Tennessee football: What will be Alvin Kamara’s final rank among NFL Vols?

Tennessee football has a history of elite NFL talent. Where will New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara’s career finish among those Volunteers?

Their names are etched in Tennessee football history because of their pro accomplishments. Doug Atkins, Peyton Manning, and Reggie White stand out above all other former Vols in the pros because of what they did at that level.

Two are already Hall-of-Famers, and one will easily go in once he’s eligible. But suddenly, an upstart Vol who was not an All-American in college like the other three is making a name for himself among them.

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara was ranked No. 14 on the NFL Network’s top 100 players voted on by the players themselves, moving up six spots. On the heels of two Pro Bowl appearances and an average of 1,573 total yards and 16 total touchdowns each of his first two seasons, Kamara is becoming a major force in the NFL.

So now, we begin to ask the question, where can Kamara rise among Vol greats in the NFL? One more Pro Bowl appearance will put him in elite company, and two more will almost certainly put him already among the 10 most accomplished former Vols in NFL history, maybe five.

Related Story: Ranking games on Vols 2019 schedule by importance

Manning, White and Atkins stand on the Mt. Rushmore of greatest Vols in the NFL, but there’s clearly room for that fourth spot. Before Kamara, Arian Foster appeared to be a running back on the rise to reach that.

But Foster retired prematurely, and that leaves another opening. Don’t get me wrong, other young Vols like Derek Barnett could get there as well. And running backs do have a short life span in the pros. But Kamara’s could be unique if he stays in New Orleans.

As more of a versatile back who gains receiving yards as much as rushing yards, Kamara is the type of player who could limit the hits he receives compared to a typical running back. The longer he plays in Sean Payton’s system, the more he has a chance to extend his career and be highly productive for a player of his profile.

After Butch Jones’s limited use of him, inexplicably, during his two years with Tennessee football, Payton has learned to increase Kamara’s usage rate. But he’s still protecting the Pro Bowl running back with the way he mixes him up in the offense.

Next: Projecting the Vols' 2019 2-deep depth chart

Simply put, Kamara does have a chance to get that final spot on the Mt. Rushmore of former Vols in the NFL. Even as he just enters his third year and is a running back, there’s Hall of Fame potential here. But it will depend on how long he stays with the Saints or a system similar to Payton’s to be able to extend his career.