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Backup or Not, Kenyan Drake Can Ball

While much of the attention this draft season will focus on Alabama’s Derrick Henry, I might actually be more intrigued by his teammate Kenyan Drake. Not because Henry isn’t good, but because Drake has some fascinating data points.

The case for Kenyan Drake is fairly simple and goes something like this: he’s well built,1 he’s a good receiver, and he’s got that special teams juju. Here’s a quick list of comparables based upon:

  • Getting drafted
  • Weighing between 200 and 220 pounds
  • Scoring a kick-return touchdown
  • Accumulating at least 400 career receiving yards
RBDraft PickF AgeWtCar KR TDCar Rec Yds
Brian Westbrook9122.320042639
Demarco Murray7122.921321571
Reggie Bush220.820111301
Aaron Brown19223.22001857
Maurice Jones-Drew6020.82072819
Cyrus Gray18222.12062776
Duke Johnson7721.32072719
Ameer Abdullah5421.62051690
Kenyan Drake14921.92101570
Leon Washington11723.32011481

The Good – Brian Westbrook, Demarco Murray, Reggie Bush and Maurice Jones-Drew all had great careers. In fairness, they were all much more prolific than Drake was in college, but anytime guys of that caliber show up in comparables, it’s encouraging. And as far as Drake’s lesser production, we’ll circle back to that in a minute.

The Middle – Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah are promising young players, but they’ve got a long way to go before we know if Drake being similar to them is good or bad. Leon Washington was never an elite fantasy asset, but he lasted in the league for nine seasons as a jack of all trades, so that counts for something

The Ugly – Aaron Brown and Cyrus Gray had a cup of tea in the league, but not much more.

Maybe this exercise is flawed because Drake’s raw production is dwarfed by almost everyone in that cohort. However, let’s step back for a second and think about a few things. For starters, Kenyan Drake has been behind T.J. Yeldon, who was the 36th overall pick in the 2015 Draft, and Derrick Henry, who won a Heisman and seems likely to be selected in the top 50. Oh, and Eddie Lacy too. Then there’s the issue of Drake fracturing his leg in 2014, which led to playing in only five games and cast doubt on his ability to handle a full workload in 2015, when Henry emerged as a workhorse. Basically, a lot of things conspired to prevent him from accumulating a lot of touches through his career.

Rather than raw production, what I want to focus on with Drake is how productive he was with his touches. I whipped together this table, which compares his career per-touch performance against the cohort.

RBCar Rush YdsYards/RushCar Rec YdsYards/Rec
Reggie Bush31697.3130113.7
Duke Johnson35196.771910.4
Kenyan Drake14956.457012.4
Brian Westbrook44996.2263912.1
Ameer Abdullah45885.66909.5
Aaron Brown25965.385710.6
Leon Washington20415.54818.7
Cyrus Gray32985.27767.5
Maurice Jones-Drew25035.281912.8
Demarco Murray36854.971910.4

Yes, the lower volume of touches helps Drake maintain outstanding efficiency, but surely he is owed some credit for being among the top-three most explosive runners and receivers in this group, based on per-touch yardage.

Kenyan Drake might not have the career production that other top backs have, but he was really productive when he got a chance. Based on similar players who were as big as him, as good of a receiver, and as good a returner, Drake’s future is looking bright, in my opinion.


Jon Moore is a contributor at RotoViz and a cohost of Rotoviz Radio – A Fantasy Football Podcast. Continue this conversation with him on Google+Facebook or Twitter.

  1. measured at 6 feet, 210 pounds at the Senior Bowl  (back)

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