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On October 28, 2019, the Cardinals traded for Dolphins' running back Kenyan Drake, signaling the beginning of the end of David Johnson's time in Arizona. Drake started 8 games for the Cards, showing a massive improvement from the numbers he picked up in Miami - that came as a shock to literally nobody. Ok, maybe Adam Gase, but I digress. Drake will be the clear-cut lead running back in Kliff Kingsbury's quickly improving Arizona offense that features now Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. Could Drake be in line for the first RB1 campaign of his career?

2019 Recap

RUSH YDS RUSH TD REC REC YDS REC TD FANTASY POINTS FPPG
817 8 50 345 0 214.2 15.3

It feels unfair to include Drake's Miami numbers in these stats, as he was just a completely different player after showing up in Arizona. 70% of his total yards and all of his touchdowns came in his 8 games as a member of the Cardinals. Drake had always flashed high-level running back talent, but Adam Gase is a bonehead and never figured out how to utilize him properly. Drake's 151 touches on the Cardinals nearly reached the amount he had earned each of the previous two years on the Dolphins. These numbers don't come close to telling the whole story of what Drake can be in 2020.

2020 Projections

RUSH YDS RUSH TD REC REC YDS REC TD FANTASY POINTS FPPG
1,140 11 58 430 2 293 18.3

You might look at these numbers and think I'm overzealous about Drake in 2020. But consider this: Drake's 16-game pace as a member of the Cardinals last year was 246 carries for 1,286 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns as well as 56 receptions for 342 yards through the air. That would have been good for 314.8 fantasy points, which have had him as the #2 running back in fantasy, tied with Aaron Jones in points. I'm giving him fewer rush yards and touchdowns here, with a slight uptick in receiving work. These numbers would have made Drake a top-five running back in 2019, and this might only be scratching the surface of what he's capable of.

ADP/Auction Value

ADP: 2.12
Auction Price: $31

Drake is like Peggy Olson - constantly demeaned and undervalued until their massive breakthrough puts them in an entirely new light (sorry I'm on a bit of a Mad Men binge right now). Fantasy drafters are going to undervalue Drake because of his limited production in Miami and the small sample size of work in Arizona, and I will be absolutely thrilled to take him at the back of the 2nd or beginning of the 3rd round this year.

Floor

I don't feel at all comfortable using Drake's Dolphins numbers to project his floor for 2020 as that offense was downright anemic year after year. Drake seems to be the best of both worlds in fantasy as far as game script goes - if the Cardinals are trailing, he figures to be heavily involved as a receiver, and if they are winning (which rarely happened in 2019) then he will pick up the bulk of the work on the ground. The Cardinals won 2 of Drake's 8 games with the team, and he was a monster in those outings, putting up 46 carries for 303 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns in those two games. Chase Edmonds has flashed some awesome talent in his two years in the league, but he only managed 2 rushing attempts after Drake arrived on the team (he missed 3 of those games with a hamstring injury). The starting job is Drake's to lose.

Ceiling

4 of Drake's 8 touchdowns came in one game, so it's pretty unlikely he arrives at 16 rushing touchdowns in 2020. In reality, the 11 I have him pegged for currently may be pretty close to his ceiling. It's important to consider, though, that Drake had no time to learn Kingsbury's offense - he was thrust into action just a couple of days after the trade. Kingsbury heavily utilized running backs in the passing game during his time as a college football coach at Texas Tech. Drake's career-high in receptions is 53, but he could easily surpass this once he learns the ins and outs of this offense. He had 5 receiving touchdowns in 2018, which he could certainly replicate in Arizona. 70 total receptions and 15 total touchdowns aren't completely out of the question, which could make him a fantasy goldmine next year.

Top-5 RBs in PPR fantasy points per touch over the last three combined seasons:
1. Austin Ekeler (1.29)
2. Alvin Kamara (1.22)
3. Christian McCaffrey (1.17)
4. Aaron Jones (1.10)
T5. Todd Gurley (1.05)
T5. Kenyan Drake (1.05)

— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) April 13, 2020

Arizona Cardinals Offense

2019 was a season of many changes for the Cardinals, as they brought in a rookie head coach in Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray. Bill Belichick is 68, which is older than Kingsbury and Murray combined. However, what the two lack in age and experience they make up for in ingenuity and offensive creativity. Murray led the NFL in deep-ball accuracy per BrickWallBlitz's Deep Ball Project and possesses elite traits as a quarterback. He's only 22 and he could already be a top ten passer in the league next season. Murray's production will be massively benefited by the arrival of DeAndre Hopkins via trade from the Texans. Hopkins has been a first-team All-Pro each of the past three seasons and is widely regarded as the best wide receiver in football. Joining him in the Cardinals' receiving corps are veteran Larry Fitzgerald, who is a season or two away from breaking Jerry Rice's catch record, and third-year pro Christian Kirk who would have been primed for a breakout season if the two guys ahead of him weren't so damn talented. The Arizona offensive line needs some work, as they allowed the 4th-most sacks in the league and ranked as just the 22nd-best run-blocking unit per Football Outsiders. However, the team should be in a prime position to draft one of the elite offensive tackle prospects in this class at number 8 overall. The arrow is firmly pointing up in Arizona and Drake is a huge part of this team's future.


Strength of Schedule

Courtesy of compiling the worst record in the NFC West last season, the Cardinals will get to take on fellow bottom-feeders in the Lions, Panthers, and Giants who struggled mightily against running backs last year. The teams in the NFC West feature some elite defensive line talent, particularly the 49ers and Rams who were both top-12 defenses against the run in 2019 per Football Outsiders. Drake was fairly effective against those teams last year, however. Drake's best game of the season came in Week 13 against the Cards' division foe Seahawks. Arizona will take on the NFC East in 2020 as well, which presents a mixed bag of defensive matchups. The Eagles have one of the best D-lines in the league, but the Redskins allowed the 3rd-most points to the running back position in 2019. The Cowboys have a middle-of-the-pack defense in just about every regard. The Cards also take on the AFC East, featuring the Bills and Patriots who both allowed amongst the 10 fewest points to the running back position last year. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are much friendlier and will represent a revenge game narrative for Drake. There are definitely some tougher matchups on the docket for the Cardinals this year, but some softies as well, and it shouldn't be a major factor for Drake in fantasy unless those tough opponents come during the fantasy playoffs.

Bottom Line

Kenyan Drake was always a talent in hiding who desperately needed a better situation, and I'm not sure if there could be a more perfect spot for him than in Arizona. He was awesome last year in limited time for the team and should be even better after he gains more chemistry with Kyler Murray and comfort with Kliff Kingsbury's system. Drake is an early candidate for one of my must-draft players, and I have him coming through with big-time numbers in 2020. Make sure he's on your team next year.


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