When the Dolphins decided to ship Jay Ajayi out of Miami last season, trading him to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, they created an opportunity for someone else to step up and be the lead dog in their backfield. Second-year back Kenyan Drake answered the call.
Going back and rewatching his film from last year, I came away very impressed with Drake’s physicality as a runner. He’s not a particularly big guy at 6’1, 211 pounds, and my first thought about him was always more about his breakaway speed. But what I saw on an every-down basis was a guy who lowered his pads and wasn’t afraid of contact. A lot of those 644 yards he gained on the ground came on plays where he stuck his foot in the ground and ran full steam ahead right between the tackles.
Drake doesn’t go down easily.
I loved the way he kept his legs churning as guys tried to wrap him up so he could get that extra yard or two before he finally hit the ground. Drake’s balance was superb, and it allowed him to bounce off some of those big hits and run out of some of those tackle attempts.
Don’t get me wrong, Drake was pretty adept at avoiding would-be tacklers, too. He didn’t make a lot of the big, pretty jump cuts you see every week on SportsCenter, but he would change directions on a dime and cut just enough to make a guy miss. You combine all that with his aforementioned breakaway speed and you got yourself a pretty good running back.
He was an asset in the passing game. Drake looked natural running routes and catching the ball out of the backfield, hauling in 32 balls for 239 yards and a touchdown. It turns out that Ajayi getting traded afforded Drake a chance to show everyone just what they had been missing and he did not disappoint.
With the skills he displayed last season, there is no doubt Drake can carry the load this year.
If the Dolphins choose to keep him in on passing downs, he can certainly be a viable three-down back. Even if he comes out on third down, Drake’s production should get a huge boost this season. I know Miami signed Frank Gore, but at this point in both of their careers I have a hard time seeing Gore beating out Drake.
If he can stay healthy, Drake can nail down the starting running back position for this season and for years to come. I personally think he will.
Confidence level: High