Kenyan Drake (Running Back, Miami Dolphins) has long been a subject of debate for fantasy analysts and gamers. He flashed several times over the past two years in both the running and receiving games. His limited touches, however, have left many players disappointed. I brought up the idea for this article in a Twitter thread and immediately robust arguments both for and against Kenyan Drake emerged. I understand both very well, but in this article, I want to make the case for why you should go out and get him.
Kenyan Drake: A Brief History
I said “long been” somewhat facetiously, because Drake has only been in the league for three years. Over those three years, he played in all 48 games, but only started 14. His special teams’ snaps were dialed back over that time, while his offensive snaps increased dramatically from year one to two, then slightly more in his third year. He amassed 380 touches (receptions and rushes) for a total of 2,120 yards and 15 touchdowns. Unimpressive stats for an unimpressive player? I don’t think so.
Let Drake Become a Full-Grown Dragon
A consistent narrative in support of Kenyan Drake has been his lack of usage. His rookie year is understandable: he was a young player coming out of college without a lot of experience taking the bulk of the workload. He started his second year similarly. Kenyan Drake saw marginal work for the first half of the season, ramping up his work in weeks eight to 11. He then exploded with 108 touches in weeks 12 – 16, producing very well and giving him some hype leading into the next year.
Then the next year happened. Drake didn’t top 17 touches in any game and averaged 11 touches a game from weeks nine to 15. He was abysmal for fantasy, just atrocious by all accounts for the whole season…except that he finished as the RB14 in PPR leagues last year. The four games in which he saw 15 or more touches he averaged 13.23 PPR points, and in those games, he only scored one of his nine touchdowns for the season. With a greater role carved out, Kenyan Drake has shown that he can be a solid fantasy producer. And the coach who didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t give him those touches just left town.
The Coaching Change
The Dolphins hired two former Patriots’ coaches. Brian Flores, who was the defensive coordinator for New England, takes over as head coach, and Chad O’Shea was hired as the offensive coordinator after his time as wide receivers coach for the Patriots. Although we can’t give O’Shea credit for the play calling, he did work with the running backs in the receiving game. The Patriots running backs had 32% of the team’s receptions compared to Miami’s 26%, so there is hope that Drake can get more work in the passing game. Also, defensive coordinators who became head coaches historically prefer a more run-heavy approach. With Fitzpatrick slinging the ball all over the field, Flores may want to even that out with a more balanced run attack. Again, this is speculation, but it does point in the correct direction for Drake. Another factor for the team is the notion that they are, let’s be nice and say “not putting forth 100% effort.”
The Contract and Tank Conspiracy
This is the final year of Kenyan Drake’s contract. He’s only a $205,000 dead cap, so there is a possibility he could be cut if the Dolphins were to pick up another player in free agency or spend some decent draft capital on the position. However, here’s another scenario that I believe is just as plausible: given the aforementioned lack of usage but good output the past two years, the coaching staff finally unleashes him. They want to see if he’s worth keeping around after this year, or if they need to go in another direction. So they give him 20 to 25 touches a game and see what he can really do. He’s due $2.2 million this year, and a free agent on his level may cost more for longer when the team can move on from Drake after this year with no hindrance. It makes the most sense, to me at least, to roll out the product you have, evaluate current strengths and weaknesses, and build from there. In fantasy football jargon we hear the phrase “tear it down to the studs” when discussing the rebuilding of a dynasty team. What if Drake is part of that framework that Miami can use going forward? It’s at least worth consideration given the modest tail-end of his rookie contract.
I am an elementary school teacher, and one of the best principals I worked with did something similar to what I just described. His first year in the school, he made very few fundamental changes. This principal watched throughout the year, determining where the faculty was strongest and where he needed to mix things up. At the end of that year, he moved people around, made changes to the staff, and generally rebuilt things to his vision. And it worked. The moves that he made, including keeping certain people where they worked best, set us up for future success. I believe the new regime in Miami should take a similar approach to this season. They have jettisoned a few players for picks and cap space because they already determined their value. For those unknown assets or at least lesser known ones, let them play and evaluate them this season. If one of those players is Kenyan Drake, he could be in for a big year. The cost to acquire him is generally low: a back-end first or early second, maybe with another smaller piece tossed in. If you can buy him for a decent price and then he explodes, he will be a valuable part of your team or a player whose trade price spikes immensely.
Thanks, as always, for reading. If you have anything to add or want to generally discuss fantasy football, you can find me on Twitter @DFF_sbt1030. Thanks again!