Making Sense of Kenyan Drake’s Small College Sample

I was a little surprised when the Dolphins selected Kenyan Drake as the third running back off of the board in the 2016 NFL Draft at No. 73 overall.

It’s not that Drake wasn’t worthy of the pick, but it was the fact that the ‘Fins took him over the likes of Kenneth Dixon, C.J. Prosise, Paul Perkins, Jordan Howard and Devontae Booker that made me turn my head. Maybe Drake’s selection at that point in the draft highlights how the NFL values prospects from the SEC (or top-5 programs in general), no matter the short- or long-term production. The SEC lead all college conferences in total players selected for the 10th straight year in 2016.

Kenyan Drake had just 233 career college carries in his four years at Alabama, thanks in large part to an injury shortened 2014 season (broken leg). To put that in perspective, former ‘Bama teammate Derrick Henry had an absurd 395 carries in 2015 alone.

So, we’ll be working with an incredibly small sample for the first time in Yards Created’s very short history. Nevertheless, what can we learn from Kenyan Drake’s five game sample from 2013 to 2015?

Note: If this is your first time reading Yards Created, please check out the introductory piece where I lay out the entire process in detail here.

Games Sampled 

Unfortunately, due to Kenyan Drake’s overall small career workload and limited game selection on DraftBreakdown, we have to settle for five games over the past three collegiate seasons (2013-2015).

Gm Att ruYds ruTDs Rec reYds reTDs
WIS ’15 10 77 1 2 48 0
UF ’15 4 14 0 3 16 0
MSU ’15 4 60 0 3 5 0
UF ’14 4 15 0 1 87 1
Ole Miss ’13 12 99 1 1 -1 0

Alabama’s Yards Blocked and Kenyan Drake’s Yards Created

Per Att. Data Yards Blocked/Att. Yards Created/Att.
Total Attempts: 37 1.26 6.11

First, a word of caution: 37 rush attempts is by far the fewest amount of carries I have used to-date in Yards Created. Overall, we just don’t have much of a sample to work with for Drake and this small sample will illuminate his big plays.

For illustration, 58.4% of Drake’s total Yards Created came on just three (8.1%) of his carries in these five games. While his 6.11 Yards Created per attempt looks very good on paper, it needs a major dose of context.

On the flip side, 45.9% (17) of Kenyan Drake’s 37 carries created one or fewer yards on his own. While Drake’s 82nd percentile weight-adjusted Speed Score allows him to rip off explosive runs, he also had quite a few plays with little to no creation.

Run Type Data

Inside% Outside% Counter% Toss% Other%
37.84% 43.24% 8.11% 5.41% 5.41%

And here is Alabama’s formation type on Drake’s rush attempts from 2013-2015:

Shotgun/Pistol Under Center
64.9% 35.1%

Despite his boom-or-bust running style, one positive in Drake’s corner is his blanket versatility as a player. We’ll talk more about this below, but Lane Kiffin (Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2014-present) found creative ways to get Drake in space to utilize his 4.45 wheels on his 6’1″, 210 lbs frame.

Drake ran jet sweeps (other), tosses, counter runs or outside-zone’s primarily focused on one thing: using his speed to get in space. 62.2% (23) of Drake’s 37 carries were designed to go off-tackle.

Missed Tackles Forced (Rushing)

MT Power/Att. MT Elusiveness/Att. MT Speed/Att.
0.11 0.14 0.11

And here are Kenyan Drake’s missed tackles forced on a per target and per opportunity (targets plus carries) basis:

Missed Tackles Forced (Receiving) and Missed Tackles Forced Per Opportunity

MT Power/Tgt MT Elusive/Tgt MT Speed/Tgt MT/Opp.
0.09 0.27 0.27 0.417

Again, I’m cautiously toeing the lines of a biased small sample. Taken at face value, Drake seems like a back capable of making defenders miss not only with his burst and acceleration, but with a touch of elusiveness.

His calling card remains his long speed, but 40% of Kenyan Drake’s missed tackles forced came via elusiveness in his Yards Created sample. This comes short of Kenneth Dixon’s ultimate start-and-stop balance/shiftiness (51.1% of Dixon’s total missed tackles came via elusiveness), but Drake demonstrated his finesse-style can make defenders grasp at air.

Route/Target Data plus Average Depth of Target

Route/Target Data Routes/G Targets/G aDOT
Total Targets: 11 5.4 2.2 1.67

Here is where Drake ran his routes from:

Backfield Route% Split Wide%
88.9% 11.1%

Per Pro Football Focus, Drake ran 25% of his routes split out wide in 2015 which would place him right ahead of C.J. Prosise (22.1%) for the most running back routes lined up outside the hash-marks of the Yards Created samples I have completed so far. Keep in mind PFF has access to more data/film than I have and this sample above spanned three different seasons.

I’m most excited about Kenyan Drake’s unquestionable versatility in the passing game:

Route Type

Route Occurrences
Check/Release 11.1%
Flat 40.7%
Screen 18.5%
Wheel 11.1%
Nine Route 7.4%
Seam 7.4%
Curl 3.7%

Alabama asked Drake to run a myriad of routes while with the Crimson Tide and he did not fail to produce. Not only did he run seven different routes on 27 charted passing plays, he created seven missed tackles on his 11 targets and gained 5.74 yards per route run.

Drake gained more yards per route in his five game Yards Created sample than Kenneth Dixon (5.36 yards per route), Ezekiel Elliott (5.26 yards per route), Paul Perkins (3.04), C.J. Prosise (2.65) and Derrick Henry (2.32).

Now, to be clear, I’m not calling Drake a better receiver than any of those backs. We’re dealing with a player that simply does not have the career production — or sample size — of those aforementioned backs, but his major strength as a new Dolphin comes in the passing game. That’s irrefutable.

Here are some sample statistics from RotoViz’s Box Score Scout App showing how Drake’s career receiving production (receiving yards, yards per game and market share) stacks up against the college careers of Dixon, Elliott, Perkins, Prosise and Henry:

drake.png

Pass Protection

Pass Pro Att. Pass Pro Execution %
3 66.7%

With just three pass protection attempts in Drake’s sample, I’m not willing to draw any meaningful conclusions here.

Conclusion

There was no doubt that the Miami Dolphins needed to add another running back to their roster in the draft or via free agency this offseason. They let Lamar Miller walk in March and had so little behind now starter Jay Ajayi, they brought back Fumblin’ Daniel Thomas heading into the offseason.

I’m not convinced his boom-or-bust style as a runner bodes well in the NFL at this early stage of his career and am genuinely scared of his poor final season production at Alabama. He was obviously supplanted by Derrick Henry as the starter, but still had below average rush efficiency marks despite a small workload (77 carries):

Name 1st Down% 10+ Yd% 20+ Yd% TD%
Drake 24.7% 11.7% 3.9% 1.3%
2016 Class Average 26.5% 15.0% 4.0% 5.4%

Those concerns aside for a moment, I do know one thing is for certain: there is a place for Drake on the Dolphins in the passing game and quite possibly as a kick returner.

Drake returned 19 kicks for 505 yards (one touchdown) in his final season at Alabama in yet another attempt by the Crimson Tide to get the ball in Drake’s hands. RotoViz’s Jon Moore penned an interesting study looking at the hidden value of special team statistics for running backs in 2015.

While I may have been taken aback by Drake’s early selection, I can’t automatically scoff at the No. 3 running back off the board in 2016. The draft round a running back was selected in correlates strongly with career fantasy production.

For fantasy purposes, it’s tough to quickly see where Drake stands in terms of opportunity on the Dolphins. It seems Jay Ajayi is entrenched as the starter and it’s quite possible Drake can immediately mix in on passing downs either out of the backfield or split out wide. At 6’1″, 210lbs, Drake serves as a multi-purpose player with a surplus of speed and enough functional athleticism to perhaps become a difference maker in Miami in the future.

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5 thoughts on “Making Sense of Kenyan Drake’s Small College Sample

  1. Graham, I’ve been following your work the past few weeks after seeing it on Twitter!! I wanted to wait till post draft but we, over at the dynasty redzone would love to have you on the pod to let you talk about what your trying to do here. And discuss your thoughts on these RBs we saw get selected. If your interested please contact me at dynastyredzone@gmail.com and we can work out a day and time. Thanks again and keep pumping out this awesome work!

    Like

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