. I’m not so sure. 

When you honestly think back to the 2019 season, it’s clear that both of these players’ campaigns were impacted by injuries. Kamara was averaging 20 touches per game over the first five weeks of the season. He was a clear workhorse. It was all happening. Then, during practice leading up to Week 6, he injured his ankle and was never the same. The ankle and follow-up injuries left the ultra-efficient running back a shell of his former self.

Kamara himself indicated his leg was at 75 percent last season while providing optimism for how he’s feeling heading into 2020:

The case of Davante Adams’ 2019 was eerily similar. All was well with the player but then he suffered a painful toe injury while he was in the middle of thumping the Eagles on TNF to the tune of 180 yards on 10 catches. Adams missed four games in total but didn’t come off the team’s injury report until late November. He promptly scored his first touchdown of the year in the first game (Week 12 vs. the 49ers) following his “official recovery” from the toe malady. 

There’s also the matter of simple, bad touchdown luck. Long stretches of last season went by with fantasy managers bemoaning what felt like curses keeping both Kamara and Adams out of the end zone. It was extra frustrating as both players are proven, prolific touchdown scorers. 

Adams found pay dirt 35 times in the three years prior to 2019, scoring on 8.6 percent of his targets. With just five end zone trips last year, he recorded a touchdown on just 3.9 percent.

Kamara racked up an absurd 31 rushing/receiving touchdowns over the course of his first two seasons, scoring on 6.5% of his touches. So it was with a maddening sense of injustice to watch him find the end zone just five times in 2019, good for just 2.3% of his total touches.

Perhaps both of these players operating at less than 100% contributed to some of their scoring struggles. It could as easily be the case that this was just another reminder that touchdowns are fickle friends. Here today, gone tomorrow and most importantly, back again as if they never left. No one should be surprised if Kamara and Adams find their back to the end zone at rates much closer to their usual standards next season. 

And so we’ve arrived at my jumping-off point. It’s become clear to me that if I was sky-high on these two players heading into the 2019 season, there is no good reason to not be just as excited heading into the next NFL season. 

Aside from the hope of positive regression in the touchdown column, both players’ fantasy outlook is nearly identical heading into the next season as it was in 2019. Kamara and Adams are two of the best players at their positions and are in line for elite-level opportunities in good situations. That’s the perfect blend of logic for fake football.

Here’s what I wrote on Adams in my tiers article heading into last year:

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/pga/players/9217/" data-ylk="slk:Matt Harmon">Matt Harmon</a> on Davante Adams, 2019.
Matt Harmon on Davante Adams, 2019.

Sub out 2019 for 2020 and last year for “the last two years,” and has literally anything changed? Adams remains a candidate to lead the NFL in targets as Aaron Rodgers’ one trusted option at the top of a mercurial depth chart of unproven players. He plays 16 games this time around in that type of situation and he could easily be the WR1 overall in fantasy. 

Here’s what I wrote about Kamara in my RB tiers article heading into 2019:

Matt Harmon on Alvin Kamara, 2019.
Matt Harmon on Alvin Kamara, 2019.

Again, has much of anything changed for Kamara’s outlook next season? Brees continues to show a marginal decline in his vertical passing game that makes the Saints a more small-ball offense. Kamara was averaging 20 touches per game in his first five healthy games. While that’s quite a small window to extrapolate, it’s a 320-touch 16-game pace. Latavius Murray was a great fill-in when Kamara had to sit but was barely involved when he was healthy (30 touches in the first five weeks) and cleared just 10 carries once after Kamara returned in Week 10. While Emmanuel Sanders was added to the receiving mix this offseason, Kamara can easily still finish third (at worst) in the target pecking order. 

Kamara is still a top-level back with great usage in the passing game attached to a strong offense. In fact, when you look at the three backs comfortably ahead of him in consensus rankings, you can only reasonably argue that one of them (Ezekiel Elliott) plays for a team that could have a better offense than New Orleans. Kamara remains the exact kind of back you want in fantasy. 

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Nothing has changed with these two players who held the top spots in my 2019 preseason positional tiers. Despite minor flops last year, there’s no logical reason to not love them heading into the following season.

Now, where the rubber meets the road, it’s hard to advocate taking Alvin Kamara over Christian McCaffrey, especially. However, let’s remember that Yahoo drafters took Saquon Barkley No. 1 overall in over 75% of drafts last year. McCaffrey wasn’t the one expected to be the all-world fantasy hero at the running back position last year. Consensus shouldn’t guide our thoughts.

Similarly, for Adams, it’d be tough to click his name before Michael Thomas after the latter broke records last year. But again, no one was expecting that out of Thomas last year, who was a fringe Round 1 pick heading into 2019. It could be Adams’ turn this next season.

Despite them not being the consensus picks for these honors in drafts as we stand today, Davante Adams could easily finish as the WR1 overall, and Alvin Kamara as the top running back.

I believed it with conviction heading into last season. Nothing has happened to change either players’ outlook or my mind.

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