Betting the National Football League is fun and entertaining, but also tricky and challenging. Case in point: Alvin Kamara’s betting odds.
NFL bettors, oddsmakers, and fantasy enthusiasts face difficult decisions regarding Kamara, who has been one of the game’s most productive players since entering the league in 2017.
Kamara faces a suspension for his role in an offseason brawl. The timing of that suspension served as a wrench throughout the spring and early weeks of summer. Sportsbooks factored in the possibility of a multi-game ban, bettors contemplated whether Kamara prop prices justified a wager, and fantasy football drafters are facing a perceived discount ahead of the summer’s biggest weekend for fantasy drafts.
With a ban likely on the shelf until 2023, football bettors of all types need to determine the best way to respond. We spoke with industry professionals to better understand the movement of Kamara’s odds and what that entails for the upcoming season.
Alvin Kamara’s Odds Fluctuate Amid Threat of ’22 Suspension
Oddsmakers are leaving Kamara’s Over/Under props off of their boards due to the threat of a significant suspension. Sportsbooks, however, have posted prices for Kamara to win MVP, win Offensive Player of the Year, and lead the league in rushing touchdowns. The odds in each category are longer than one would expect given Kamara’s pedigree.
Chris Bennett of Circa Las Vegas told Louisiana Sharp about how he approached Kamara’s MVP odds.
“I think I opened Alvin Kamara at 1000-to-1 expecting him to be suspended for several games,” Bennett said. “I lowered him to 250-to-1 when I read that it was looking unlikely he’d be suspended for any games this season. We hadn’t written any bets on him as of (Aug. 25),” Bennett said via direct message.
Bettors Hesitant to Wager on Kamara
The final part of Bennett’s statement warrants attention, too. It appears as if the betting public is generally shying away from Kamara wagers.
In a vacuum, shrewd bettors who anticipated Kamara avoiding a 2022 suspension had access to undervalued odds. As it stands, however, bettors are not flocking to the windows with Kamara tickets.
Some of that is likely due to lingering concerns over league discipline. While sharps may be quick to anticipate the avoidance of a ban, it’s common for recreational bettors to become anchored. So, for example, even though BetMGM Sportsbook lengthened Kamara’s MVP, OPOY, and Rushing TD Leader futures in August, bettors have refrained from placing wagers, according to BetMGM PR and Data Analyst John Ewing.
Is Alvin Kamara a Value or Fade?
Given the highlights on Kamara’s resume, his friendly odds, and optimistic short-term outlook, one might expect more betting action.
Christian Cipollini, a sports trader at BetMGM, offered another perspective on Kamara’s long odds and why bettors are laying off.
“Kamara has longer odds to be the rushing leader and OPOY driven more by his age and how long he has been in the league,” Cipollini said. “Kamara is reaching the stage of his career where running backs start to decline. He also might not be used in the same way as before with a new coach.”
Kamara’s 2021 campaign offers a couple of warning signs that underscore Cipollini’s points.
For starters, Kamara handled a career-high 287 touches despite playing in only 13 games. That breaks down to 22 touches per contest compared to the 16.6 he handled from 2017-20. He also saw more usage on the ground at the expense of his receiving work, presenting a curious if not concerning development.
Furthermore, Kamara’s efficiency dipped considerably in 2021. His 3.7 yards-per-carry and 4.7 yards-per-touch were roughly a yard lower than his career averages. Increased volume is much less appealing when accompanied by inefficiency.
On the coaching front, the Saints maintained a degree of continuity in the wake of Sean Payton’s retirement. Dennis Allen takes over as head coach after serving as defensive coordinator while long-time offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael takes on primary play-calling duties for the first time since 2012. Still, removing a presence like Payton significantly alters the team dynamic, something that could, as Cipollini suggests, change the ways in which Kamara is deployed.
Tough Alvin Kamara Decisions Go Beyond Betting
Bettors are not the only ones wrestling with their positions on Kamara. Fantasy owners have made a habit of targeting Kamara at the top of their drafts. Kamara, a top-4 overall selection in 2021, slides to the late-second/early-third round in Yahoo leagues. He’s priced as the 11th most coveted running back and 18th most coveted player overall in salary cap drafts.
Hoards of football fans are gathering for their drafts this weekend. Somewhere within the first three rounds, someone will decide that Kamara represents the best investment among the available players. On the surface, Kamara may look like a gift — a discounted asset primed to deliver immense profit.
However, given the betting behavior surrounding Kamara, his 2021 production and advancing age, and the Saints’ coaching staff, there’s ample reason to consider alternate options throughout the early portions of fantasy football drafts.
It’s easy to lean on what previously produced successful results. Kamara has served as the centerpiece to many championship rosters, just as he’s been a lynchpin for the Saints. With that said, recognizing when to hop off the train is a trait that separates winners from losers.
Those still mulling the idea of sinking valuable capital into Kamara should keep one mantra in mind: “It’s better to be one year too early than one year too late.” And in the league nicknamed “Not For Long,” one year too late can sneak up on you quickly.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert