The NFL draft has come and gone. There have been some winners, and there have been some losers, and I think Kenyan Drake is one of the biggest winners. If you’re a Drake owner, you should be thrilled. If not, you should go out and buy him.
Here’s why. Competition, and price.
The notable running backs on the Miami depth chart are currently Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore, and late 4th round draft selection Kalen Ballage. I don’t believe that either of them presents a real threat to Drake’s workload. Let’s examine Gore and Ballage a little closer before I tell you why you should buy Drake.
Frank Gore signed as a free agent following three seasons in Indianapolis. The probable future Hall-of-Famer had a productive spell in Indy, despite the well published offensive line woes, as well as Andrew Luck’s shoulder issues. Gore rushed for nearly 3000 yards, but his efficiency dropped to 3.8 yards per carry (YPC)- significantly lower than his San Francisco average of 4.5 YPC. But, for a running back who will turn 35 within a week of this writing, you have to wonder how much Gore has left in the tank. The Dolphins are not sure either, with his contract only having $90,000 in guaranteed money (per Spotrac). History is not on Gore’s side either – here is a list of the post-merger running backs who have rushed for at least 500 yards in a season at the age of 35 or over:
As you can see, only three players have ever accomplished the feat. The odds that Gore joins them this season is low. Even if Gore cracks 500 yards, given his YPC over the last three seasons, he would need approximately 130 carries to get there. During the Adam Gase era in Miami, the Dolphins have run the football an average of 376 times per season. That still would leave 246 potential carries available for Drake, before we even consider receptions.
Kalen Ballage was drafted with the second to last pick in the 4th round (131 overall), which does not represent a huge investment by Miami. Most fans know Ballage for his 8 TD game in college against Texas Tech, but outside of that, his college production profile is particularly poor (that single game represents 28% of his career touchdown total). The thought is that Ballage has been brought in to be a 3rd down pass catcher, as well as special teams contributor. His career yards per reception (YPR) of 8.3 is ok for a running back, but in his senior year, he only managed 4.6 YPR. For context, Kenyan Drake averaged 12.4 YPC over his 4 years at Alabama, and he isn’t thought of as a receiving back.
Ballage is an explosive athlete and should help Miami in their return game, as well as in special packages. However, given that Arizona State who saw him every day for four years were reluctant to use him, I find it hard to envision him demanding touches in Miami. His college production profile says undoubtedly says otherwise:
For context, my #2 rookie running back Rashaad Penny rushed for over 2200 yards last year alone.
Ok, now for the reason you’re all here: Why you should buy Kenyan Drake?
Drake is currently being drafted as the 22nd running back off the board (68th overall) per the DFF May ADP, behind running backs such as Tevin Coleman, Carlos Hyde and former teammate Jay Ajayi. That is just way too late for a player who has the opportunity to take on a feature back workload.
Last season, Drake finished with 133 carries for 644 yards and three touchdowns, with an additional 32 receptions for 239 yards and two more scores (thanks to Addison Hayes’ FF Statistics). These are modest numbers, but you need to keep in mind the fact that Jay Ajayi was traded to the Eagles on the trade deadline following week 8 of the NFL season.
In the first seven games of Drake’s season (Miami had a week 1 bye), he averaged less than 7 snaps per game. From week 9 onwards, after the Ajayi trade, Drake’s workload increased to an average of 48 snaps per game during which he rushed for 550 yards and three touchdowns at 4.8 YPC. Boosting his fantasy stock over this stretch were 23 receptions for 197 yards and two scores at 8.5 YPR.
On that pace, over a full 16 game season, Drake’s stat line would read 1,100 rushing yards, 46 receptions for 394 yards and ten total touchdowns which would be good for 209.4 PPR points (13 PPG). Last season that 16 game pace would have been the RB7 overall, ahead of the likes of LeSean McCoy and Jordan Howard who have ADPs of 53 and 31 respectively.
Drake is the incumbent running back, who performed well with the opportunities he received last season. He has minimal competition for touches, and in my opinion is easily the best running back on his team. Importantly, C.J. Anderson has just signed with the Carolina Panthers. The Anderson signing further insulates Drake’s value, as rumors had been swirling that Anderson might sign with Miami given that his most productive fantasy season was in Adam Gase’s Denver offense.
Drake is only 24 years old (1 year older than Sony Michel) and has two years left on his rookie deal in Miami. I would happily pay up to the 1.08 in 2018 rookie drafts to acquire him.
Find me on Twitter at @FF_DownUnder.