Despite Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake’s impressive young career, there are still those who aren’t yet sure he’s ready to handle the role of being a team’s lead ball carrier. Former NFL star Maurice Jones-Drew is one of those skeptics.
In a recent article on NFL.com, Jones-Drew expressed his doubt over Drake’s potential:
Drake is an explosive player and eclipsed 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season, but he’s never been a consistent, every-down back, which is why he doesn’t rate higher here. Plus, I’m not quite sure what this Dolphins offense will look like with head coach Brian Flores and offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea, who both came from New England, at the helm. O’Shea was the Patriots’ wide receivers coach for a decade, so I’m wondering how similar (or different) Miami’s offense will be to the Pats’?
Jones-Drew, a former lead running back himself and three-time Pro Bowler for the Jacksonville Jaguars, listed Drake as the 31st RB1 in the NFL. How he came to this conclusion is beyond me, especially since there are several rookie running backs listed higher than the star of the Miami Miracle. Jones-Drew says that Drake isn’t listed higher because he has never been a consistent every down back, but neither have any of the incoming rookies (or several other players listed higher than Drake).
Let’s take a look at some statistical facts:
Running behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines, Drake carried the ball 120 times last season and averaged a healthy 4.5 yards per cary. The year prior, he toted the rock 133 times for an ever better average of 4.8 yards per cary. Drake is also a dangerous weapon in the passing game. He caught 53 passes for 477 receiving yards during the 2018 season alone.
Let’s compare those stats to the numbers of new Philadelphia Eagles starter Jordan Howard, who’s listed at #17 on Jones-Drew’s list:
Howard carried the ball 250 times with the Chicago Bears last season, but averaged just 3.7 yards per cary. The year prior, he had 276 carries and averaged 4.1 yards per cary. He’s also a minimal factor in the passing game, as he caught just 46 balls over the past two seasons combined. Yes, Howard had a breakout rookie season in 2016, but that was three years ago, and Jones-Drew’s list is meant to compile the best RB1s of the 2019 season, not the past three years. Howard is 14 spots higher than Drake simply because he carried the ball more?
What really confuses me is that Jones-Drew has unproven commodities way higher on his list than Drake. Minnesota Vikings tailback Dalvin Cook is listed at #10 on the list. Cook has yet to play 16 total in his NFL career. Sure, the former second-round pick is talented, but Cook played in just four games during his rookie season before tearing his ACL and managed just 11 games through last season due to injury. How is Cook 21 spots higher than Drake if Jones-Drew’s main concern over Drake is whether the Dolphin can cary a full load? Cook hasn’t proven that he can, yet he’s at #10.
Oh, and let me add that Jones-Drew’s concern over Drake being in a Patriots style offense doesn’t hurt Jones-Drew’s ranking of Patriots running back, Sony Michel. Michel is listed at #11 on the list despite starting just eight games last season. Michel is playing in a New England Patriots offense that shares the ball quite a bit, something Jones-Drew seemed to imply hurt Drake’s standing given that former Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea has become the offensive coordinator in Miami.
Now I’ll admit, Adam Gase’s unwillingness to allow Drake to take over as the every-down back over the past two seasons is perplexing, but I don’t see it as enough reasoning to list Drake as the 31st RB1 in the entire NFL. Drake has a combination of power, speed, agility, home-run hitting ability, and receiving acumen to frighten most defensive coordinators, and I believe he’ll prove Jones-Drew and many other doubters wrong this season, even if it means sharing a few carries with his compatriots in the running back room. I don’t believe that sharing carries should make him a less impressive RB1.
Want more Miami Dolphins news, updates, or opinions? Follow Justin Hier on twitter @HierJustin.