Started from the Backup: Can Explosive RB Kenyan Drake Break Out in Miami?

Offensive line? Check. Cornerback? Check. Running back? Check! The Miami Dolphins drafted Kenyan Drake out of Alabama to add depth to what has been considered a weak running back position since the departure of Lamar Miller. We all knew Miami would address the need; the only question was when they would do it and whom they would take. Turns out, Drake was the man they preferred. He is a polarizing talent and despite being a surprise, he shouldn’t be seen as a reach. In this article, we analyze his skillset and determine how he will be able to contribute in South Beach.

Background & Stats:

A spectacular weapon for the Crimson Tide, Drake contributed in so many ways to the success of the team. He was a monster out of the backfield both in the run game and passing attack and was a threat as a kickoff returner as well. Drake averaged six yards per carry for his college career as well as 12.5 yards per reception. Over the course of his time in Alabama, he accumulated over 2,500 all-purpose yards.

Drake stands at 6’1″, 210 pounds. He opened some eyes at the NFL Combine, running drills at an extremely high level compared to other members of his position. He was a top performer in the 40-yard dash (4.45 seconds), broad jump (123 inches), and 20 yard shuttle (4.21 seconds). Drake has long been underrated, and seems like he will continue to be as he transitions to the next level.

Positives: 

The first word that should come to mind when you think of Kenyan Drake is explosiveness. He is extremely quick on his feet, elusive, and has impressive lateral ability. He is so shifty, never seems to hesitate, and is a constant threat to break off a big run. After all, there is a reason he has such high averages in yards per carry and yards per reception:

Drake run

On this play, he starts off as a wide receiver before coming in motion. He takes the pitch and has more than enough speed to break off a run of nine yards.

While many don’t realize his physicality due to his homerun potential and stature, Drake is never afraid to take on defenders either. He finishes his runs with determination and aggression, always looking to pick up extra yards. Despite the fact that he may never be a workhorse back, he at least displays the tools to contribute on all three-downs.

He is also a reliable pass catcher. He was used in the slot at times in Alabama, and is perfectly capable of receiving out of the backfield as well. In this play below, he is lined up on the outside. He makes a simple double move that allows him to be wide open, and out runs Florida’s defense for a huge touchdown:

Drake catch

He has soft hands, and is an absolute menace when he gets the ball in space. He is so much fun to watch due to his ability to elude defenders with a variety of moves.

He provides the added benefits of contributing on special teams. He was a great option in the kick return game and even showed potential on defense at times. There is no guarantee Miami chooses to use him in these ways, but the versatility is a skill that any team would desire out of a third round pick:

Drake kick return

Negatives:

I think the main issue with this pick is that Drake does not offer the potential to become a starting running back in the NFL. He doesn’t have the right body type to be a consistent option on short yardage/goal-to-go situations. He is undoubtedly tall enough, but lacks the weight and core strength to be a force in this area. Similarly, he has an extended injury history to his name, breaking his leg and fracturing his arm at different points in his college career. Without a clear future option at the position, Miami might have been better off selecting a back with more “workhorse” potential.

Additionally, Drake’s frantic style of play worked wonders in college, but he will have to make certain changes to his game if he wants to be successful at the next level. NFL-caliber running backs are willing and able to show patience, allow blocks to develop, etc. Drake makes his decisions so quickly that he could get himself into trouble at the professional level. He needs to be able to be decisive while still allowing the best running lanes to be formed. This will also be essential if he is going to be a weapon in Adam Gase’s screen game:

Drake no gain

Even more so, as many scouts have pointed out about him before, he doesn’t have a go-to skill. He does a lot of things well, but really nothing great. He even had five drops in college, which is somewhat of a concern considering his best fit will be as a third down back.

Finally, there is his injury history. Many refrain from calling him injury prone as broken legs and arms are usually unavoidable, but it is still a huge area of worry at this point in time. For a player that relies so much on explosiveness, future leg injuries would be a huge blow to his potential to remain on the field for a long career.

How He Fits in Miami:

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Michigan State vs Alabama

(Kevin Jairaj – USA TODAY Sports)

The Dolphins needed running back help and now have it. While fans surely would have preferred a back who could immediately start, and eventually become the team’s workhorse, Drake is a very nice fall back option.

Drake complements projected starter Jay Ajayi very well. He will be able to immediately step in as another tool at Gase’s disposal, and the head coach should know exactly how to use him. Gase will be able to get him into space and involve him in the screen game. In other words, Miami will be the perfect team to use Drake to the best of his abilities.

A lot was accomplished with this pick. The Dolphins addressed a huge need and added another weapon to take some pressure off of Ryan Tannehill. Now Jay Ajayi, despite carrying a ton of potential, will not be forced to carry such a huge load into the regular season. Kenyan Drake may not be a three-down back, but that doesn’t mean that he is completely unable to contribute in these regards.

The Skinny:

kenyan-drake-arrested

USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have managed to continue to take guys that the general public hasn’t expected: first Laremy Tunsil, then Xavien Howard, and next Kenyan Drake. Drake is an explosive option out of the backfield and should be an immediate contributor for the Miami offense. Perhaps the important thing to consider is that, despite not necessarily taking the “Best Player Available” approach, they are managing to both instill talent to their roster and fill the holes that have needed to be occupied all offseason. Up to this point, I think they have had a very successful draft.

With Drake on board, only linebacker and defensive line remain out of the holes that seemed obvious prior to the start of the draft. There are still some very good options left on the board, and it will be critical to hit on at least a few of the picks left in their draft. It had been an absolutely crazy draft for Miami up until the third round, and it continued with the pick of Alabama running back Kenyan Drake.

 

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