Alvin Kamara vs Christian McCaffrey: Who’s the best running back in the NFL?

Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey
Kamara and McCaffrey are two elite running backs - who fares better in our comparison?Photo from Kelsey Riggs.

On the heels of the biggest performance of his career, Alvin Kamara has the whole NFL world’s attention – he tied the all-time record with a dominant six touchdowns in a single game. His final line was 22 rush attempts (career-high) for 155 rushing yards (career-high) and 6 rushing TD’s (all-time record) with an additional 3 receptions and 17 receiving yards. Naturally, after this big night on Christmas Day with all eyes on him – fantasy playoff finalists’ especially – everybody is talking about the Saints running back.

So, this is a perfect time to try and see where he stands amongst the elite backs in the NFL. The closest and most natural comparison for Kamara is the Carolina Panthers’ workhorse, Christian McCaffrey. Both of these players are recognised for their fantastic work in the passing game, but they are also both very efficient runners. So, let’s take a look – Alvin Kamara vs Christian McCaffrey.

Kamara vs McCaffrey: Running

Alvin Kamara has only ever had three 100-yard rushing games, including this week, since he entered the league as the 67th overall pick in 2017, with a 97-yard game not far behind and numerous games in the 80-yard range. Christian McCaffrey, on the other hand, has had a spectacular ten 100-yard rushing games, as well as a few near misses of his own, over the same period (he was drafted 8th overall in the same draft).

The running style of McCaffrey and Kamara is a combination of raw athleticism and an ability to make people miss with quickness and agility.

Neither are particularly big, but they can both break tackles, despite the fact they’re usually better off avoiding the defender entirely. Both of them are capable of working both inside and outside of the tackles, and they are both great at the goal line, so honestly, the biggest difference between the players is actually their volume, in the past two seasons, post-Cam Newton, McCaffrey has averaged 18.2 rush attempts per game to Kamara’s 12.3.

McCaffrey averages 4.6 yards per carry but with more carries, and Kamara averages 5.0. These two really are neck and neck in rushing the ball, McCaffrey just does it more often – thus the big advantage in 100-yard games despite less efficiency.

Kamara vs McCaffrey: Receiving

While the position of these players may be running back, don’t think that a comparison of these two players could conclude without talking about what happens when they get out of the backfield.

The Panthers and Saints have two of – if not the – best receiving backs in the league and they make use of them to say the least. McCaffrey has received a ridiculous 398 targets in his 51 career games (7.8 per game), catching 320.


Kamara has amassed an equally insane 409 in his 60 games (6.8 per game) and caught 320 as well, numbers that would have been literally unheard of a handful of years ago. The efficiency isn’t any more mortal, either, Kamara’s receptions have returned 2824 yards (8.7 per catch) and McCaffrey matches with 2672 (8.4 per catch) – both almost identical, and both ridiculously impressive. The rushing stats hardly separate them, and now the receiving stats don’t either. Time to go to the most important thing, I guess.

Kamara vs McCaffrey: Production

They are both incredibly efficient, and seriously productive in terms of touchdowns.

CMC’s scoring was stunted while Cam Newton was playing QB and scoring himself, but he has started to make up for that since then. Through his first four seasons he has scored a total of 29 rushing touchdowns and 16 receiving on top of that, totalling 45 TD’s in 51 games [and a crazy 25 TD’s in the 19 games after Cam left Carolina]. Kamara didn’t delay his scoring efficiency, and is one of the most efficient scorers in the NFL, with 43 rushing touchdowns and 15 receiving, for a ludicrous 58 TD’s in 60 games for the Saints star.

So, through just about four seasons, Christian McCaffrey has 1002 touches [Rushes + Receptions] for a total 5817 scrimmage yards and 45 TD’s. Alvin Kamara has 998 touches for a total of 6164 scrimmage yards and 58 TD’s.

Now that is not what I was expecting.

Kamara vs McCaffrey: Who’s better?

I started researching this article assuming we’d see Christian McCaffrey come out on top, but I have been surprised, and pleasantly so. I do want to provide the quick acknowledgement that this article was prompted by Kamara having the best game of his entire life, and in Week 16 of a season where the player I’m comparing him to has unfortunately only played three games. So, naturally you can take the exact numbers with a pinch of salt.

However, I’m looking at the stats for two incredible careers in the making, with a separation of just four touches of the football across their first four years in the league, and with the sample we have so far, the third-round pick comes out on top.

Alvin Kamara, as of Boxing Day 2020 edges out Christian McCaffrey in terms of his production, efficiency and – without any doubt – return on investment from their 2017 selection.

The Saints’ famous draft class looks better with every passing week.

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About Tyler Arthur 36 Articles
Tyler is an NFL writer who has had a love for American Football since he discovered the sport when he attended De Montfort University, where he studied Journalism, and played wide receiver and eventually quarterback. While at QB, he led the DMU Falcons to a division title in his final year before graduating. His passion for the game, and enjoyment of learning and understanding the nuances and details of the sport led him to start writing about it. Years later he has taken advantage of numerous opportunities involving writing, attending games and events and co-hosting a podcast. More of his work can be found on The Touchdown, Gridiron Hub and Read American Football. Tyler is a Las Vegas Raiders fan and he also enjoys baseball, in which he is a Chicago Cubs fan. He loves fantasy football and his other hobbies include video games and chess.

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