Before we get started, there is no reason to believe Kenyan Drake will dethrone Jay Ajayi as the team’s starting running back. In all honesty, he might never be a starting running back in the NFL and that’s okay. Drake’s skill-set is better suited as an offensive weapon, a chess piece for Adam Gase to manipulate as he sees fit. His speed and skills as a receiver makes him a better option than Ajayi in key passing situations. In addition, his ability as a return man makes him a lethal weapon in all phases of the game.
Here are five reasons to be excited about Kenyan Drake in 2017 and beyond.
Big-play return man
We saw it briefly last season, but Kenyan Drake is a real threat in the return game. He averaged over 30 yards per return as a rookie, and will look to build on those numbers moving forward. Anytime Drake gets his hands on the football, he has an opportunity to take it to the house.
Here is a prime example of why you don’t kick the ball to Kenyan Drake.
and one from the biggest college game of his career...
A mix of speed and vision
Drake’s first career touchdown came against the New England Patriots. It’s no secret that when dealing with a speedy running back, utilizing outside runs is a great way to keep the defense off balance. Furthermore, it uses the player’s strengths to create an edge for the offense.
In this play, Adam Gase calls a stretch play to the strong side of Miami’s offense. The Patriots’ defense is in great position, but Ja’Wuan James and Dion Sims do a nice job of blocking. This opens up a big enough hole for Drake to squeeze into, on his way to the endzone. This could be the first of many touchdowns for the Alabama product.
As you can see, this isn’t something new for Drake.
He’s a threat in the passing game
One of the reasons I believe Drake is so valuable, is because of his abilities as a pass catcher. Jay Ajayi has already proven he’s not a big-time receiving threat, but the same can’t be said about Drake, who proved to be quite the receiver at Alabama. I fully expect Gase to utilize these skills more in 2017, and look to create mismatches on defense. Like most running backs, Drake remains a viable security blanket for Ryan Tannehill.
In this play, you see what Drake can do against a very good LSU defense. He runs a five-yard curl, allowing himself to settle in the middle of the defense. The QB has no choice but to dump the ball off to Drake, who turns the five-yard reception into a big gain. This is the type of playmaker he is, and it’s plays like this I expect to see more of this season.
Yeeessshhhh. Note to NFL defensive coordinators, never try to cover Kenyan Drake with a linebacker.
Here, you can see the linebacker commit hard to the inside slant. Without any wasted motion, Drake feathers to the outside. A beautiful pass from the QB enables Drake to make the reception, hitting him in stride for the easy touchdown. Streaks, wheel routes, slants and screens, this is what I’m excited to see from Drake in Miami’s offense.
Adam Gase’s chess piece
I touched on it a briefly throughout the article, but Drake is a perfect chess piece for Gase’s offense. I mean let’s be honest, how is any defense going to be able to stop an offense consisting of Ryan Tannehill, Jay Ajayi, DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and Julius Thomas. Now you add a versatile running back like Kenyan Drake into the mix, and things get even more dangerous.
In 2016, the Dolphins used jet-motion quite often throughout the duration of the year. Why not bring Drake in motion, and create space with the speedy back? We know Miami isn’t a very good screen team, but let’s see what he can do with the rock in his hand. Giving opportunities to Drake, gives Miami’s bell-cow, Jay Ajayi time to rest. When he’s fresh late in games, that spells trouble for opposing defenses. It also allows Drake to build confidence, making him a better player. Let’s see what kind of tricks Gase has up his sleeves this season.
He can do this with the football in his hands
This is one of those plays where we as fans, feel every bit of emotion.
“Why the hell did you run the ball out of shotgun.”
“What is he doing running into a crowd of defenders.”
“Great, now he’s changing direction. This will definitely be a ten-yard loss.”
“Wait, there’s no one on the right side of the field!”
“OMG! OMG! OMG!”
Seriously, it’s plays like this that you try in Madden, to humiliate your friends and family. This is just an incredible play by Drake, who gets a great block from Matt Moore ten yards downfield. Once he gets around the edge, no one can stop him.
If we’re being honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the Dolphins drafting Kenyan Drake. I believed there were several backs still available that would fit better in Miami. With that said, I can clearly see why Adam Gase and Co. did draft Drake, and I’m excited to see what the future entails. His threat in the return game and passing game alone gives me chills. He’s a poor man’s Reggie Bush, and we all know how well he did in Miami until his body gave out. Kenyan Drake should have an exciting year in 2017.
Kenyan Drake is the Robin, to Jay Ajayi’s Batman.
This article was written by Josh Houtz. Follow him on Twitter!