Tailback Kenyan Drake was a revelation for the Arizona Cardinals last year after coming over in a midseason trade from the Miami Dolphins, and the Cards figure to ride Drake plenty this year. Here are Drake’s odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season as well as his over/under yardage total.
Drake was a third-round pick in the 2016 draft by Miami out of Alabama. Drake’s most memorable moment with the Tide came during their 45-40 win over Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship game when Drake returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Drake was largely a backup his first two seasons in Miami but had a good 2018 season when he finally got plenty of touches, finishing with 535 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns to go along with 53 receptions for 477 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. Drake had scored the winning touchdown on a miracle lateral play in the final seconds of a 34-33 upset of New England. That’s often referred to as the “Miracle in Miami.”
In six games with the Dolphins in the 2019 season, Drake recorded 47 carries for 174 rushing yards and 22 receptions for 174 receiving yards. In late October, he was traded to Arizona for a conditional sixth-round pick, which became Miami’s original fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The 25-year-old always seemed to be underutilized during his four-years in Miami. Drake back combines shiftiness in the second-level, speed to hit the edge, and is a mismatch in the passing game against linebackers. For all the talent, the previous two coaching staffs didn’t view Drake as an every-down player.
It was clear that Drake’s time with Miami was coming to an end when the team left him back home while healthy for a game in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals needed Drake as they were decimated in the backfield with injuries to David Johnson and Chase Edmonds.
Drake was stellar with the Cardinals. In only eight games, he rushed for 643 yards (5.2 yards a carry) and eight touchdowns. He added another 171 yards on 28 receptions. Drake was one of the most efficient runners at the end of the last season despite having zero time to prep for Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid system.
Drake’s top-end speed that made him a coveted recruit at Alabama shined once he was traded to the Cardinals. Drake reached 15-plus mph on 26.8 percent of his rushes with the Cardinals, as opposed to hitting that speed threshold on just 14.9 percent of his carries with the Dolphins in the same season. His 33 rushes of 15-plus mph were the second-most in the entire NFL from Weeks 9-17 in 2019.
Drake thrived in situations where defenses stacked the box. Via Pro Football Focus, 39 NFL running backs had 50-plus carries against a loaded box last year, where defenders are meant to overload offensive linemen and stunt the run. Drake came in as the No. 8 highest-graded rusher in the league in that category.
While Drake was eligible for free agency, the team slapped the transition tag on him and Drake signed it worth $8.4 million. He can still negotiate a long-term contract with the Cardinals through July 15, and Cards GM Steve Keim has said he’d like to work out a deal.
With Johnson unloaded to the Texans in the DeAndre Hopkins trade, Drake should be Arizona’s clear-cut No. 1 back, although Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said he would “like to have three” running backs to deploy during the 2020 regular season.
“D.J. [Foster] was banged up last year,” Kingsbury said. “We think he has a good skill set. But that’s an area that we’d like to have three. We’d like to have three that we feel like we could roll through and not lose much.” Kingsbury also noted that Drake and Edmonds “played at a very high level and had their opportunity” but the team would still like to have a viable third runner available for use on game days.
The Cardinals are 7.5-point Week 1 underdogs at San Francisco.