Jay Ajayi Should Benefit From Kenyan Drake's Presence
Jay Ajayi could have a big role in the Miami offense this season.
The Miami Dolphins drafted a running back earlier in the 2016 draft than they did in the 2015 one, but I'm here to explain why Ajayi, their 2015 fifth-round selection, is the better fantasy football investment for the upcoming season.
Kenyan Drake, the former Alabama change-of-pace back and kick returner, was chosen in the third round -- 73rd overall -- by Miami this past weekend. He was the third running back off the board, following both Ezekiel Elliott and the man he shared a backfield with, Heisman winner Derrick Henry.
He was taken ahead of a list of arguably more complete backs like Kenneth Dixon, Devontae Booker, Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams, Jordan Howard, CJ Prosise, and Paul Perkins.
Meet Kenyan Drake, the Athlete
PlayerProfiler.com considers Drake's closest comparable to be Alfonso Smith, a player who only managed to accumulate a total of 175 yards over five different seasons. While Drake's speed score is in the 82nd percentile among running backs, his burst and agility scores are in the 55th and 57th percentiles, respectively. Mockdraftable.com likens Drake most closely to Javorius "Buck" Allen, but other well-known comparisons that appear are Todd Gurley and Bernard Pierce.
Drake ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. He's quick, shifty, and has good straight-line long speed. He's agile and has the capability to make defenders miss in the open field. Drake can catch the ball well using his hands on many occasions, but then drops some passes due to a lack of concentration.
For all the good in his game, there's a lot of raw, athletic ability that has yet to be refined. Matt Waldman's Rookie Scouting Portfolio examines Drake's outlook, stating the following:
"If you’re seeking an example of a player whose game screams athletic ability only gets you so far, Drake is that player. He makes immature decisions as a runner, receiver, and all-around football player. He doesn’t seem consistently aware of down and distance, field position, or the game clock. Drake wins with acceleration and speed at this level because he played on the best team in college football with great offensive linemen and surrounding talent that lets him do what he does best without too much punishment for what he can’t do. The NFL is a different animal and Drake will not offer anything more than undisciplined gadget play if he doesn’t develop the mental side of his game."
Additionally, the former Crimson Tide back is one of the worst pass-protectors in the 2016 draft class. Waldman is a well-known evaluator of skill position players, and this scouting report doesn't bode well for Drake's future outlook.
All in all, I'm not sold on Kenyan Drake's potential for solid NFL production. He could be more of a change-of-pace back at the next level. Despite all this, Drake is more than athletic enough to succeed in the NFL -- he just has to refine his skills first. But history isn't on his side.
If Drake is more of a change-of-pace back in the NFL, that means that there's still an early-down role to fill in the Miami offense.
This leads us back to Ajayi.
Jay Ajayi's Role
Lamar Miller, as many fantasy owners remember, was criminally underused throughout his career in Miami. Nevertheless, he received the lion's share of the workload that was divided among the three running backs on the Dolphins' 2015 roster. Ajayi came off of IR-Designated to Return in Week 9 and made his season debut. Here's a look at his traditional numbers.
|Weeks 9-17||Carries||Rush Yd||Yards/Carry||Rush TD||Rec||Rec Yards||Rec TD|
Miller, Ajayi, and Damien Williams were the only players to carry the football at least once, and the stats show that Miller and Ajayi's production was actually quite comparable.
But what do our metrics show?
Here at numberFire, we use a metric called Net Expected Points, or NEP for short. For more information on how NEP works, check out our glossary.
Williams has been extremely inefficient and has a career Rushing NEP per carry of -0.24 over his career to this point. Miller and Ajayi both produced an Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry of -0.01 mark last year, which was league average. Miller was talented enough to fetch $26 million over four years in free agency, but never truly outplayed his rookie complement.
Ajayi played last season around 230 pounds, but wants to slim down to approximately 220 this year to be shiftier. In recent years, we've seen this work out very fortuitously for runners -- most notably Le'Veon Bell and C.J. Anderson.
With Miller out of the picture, Drake's lack of refinement, and Williams' general ineffectiveness, Ajayi seems poised to take over.
Why Adam Gase Matters
New Head Coach Adam Gase has done a great job throughout his career at maximizing the play of his quarterbacks, and his offenses have always featured the pass more heavily than the run. In fact, from 2013-2015, his offenses averaged 1.51, 1.41, and 1.19 passes per rush attempt. As JJ Zachariason has noted, an offense flows through the passing game, so this is logical.
Looking at the advanced metrics, we see that Gase-led offenses since 2013 have rushed for a schedule-adjusted Rushing NEP per carry of 0.00, 0.03, and 0.01. In those three seasons, the league average was -0.03, -0.02, and -0.03, respectively, proving that his offenses have been more efficient.
Per RotoViz, there are only two instances of a running back in a Gase-led offense tallying more than 250 touches in a single season -- he's always loved to utilize runners in specific roles and situations. However, Gase's offenses have had a running back place inside the top-12 for standard and PPR scoring for three consecutive seasons. Since 2012, his offenses have ranked 10th, 11th, 12th, and 6th in total rush attempts, and running backs have been targeted 83, 115, 98, and 103 times (averaging 100), respectively. Additionally, every running back that received the majority of touches in a shared backfield has surpassed 4.0 yards per carry.
These statistics and Kenyan Drake's draft pedigree lend credence to the notion that he will play a legitimate role in the offense.
But, if history repeats itself, Jay Ajayi could finish the 2016 season as an RB1.