If the chip on Derrick Henry's shoulder isn't big enough after spending the pre-draft months hearing that he's likely not a first-round draft pick, how big might it become when he hears his former backup might be? Alabama running back Kenyan Drake, an explosive athlete with return skills, but also a lengthy history of injuries, is a first-round talent according to an NFL evaluator who spoke with MMQB's Peter King.
King writes in his Monday post: "I asked a few (sources) which first-round pick will shock the world on April 28. And one evaluator said he wasn't positive this player would go in the first round, but said he definitely has first-round talent: Alabama back Kenyan Drake, who backed up Heisman winner Derrick Henry. Great straight-line speed."
Of course, the opinion of a single evaluator isn't exactly indicative of where Drake will be drafted, but it does shed an interesting light on how Drake's talent is regarded.
NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock has projected Henry as a second-round pick, and certainly the first running back from Alabama to be chosen this year. Mayock ranks Henry as the draft's No. 2 RB behind Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott. Drake was the lone riser at the position in Mayock's most recent rankings, which were posted last week. Drake rates as Mayock's No. 5 RB. A ranking that high would figure to put him in play for Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) of the draft.
Few doubt Drake's athleticism. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He also recorded a 4.21 20-yard shuttle time that was third-best at his position at the annual event in Indianapolis. His durability is much more of a question, as his college career was slowed by injury on a relatively constant basis, the most serious of which was a broken and dislocated ankle suffered in 2014.
Henry carried the vast majority of a national-championship rushing load last year, amassing 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide. UA offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin handed Henry the ball five times for every Drake carry (395-77), though Drake's receiving role (29 catches) was greater than Henry's (11). His explosive kick-return skills found the biggest of stages when he took a second-half kickoff for a touchdown against Clemson in the College Football Playoff title game that was arguably the biggest play of UA's 45-40 win.
Drake might not end up as a first-round pick, but if enough NFL clubs are convinced he can be a durable pro, he'll be gone sooner than expected.