When looking at this year's running back draft class, Kenyan Drake isn't going to be the first Alabama running back that comes to mind. That honor belongs to Derrick Henry. Were it not for a broken leg suffered in 2014, things could have been different for Drake. Still, the outgoing senior offers some intriguing draft prospects. We take a deeper look here.
» Explosive athlete
» Quick feet that rarely stop churning
» Above-average kick returner
» Reliable pass-catcher
It once appeared that Drake would succeed T.J. Yeldon as Alabama's primary back. That was derailed because of the leg injury that sidelined him during his junior season. Before the fracture, Drake was a slashing running back who could also be a weapon as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. After the injury, he was mostly Alabama's third-down back -- Henry had a lot to do with that -- but his blazing speed was still evident. Drake has the foot quickness to consistently get the edge on tosses and sweeps and if he gets to the second level, a big play is normally the result.
Drake also proved his worth as a pass-catcher, finishing the season fifth on the team with 29 receptions and lining up as a slot receiver on occasion. However where Drake mostly made his mark was as a kick returner with a 26.6-yard average. His most memorable play last season was a 95-yard kickoff return in the national championship game against Clemson that all but sealed the win for the Crimson Tide.
» Lacks power to create yards between the tackles
» Frequently takes runs east-west
» Durability concerns after two major injuries
Because Drake had the speed to get to the edge against most of the defenses he faced, it seemed like he was always trying to take runs to the boundaries. Watch enough of his game tape and you'll start to wonder whether he's magnetically drawn to the sideline. It's the opposite criticism from what Derrick Henry receives, as he has been accused of being strictly a downhill runner. Part of Drake's predilection toward taking runs wide is that he doesn't display the power needed to be effective in short yardage and near the goal line.
Despite the explosiveness Drake showed at the combine, there aren't a plethora of eye-popping plays from him on film. In fact, you're likely to see as many (or more) negative runs over the course of 2015. Not all of those plays can be blamed on Drake, but a number of them do stem from a lack of ability to find holes at the line of scrimmage. Finally, it's hard to truly measure a player's durability (you're injury prone until you're not) but you can expect plenty of teams to take a hard look at Drake's medical history after the broken leg in 2014 and a broken arm suffered midway through the 2015 campaign.
Ideal fantasy fits
Drake is going to have a tough time making an immediate impact as a running back wherever he lands in the NFL. Instead, he'll have to break in via special teams as a kick returner. Three of the four teams in the above list ranked in the lower half of the league in average yards per kick return -- the Cowboys were the only outlier, finishing tied for eighth.
However all of those teams are in the market for running back help, especially someone who can catch passes out of the backfield and serve as a change of pace back behind a primary rusher. Heading to Carolina means Drake would have to battle Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker. Similarly, the Cowboys are likely to add a workhorse running back which would leave Drake auditioning for the leftover snaps. The running back situations in Houston and Tennessee are far more muddled which means Drake could have a shot at competing for playing time.
Early fantasy draft projection
For those who love speed, Drake has it in abundance. It's just that he's lacking in many other areas. It would be a surprise if any NFL team viewed him as more than a third day draft pick as a special teamer. That makes Drake's redraft value nearly nil. His draft stock in dynasty drafts is only slightly higher, but unless you can get return yards and touchdowns from individual players, there's not a whole lot to see here.