The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown: Kenyan Drake (2019 Fantasy Football)
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Should fantasy football drafters take a shot on Kenyan Drake this season after an up-and-down 2018? Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and unknown elements of the Miami running back’s value.
Lack of Competition
Last year, Frank Gore led the Miami Dolphins with 156 carries in 14 games. It was extremely frustrating as a Drake owner, but Gore probably ran the ball better. I want whatever Gore is having to run so well in his age-35 season.
Going into 2019, the depth chart is quite barren. Drake appears to be the clear top back, with only Kalen Ballage pushing him for touches. Ballage’s numbers look pretty good at first glance, but watching him play last year left a lot to be desired. Removing his 75-yard touchdown run, he averaged 3.3 yards per carry on the rest of his 35 rushes. All players’ stats obviously take a dip when removing their longest run, but if we do the same for Drake, he still averaged 4.0 yards per carry on his remaining 119 handoffs.
Ballage’s low volume makes his stats more susceptible to this kind of thing, so let’s look at Drake’s rookie stats with his best run removed. He still would have averaged 4.2 yards per carry on 32 rushes after eliminating a 45-yard run. The only other player I have any concern over right now is Mark Walton, but he could potentially be facing a suspension for felony weapon charges.
Last year, the Dolphins ran 826 offensive plays. That was good for dead last in the NFL. They ran the 25th-most rushing plays and the 30th-most receiving plays. They also tied for last place with only seven rushing touchdowns. Some of this is on Adam Gase, and some of it is on a roster bereft of playmakers at many positions.
Pro Football Focus ranked Miami’s offensive line 31st last year. Ryan Tannehill graded last among qualifying quarterbacks. Their highest-ranked wide receivers among qualified PFF grades were DeVante Parker at 50 and Kenny Stills at 70. None of the offensive linemen or tight ends cracked the top 32 at their respective positions. There is a hope that a new coaching staff and quarterback can spark this team, but much of the roster remains the same or worse as they prepare for a rebuild.
New Coaching Staff
Brian Flores will be a head coach for the first time in his life. He has spent his entire career in New England, mostly on the defensive side. It is hard to know how involved Flores plans to be with the offense and how much he will leave to new offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea.
The Patriots’ wide receivers coach since 2009, O’Shea is also assuming his new role for the first time. He stated that he wanted to base the offense off the players’ strengths like New England has done since Bill Belichick arrived. O’Shea also said that it’s important for players to be “multiple.” By this, he means that he wants versatile players who can do more than one thing on the field.
It’s all coach talk and assumptions for now, but Drake is definitely a versatile player who could be used in a lot of different ways this year.
Drake never eclipsed 92 rushing attempts in college. It didn’t help that he played for Alabama and was teammates with Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Damien Harris, and Bo Scarbrough over his four-year tenure. Though Drake has never missed a game in his NFL career, he has maxed out at 133 carries in a season. His career yards per attempt is 4.7, so it’s not an efficiency issue.
Drake is not quite as big as most workhorse backs, and his coaches might be concerned with his ability to hold up over a 16-game season. He will certainly be heavily involved in the passing game this year, but the real key to his value will be his role in the run game. If Drake sees over 175 carries this year, he has high-end RB2 potential.
Drake appears to be the clear-cut running back to dominate carries and targets this year. He is certainly the most talented back on the roster, and the Dolphins’ running back depth chart is one of the weakest in the league. But how much are those touches worth? Their offense figures to be bottom 10 again this year.
New coaches can bring life to players, but the players on the roster just aren’t that good. The head coach and offensive coordinator are also each trying their hands at their respective jobs for the first time. They both come from New England, and O’Shea wants to implement the philosophy of adapting his game plan to his players’ strengths.
Drake will certainly be used as a pass-catcher, but just how many carries can he handle? How many are the coaches willing to give him? I have him ranked as my RB23 in re-draft leagues and a couple of spots higher in Best Ball.