One of the most enjoyable things about scouting the incoming class of rookies every year is attempting to unearth a diamond in the rough. Every year there seems to be a couple players selected late in the second round or even in the third round of rookie drafts that becomes a fantasy contributors. In 2014, Jeremy Hill and Devonta Freeman proved to be useful as second round rookies while Martavis Bryant and Jarvis Landry have made a splash out of the third round. Last year, it was Tyler Lockett who made an impact as a second to third round guy and my personal favorite sleeper a year ago, Stefon Diggs, as well as Thomas Rawls were late picks who have panned out nicely for dynasty owners to this point.
So who is the gem of the late picks in 2016 rookie drafts? Introducing Kenyan Drake.
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Despite being a very highly regarded high school prospect and playing running back for one of the premiere RB colleges in the country, Drake is a bit of an unknown to many. Having played behind the likes of Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy over his four years in Tuscaloosa, he was never the featured tailback in Nick Saban’s offense. Also suffering multiple tough-luck injuries in his time on campus, he struggled to stay on the field at times which gave those other high profile runners a chance to take over as the primary tailback.
Although Drake didn’t have the same college success as his former backfield mates, that doesn’t mean he’s not as talented (or more talented) than them however. Let’s find out why.
As you can see from the Mock Draftable Chart above, Drake’s explosiveness ranks very favorably when compared to the other runners in this class. With the third fastest 40-time among running backs at the combine (4.45) and the fifth best broad jump (123 inches), he proved the impressive burst he showed on film throughout his time with the Crimson Tide wasn’t just smoke and mirrors.
If there was a negative that came out of Drake’s combine performance, it was easily his lack of strength. Bench pressing 225 pounds just ten times, he ranked as the worst of the 14 tailbacks to lift in Indianapolis. The next worst was Kelvin Taylor from Florida, who did 15 reps. Although his ten reps on the bench shouldn’t be completely ignored, dynasty owners should keep in mind that Drake broke his right arm just a few months ago.
Another way to analyze Drake’s combine performance is by taking a look at www.PlayerProfiler.com, which assigns scores to all players based on their combine performance. Their custom metric for Speed Score, which factors a player’s weight into his speed states that any score over 110.0 is extraordinary for a running back. With a score of 107.1, Drake falls just below extraordinary but still ranks in the 81st percentile among running backs in this class.
If you haven’t taken the time to watch Drake on tape, I highly suggest watching the scouting videos of the tailback put together by Draft Breakdown. For those who do not have the time to watch four videos however, the highlight video (below) should properly demonstrate Drake’s explosiveness and upside, both before and after his injuries.
As you can see in the highlights above, Drake’s calling card is his burst and straight line speed. When running downhill out of the I-formation (0:36 mark in the video), he explodes through the line and uses his vision and burst to make a linebacker miss in the hole. Once he hits the open field, very few can catch him on the way to pay dirt.
Drake is also quite effective as a perimeter runner. Using his speed, he can stretch runs outside the hashes (1:28) and has the ability to change his momentum from east and west to north and south in a flash while still having the open field moves to make a downhill safety miss in the open field.
Many question Drake’s ability to run between the tackles on dives, traps and power runs, but he’s proven when given the opportunity that he can be a quality one-cut runner. Due to his burst and vision, he can hit the hole in a blink (1:50) and cut back behind his blocks at the second level. He also finishes runs violently which isn’t common with most speed backs that do a majority of their damage on the edge and in the open field. Always churning his legs and falling forward, he regularly gets more yards than what is blocked.
The final part of Drake’s game that shouldn’t be overlooked is his prowess as a pass catcher. Great as a receiver both as a tailback and in the slot, he has the soft hands of a wide out as well as the know-how to setup blocks and the open field moves to turn a five-yard gain into an 80-yard touchdown. He was so good as a receiver, Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin trusted him regularly to line up on the outside, designing screens (1:55), slants and go-routes (2:10) for their “running back.”
More than anything else, the highlight video above shows a dynamic playmaker all over the field. With elite burst at the line of scrimmage and an impressive set of open field moves to elude tacklers including a wicked spin move and electrifying jump cut as well as the tenacity to finish runs emphatically, Drake has the skills to be a lethal playmaker as a ball carrier. When you add his effectiveness as pass catcher both out of the backfield and lined up out wide – not to mention is explosive skills as a kick returner – there may not be a better all-around tailback in the draft.
As you can tell from everything above, I see Drake as a severely underrated prospect. The doubters claim he’s never proven he can be a workhorse tailback but with Lacy, Yeldon and Henry also on the roster at Alabama, there was no reason to make him a three-down back. Others point to his injury history but a case can be made that a broken leg, busted rib and broken arm should be chalked up as bad luck and shouldn’t give him the label of being injury prone.
Many feel that Drake will be a day three pick in the NFL draft. I have a hard time believing that and I’m not alone. Peter King recently wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback article, “I asked a few (scouts) which first-round pick will shock the world on April 28. And one evaluator said he wasn’t positive this player would go in the first round, but said he definitely has first-round talent: Alabama back Kenyan Drake, who backed up Heisman winner Derrick Henry. Great straight-line speed.” It should also be mentioned that draft expert Mike Mayock has Drake as a riser in this running back class, listing him as the fifth best tailback in his latest rankings.
While one comment from an unnamed source and one evaluator’s rankings certainly don’t mean Drake will be an early draft pick or productive player in the NFL, it absolutely highlights the fact that there are evaluators out there that see his value climbing. It’s time for dynasty owners to see it the same way.
Currently being selected as the 31dst player in rookie drafts, Drake is being selected as the 11th running back off the board in the mid-third round in 12-team leagues according to the latest DLF Rookie ADP information. That’s far too low. Personally, I have ranked sixth among running backs in the class behind only Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Alex Collins, Kenneth Dixon and Devontae Booker. In my opinion, he should be taken as a top-18 rookie pick and if selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft by a team in need of a playmaking tailback, I wouldn’t be scared to take him early in the second round of rookie drafts.
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