Kenyan Drake: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Truth (Fantasy Football)
As the NFL fantasy community starts to prepare for upcoming months of mock drafting, it is clear that 2018 is favoring Kenyan Drake. In his second season with Miami last year, Drake did not get involved heavily until struggling Jay Ajayi was offloaded to the soon-to-be Superbowl Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. Rumors ran rampant that Ajayi was as unhappy in Miami as Miami was unhappy with him.
The trade happened in the middle of the season and everything happened fast. He was coming off of a stellar season, but 2017 did not seem to be a continuation. He struggled to find his mojo and was traded along with his 3.4 yards per carry. This left Miami to begin platooning Kenyan Drake with Damien Williams.
That didn’t last long as Williams got hurt, leaving Drake with the lion’s share of carries. In 10 games as the lead back, Drake was productive as both a runner and receiver. He has now been catapulted up the ADP ranks and is a highly coveted running back for 2018. So is it time to get on the Drake train, or should we take a line from hip-hop artist Drake’s song Know Yourself and “pray the fakes get exposed”?
Kenyan Drake had the 28th most rushing yards among the running backs in 2017. This does not seem all that impressive but remember he wasn’t really utilized until Week 8, when he faced off against the Baltimore Ravens in their prime time 40-0 pummeling. He shared the backfield with Damien Williams for five weeks and only played the final five games as Miami’s bell cow.
In those 10 weeks, he carried the ball 129 times for 641 yards for an average of five yards a carry. If he had played all 16 games based on that amount and average, he would have rushed for 1,026 yards. If he had played all 16 games based on his five bell cow weeks, he would have won the rushing title over Kareem Hunt by almost 100 yards. No wonder fantasy analysts are salivating at Drake’s potential for 2018.
One of the contributing factors to Drake’s breakout was the Dolphin’s o-line improvement. When Ajayi had the rock, Miami was at a 31.5 percent good blocking rate through seven games. However, they hiked that up to 36.3 percent once Drake and Williams took over. Williams averaged 4.4 yards per carry, but Drake was much more impressive, averaging five yards per rushing attempt.
In the end, with every game factored into the equation, Drake ended up with a 4.8 yards per carry average, which was seventh best in the entire league. According to PlayerProfiler.com, he was also very elusive. He had a 6.8 percent breakaway run rate, which is when a running back runs 15 yards or better. He was fifth best in the league behind Alvin Kamara, Marlon Mack, Aaron Jones, and Alex Collins.
He also had an outstanding 30.9 percent juke rate, which isolates a running back’s elusiveness and tackle-breaking power by charting the number of broken, missed, and otherwise avoided tackles, and then dividing by the total number of touches (carries + receptions). Drake was seventh best in that metric. Needless to say, in 2018, Drake had moments of sheer greatness.
Look At What You’ve Done
Kenyan Drake did not excel in the passing game last year. This is ironic considering that is where he excelled at Alabama alongside Derrick Henry, who was just an amazing between the tackles grinder. In college, Drake averaged 12.4 yards per reception. Last year in Miami, he only averaged 7.5 yards per reception.
To put this into perspective, out of the top 30 running back receivers, Chris Thompson (13.1 YPR), Todd Gurley (12.3 YPR), Tevin Coleman (11.1 YPR), and Alvin Kamara (10.2) led the way. Drake was down at the bottom, only ahead of Carlos Hyde (5.9 YPR), Tarik Cohen (6.7 YPR), and Mark Ingram (7.2 YPR).
Drake also had problems with drops. He was the ninth worst running back, dropping the ball five times, while only making a total of 32 receptions. That’s strange considering he was quite prolific in college.
Drake also fumbled twice during the season. This does not seem like a significant number but when you factor in the number of carries, it does become significant.
Drake carried the ball 133 times, averaging 66.5 carries per fumble. Out of the top thirty running backs, Drake had the fourth-worst carries to fumble ratio. Only Devonta Freeman (49 carries per fumble), Todd Gurley (55.8 carries per fumble), and Jonathan Stewart (66 carries per fumble) fared worse than Drake.
The Ugly Truth
It’s now time to change what appeared to be Drake’s good with the ugly truth. Drake’s seemingly great 4.8 yards per carry rushing average is not as good if analyzed deeper. He seemed to have one big splash play every game. However, if we take out that one big run, what would his yard per carry average be?
|Week/Opponent||Carries||Yards||Avg/Carry||Big Run||Avg/Carry Minus Long Runs|
Once the big run is factored out of the equation, Drake goes from near the top to near the bottom. In his 10 starts, Drake averaged an embarrassing 2.9 yards per carry without his home run hit. That is a significant difference, showing that Drake’s great 2017 season was really about 10 great runs followed by below average production.
Joe Mixon was criticized for having such a bad year, only averaging 3.5 yards per carry, which was second worst among the top thirty running backs last year. Only Jonathan Steward was worse at 3.4 yards per carry and he is more than halfway out the door, heading towards retirement. If you eliminate Mixon’s biggest run in each game, he would have the same 2.9 average as Drake.
At least Mixon can blame it on the worst o-line of last year. Without that one dance per game, Drake was otherwise a bad running back.
Although Kenyan Drake appears to be a value as an RB2 this year, he is, in fact, the furthest thing. His numbers seemed a lot better than they were. And now the Miami Dolphins have added perennial back Frank Gore and have also drafted a bigger version of Drake in Kalen Ballage. Gore might not be as flashy as Drake, but he is more consistent and dependable.
Ballage has been criticized as an athletic specimen that was not productive in college. However, he was more dominant at Arizona State than Drake was in Alabama and has the same skill set. He’s as fast but is taller and bigger than Drake, built more like Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson, two of the most complete backs in the league today. Therefore, Kenyan Drake’s stock should not be valued as high as it is going into the 2018 season.
Hold On, We’re Going (with Marlon Mack)
Before going all in with Drake, perhaps you should draft another back who should get a larger piece of the pie but has a much lower ADP such as Marlon Mack. While Drake is the consensus number 16 on ESPN’s expert analysts board, Mack is being undervalued at number 38.
On MyFantasyLeague, Drake has an overall ADP of 57, whereas Mack is ranked as player 106. He’s more athletic, was more dominant in college, and has escaped from Frank Gore who now has come to take away touches from Drake. So instead of taking Kenyan Drake in the fifth round of redraft, wait until the ninth round and get a steal in Marlon Mack.
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