Kenyan Drake said his strained hamstring, sustained in a punt blocking drill the next-to-last day of minicamp, is not “major,” is quickly healing, and he will be fine for football activities long before the start of training camp.
“I’m feeling great,” he said.
This was the seventh injury Drake has suffered over the past four-plus years, but he politely brushed off questions about his durability that were raised by at least one scout.
“You’re going to get hurt as a football player,” Drake said. “It’s about how fast you recover and get back on the field. It’s not about how many times you get injured. It’s about are you able to play in critical moments of the season when the team needs you to.”
At least in the media, Kenyan Drake has had a quiet offseason.1 He didn’t get much buzz during rookie minicamp, and he hasn’t been on the practice field since a June 15 hamstring injury. According to beat reporters and disreputable internet commenters, Arian Foster is the bigger threat to presumed starter Jay Ajayi‘s value. But Drake was the third running back selected in the draft, behind only Ezekiel Elliott and Drake’s Alabama teammate Derrick Henry. The Dolphins expect Drake to contribute. We’re not so sure.
Drake is tough to evaluate with metrics because he was never the top option in college. Normally, that fact alone would be a deal-breaker, but it’s tough to write a guy off for failing to beat out Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon, and Eddie Lacy. Jon Moore was optimistic because of Drake’s versatility, but Moore acknowledged that Drake was much less productive than any of the optimistic comparables. And Moore’s cold feet got even colder after he examined how collegiate teammates fared in the NFL.
Tim Talmadge likened Drake to a better version of Jeremy Langford, whom Adam Gase used with some success in Chicago. I don’t hate the comparison, but I’m not sure it’s an optimistic one for Drake. Langford saw opportunity only because of Matt Forte‘s injury, and he didn’t make the most of it.
As Matthew Freedman summarized Drake’s production, “Nope. Nope.”
Maybe Drake’s athletic profile can help us understand why the Dolphins valued him so highly:
In a way, yes. He’s a solid athlete. But he’s not the kind of athlete that would make us overlook his lack of production, especially when Brian Leonard has the most NFL success of his comparables.
So, in a moment of true desperation, I turned to film analysis.2 Graham Barfield has taken on an ambitious RB evaluation project, and he is cautiously optimistic. Despite Drake’s top performance in Barfield’s Yards Created metric, Barfield was “genuinely scared” of Drake’s lack of production. But Barfield came away impressed with Drake’s passing game potential.
If the rookie has any fantasy value in 2016, it’ll be as a pass catcher. But Ajayi was a productive receiver in college, and as Ben Gretch showed in February, Adam Gase tends to rely on a workhorse RB.3 In short, Drake may be a valuable part of the Dolphins’ offense, but for fantasy upside, he’ll need to beat out Ajayi (or Ajayi will have to get hurt). As a third-round pick, Drake has the draft capital advantage. But nothing else about Drake says NFL starter.