Kenyan Drake, ADP And Markets In Motion
The trade of David Johnson (HOU) to the Texans left Kenyan Drake (HOU), whom the team placed a transition tag on, as the clear lead man in the Cardinals backfield. In eight game with the Cardinals last year, Drake averaged 80.4 yards rushing yards per game on 5.2 yards per carry and added 28 receptions (RECs) on 35 targets for 171 receiving yards. For those in the daily fantasy community, that equated to 18.2 FD fantasy points per game and 21.1 DK fantasy points per game. During that span, Drake touched the ball 19-plus times four times and averaged 120 rushing yards, 1.8 rushing TDs, 4.0 targets, 3.5 RECs, 23 receiving yards, 31.1 DK fantasy points and 27.1 FD fantasy points per game in those contests. In other words, when the team treated him as a true workhorse, he produced quite admirably.
Now, there is a clear path for him to be the true workhorse with his main competition shipped out of town, and as of Mar. 24 he owns a National Fantasy Football Championship (NFC) average draft position (ADP) of 26 in the month of March alone. Either the market has not fully adjusted to the Johnson trade news or the market is simply undervaluing him at this point.
Kenyan Drake Team Context
The addition of DeAndre Hopkins (ARI) should only help enhance the balance of an offense that averaged the second most yards per rush (5.0) in the league last year. By comparison, the Texans ranked ninth in yards per rush despite featuring an offensive line that Pro Football Focus (PFF) deemed 20th best in the league. The addition of Laremy Tunsil (HOU) certainly solidified their pass protection but they graded just 27th in run blocking. Naturally, the combination of rushing quarterback (QB) and solid receiving core assisted in making the run blocking unit look better than they were, which is a similar mixture to that of the current Cardinals.
Additionally, Drake and Johnson both ranked in the bottom five of NFL RBs in percentage of seeing eight-plus defenders in the box. As if the addition of Hopkins could not get overstated enough, the ability to pull the keep the eighth defender from the box and leave them in coverage should only assure clear running lanes in the future for Drake. By comparison, Drake spent an almost identical amount of time behind the line of scrimmage as other top backs such as Saquon Barkely (NYG) and Dalvin Cook (MIN) per play, so it is not like he was consistently dancing in the backfield either. He was consistently seeing seven-man boxes and shooting out of the backfield which partially explains the success.
While the Cardinals offensive line as a whole graded slightly worse than the Texans last year, they rated as slightly superior in the run-blocking department, and they almost assuredly will focus on the offensive line in the draft. In fact, NFL reporter Daniel Jeremiah went so far as to speculated the move for Hopkins frees up the team to take an offensive tackle (OT) in the first round. AZCentral.com compiled many credible sources’ projections for who the Cardinals will select in the first round and every single one, other than FanSided, is projecting them to take a tackle. An improvement to the offensive line plus the addition of Hopkins can only be construed as one thing for the prospects of the offense: a positive.
Comparing Kenyan Drake to Other Top Running Backs
Only seven running backs (RBs) averaged more than 18 DK fantasy points per game last year (in order): Christian McCaffery (CAR), Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry (TEN), Aaron Jones (GB), Ezekiel Elliott (DAL), Austin Ekeler (LAC) and Saquon Barkley. Just to reiterate, Drake averaged 21.1 DK fantasy points per game as a member of the Cardinals, which was more than any other player on the fantasy point per game leader list other than the top three (McCaffery, Cook and Henry). McCaffery’s situation likely improved, the Vikings lost a bit of their balance on offense and Ekeler’s situation clearly improved. Health is always key at the RB position but it makes sense why all these backs are being drafted in the top 15 of NFC leagues since the start of March.
Where the comparison tails off for Drake compared to the bunch is in the red zone usage department. Over the course of his eight games with the Cardinals, Drake touched the ball 19 times in the red zone, good enough for a 28.8-percent market share on his team. By comparison, Henry, McCaffery, Elliott, Barkley and Cook all garnered 34.9-percent market shares in the red zone or better during the course of the second half of the season. Will the trade of David Johnson boost Drake’s red zone touches enough to compete with this group? Cook received just three more red zone opportunities over one half of a season which seems like a reasonable uptick for a guy acting as a true workhorse. Drake seemingly possesses the chance to step up his workload enough to compete with the opportunities of these elite backs in the red zone. His ability to cash-in remains to be seen.
Kenyan Drake Athletic Profile
Coming out of college, Drake posted a 28th percentile SPARQ score, ran a 4.45 40-yard dash, posted a miserable first percentile bench press score (10 reps) and displayed above average agility. According to playerprofiler.com, Drake’s best comparable player at the position was Lamar Miller who has posted two seasons over 1,000 yards rushing and two seasons with nine-plus touchdowns (TDs). Considering Drake compiled 643 rushing yards in eight games with the Cardinals last year (while splitting touches with Johnson), the comparison is almost assuredly selling Drake short.
Part of Drake’s skill set that is similar to that of Miller’s is his ability to catch the football. When all said and done, 10 RBs were targeted more times than Drake overall and he posted an 80-percent reception rate on the Cardinals alone (which was a vast improvement from his Dolphins numbers). The ability to act as a dual-threat improves his chances to compete with the top backs in terms of fantasy point per game output, despite lacking elite athleticism.
Why We Are Drafting Kenyan Drake
Drake’s current ADP of 25 is too low. In fact, the combination of factors covered in the article lead one to believe he is closer to a first-round pick than the 25th pick. Where Drake lacks is lacking in athleticism he makes up for in team context (especially if the team adds to the offensive line via the draft), the ability to catch the football and the opportunity to act as the workhorse back over the entirety of a full season. He sort of feels like last year’s Leonard Fournette (JAX) in that his expected workload does not line up with his ADP and he is a glaring value at this point. As the season gets closer, if Drake does not start to rise in ADP it would be a shocker, but would leave him as one of the best values of the top 30 if he were to fall to the third round of 12-team leagues. In my opinion, Drake should be gone by the 20th pick at the latest, but I have him rated as a top 15 overall player with top five overall upside.