Frank Dyevoich | June 23rd, 2019
The year is 2016. Kenyan Drake, running back out of Alabama, is drafted by the Miami Dolphins with the tenth pick of the third round of the NFL Draft. Former fantasy football stud Arian Foster was signed in free agency and Jay Ajayi was in his sophomore season. Foster was a bust and Ajayi took a stranglehold over the backfield leaving Drake, third on the depth chart, to get 33 carries and scored two touchdowns.
The year is 2017. Drake is firmly behind Ajayi on the depth chart after Ajayi finished 2016 as the RB11. In Week 12, a few weeks after Ajayi was traded to the Eagles, Drake finally got his shot. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. Drake went on to average 21.6 touches per game, 4.9 yards per carry, and 17.6 PPR fantasy points per game from weeks 12-17. But to really understand what we can expect from Drake in 2019, we need to dig deeper.
In 2017, Drake showed his tremendous contact balance and elite elusiveness. He finished with 130 yards after contact…wait for it…..when he was hit behind the line of scrimmage. That was first among running backs, which is even more impressive when you realize that he also had the lowest average yards per carry before contact in the league (0.5 yards) and was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage 58% of the time, also the most in the league.
When forced to change direction, Drake averaged 5.4 yards per attempt, easily first Marlon Mack who finished second with 4.3 yards per attempt. He also put down a 96.3 elusive rating on the year, which was the second-best rating in Pro Football Focus’s history. He also averaged 4.29 yards after contact per touch, which was first in the league, and the second highest for a running back since 2010 according to PFF.
Still not impressed? In Week 13 against the Broncos, Drake dropped 120 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries (5.2 ypc), three receptions for 21 yards, and nine total missed tackles, which was good for a 95.9 overall grade from PFF and remains the highest overall running back grade PFF has ever given. Drake also showed that he has three-down potential as he finished first in PFFs pass-blocking efficiency grades. After a stellar showing in 2017, fantasy owners were salivating at the idea that Drake would get a featured role in 2018, but we were all bamboozled.
2018 was not the Drake breakout party that we all expected when we drafted him in the third round of our fantasy drafts. We did not take into account that 65-year old Frank Gore would out-carry him, and we did not realize that head coach Adam Gase hated Drake more than he hated memes of his googly-eyes. As such, Drake took a secondary role and was mostly disappointing for his fantasy owners. But hold the phone. Was he really THAT disappointing? Hint: No. No, he was not.
Despite his “disappointing” season, Drake still finished as RB14 in PPR formats and had nine total touchdowns on less than 175 touches. That is an efficiency rate of 1.2 fantasy points per touch, which was good for sixth in the league out of all running backs with at least 100 touches. His RB14 finish is even more impressive when you consider that he only had four games with at least 15 touches and nine games with ten touches or fewer. Now that there is no one in front of him and the running back reaper Gase has moved on, Drake should be in line for a minimum of 15 touches per game. Over his career, he has averaged 16 PPR points in each game where he received ten or more touches.
“But what about Kalen Ballage?” Don’t worry about him. Last year, Ballage was tackled by the first guy that hit him on 43 of 45 touches. That’s is a 95.5% rate of going down on first contact. He showed poor on-field processing and sub-par footwork, lateral agility and contact balance. New head coach Brian Flores is from New England’s system and he will not tolerate inefficient running back performance. Ballage does have some prowess as a pass catcher, evidenced by his 64 receptions in college, but Flores knows what he has in Kenyan Drake and has already told the 25-year old to study tape of James White. Drake has struggled as a pass catcher in his three-year career, but all signs point to Miami making Drake their featured guy in 2019.
Drake is a special talent. He needs more opportunities and he needs them yesterday, and all indications are that he will get those opportunities in 2019. I am drafting him as my RB2 in the fourth-round of PPR Redraft leagues, (my leagues are all running back heavy, but the point remains). His ADP has him sitting at RB25 in the middle of the fifth round.
I will leave you with one final statistic that shows just how great Drake could be if given the opportunity. In his 286 career carries he has 1,358 rush yards, nine rush touchdowns, and 94 receptions for 762 yards and six touchdowns. In comparison, over Ezekiel Elliott’s last 289 carries, he has 1,365 rush yards, five rush touchdowns, and 74 receptions for 550 yards and three touchdowns. I know, right?!
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