NBC Sports' Peter King got a quote from Payton about what he told scouts prior to the 2017 NFL draft: "I told 'em, 'Kamara's going to be a better player than [Christian] McCaffrey.'"
McCaffrey was a superstar at Stanford and broke Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015.
Two years later, the Carolina Panthers selected McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick (Leonard Fournette went fourth overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars). McCaffrey has lived up to the hype with three straight seasons with more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage from 2017-19. He became the third player in NFL history with at least 1,000 yards rushing and receiving last season.
Kamara also posted solid numbers in college and against SEC competition. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored 23 total touchdowns in 24 games from 2015-16 at Tennessee.
New Orleans got Kamara in the third round with the 67th overall pick, and he's turned into a superstar with at least 1,330 yards from scrimmage in each of his first four seasons. He leads the NFL with 16 rushing touchdowns and 21 total touchdowns through 15 games in 2020.
Kamara leads the Saints in rushing yards (932) and receiving yards (756). And his production has been invaluable for the NFC South champions with the offense not having Drew Brees for four games earlier in the season and Michael Thomas being limited to just seven games because of ankle issues.
While both the Panthers and Saints are likely happy with their running backs from the 2017 draft—and Vikings (Dalvin Cook), Steelers (James Conner), Packers (Aaron Jones), Seahawks (Chris Carson)—Payton's prediction that Kamara would be a better player than McCaffrey is now certainly up for debate.