Fantasy Football: Is Kenyan Drake an Elite Running Back Now?
Shit has officially hit the fan.
After a few days of inactivity in the world of sports, the NFL happened.
Among the many, many moves that took place, two were particularly vital to a certain player's fantasy value -- that player being Kenyan Drake. In a matter of two hours, the Arizona Cardinals placed the transition tag on Drake -- showing just how much they value him -- and then they traded away David Johnson in exchange for... somehow... DeAndre Hopkins.
There are (at least) two takeaways here: 1) With no Johnson or Adam Gase around, Drake has a clear path to elite fantasy production, and 2) Bill O'Brien is the Nathan Peterman of general managers.
For this piece, let's focus on Drake. Here's a look at what all this means for him going forward.
In eight games with the Cardinals, Drake received an average of 19.8 carries plus targets per game. At a career catch rate of 72.4 percent, that multiplies out to nearly 300 touches over 16 games.
With Johnson gone, an increase in touches could certainly be in the cards here. Drake saw at least an 80 percent snap share in four of his eight contests with Arizona. In those four, Johnson didn't play in two and averaged 11.5 snaps in the other two. In Drake's four games without an 80 percent share, Johnson averaged 19.5 snaps per.
All that means Drake could be in for a workhorse-type load for Arizona.
Let's start with fantasy. From Week 9 and on, Drake was the RB4 in half-PPR leagues -- that was with Johnson in the fold. Without DJ, Drake's ceiling is sky-high.
Per our models, among backs with at least 150 carries, Drake finished third in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry and eighth in Rushing Success Rate. According to Football Outsiders, the 26-year-old finished third at the position in DVOA in 2019. Those are elite numbers.
Drake scored eight times in eight games as a member of the Cardinals -- six of them came in a two-game stretch. Hello, regression. As noted by Brandon Gdula in his Derrick Henry piece, a pace of 15.4 carries per score is going to be nearly impossible to replicate.
That said, Drake's 5.4 yards per touch in Arizona is right in line with his career average and is certainly sustainable.
What to Expect
Drake's 16-game pace with the Cardinals was 246 carries, 1,286 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns, 56 receptions, and 342 receiving yards. Even if you cut his scoring rate in half, he still would've been the RB7 in half-PPR leagues with those numbers.
Arizona's acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins makes Drake's outlook a bit more unpredictable but still quite appealing.
Kliff Kingsbury's offense was already top-12 in pass-to-run ratio, so it's not as if a hoard of rush attempts will suddenly disappear. One need only look at Nick Chubb's 2019 numbers to see that the addition of an explosive wide receiver can be a plus, rather than minus. Chubb averaged 19.6 touches in his final 10 games of the 2018 season -- that number jumped to 22.4 in the 10 games prior to Kareem Hunt's arrival in 2019.
It's hard to tell what Drake's ADP (average draft position) will climb to, but I'd go as far as saying that I'd draft him inside the top 20 -- and that's probably not bold enough.