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Kenyan Drake to Raiders - Fantasy Impact

Just as we were all getting comfortable with the thought of Josh Jacobs as an RB1, the Raiders trick us all and decide to give former Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake a two-year, $14.5M deal, with $11M guaranteed. That's right, the Raiders are giving another running back $11M guaranteed over the next two seasons.

To put that into perspective, the Falcons gave Todd Gurley a one-year deal worth $5.5M, while the Broncos gave Melvin Gordon a two-year, $16M deal with $13.5M guaranteed. When healthy, both Gurley and Gordon were utilized as feature backs for their respective teams.

Sometimes, it's as simple as "following the money." There's no way the Raiders are paying Drake $11M guaranteed to be a glorified backup to Jacobs. But, what exactly is Drake's role then? Let's try to dissect that.

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Drake's Perceived Role as a Raider

Jacobs has been the guy for the Raiders the last two seasons, averaging 18.4 rush attempts per game. But he's seldom been used as a pass-catcher. In fact, Jacobs saw just 27 targets (2.1 per game) his rookie season. At the onset of the 2020 season, head coach Jon Gruden spoke about wanting to get Jacobs more involved as a receiver. It appeared Gruden wasn't kidding, as Jacobs saw a career-high six targets in Week 1. But that volume quickly disappeared and Jacobs went on to see just 3.0 targets per game a season ago. That's where Drake and his skillset comes into play. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Gruden views Drake as a guy who can play in just about any situation, which of course includes passing downs.

He's no stranger to operating as a pass-catching back throughout his five-year NFL career. In fact, Drake saw an average of 63 targets (4.1 per game) between 2017 and 2019 with the Dolphins and Cardinals. But the Raiders only targeted running backs 95 times (5.9 per game) a season ago. Even if Jacobs reverts back to his 2.1 targets per game as a rookie, that leaves just 3.8 targets per game for Drake, considering no other running back gets any targets. That's not entirely feasible, so it could be an uphill battle for Drake to fetch anything more than three to four targets per game.

 

Rushing Volume

Now, let's take a look at rush attempts. In 2020, Jacobs received 69 percent of the Raiders' running back carries but averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. In his rookie season, Jacobs averaged more rush attempts per game (18.6 vs. 18.2) but was able to muster almost 4.8 yards per carry. So, what happened between his rookie season and his sophomore campaign that dropped the average below 4.0? The difference may not be statistically significant, but it was enough for Gruden and the Raiders front office to open up their wallets and give Drake $11M guaranteed.

Interestingly enough, Drake also averaged just 4.0 yards per carry last season (his only season as a feature back) after averaging 4.8 yards per carry his first four seasons in the NFL (as a complementary back). Of the 10 running backs with over 200 carries in 2020, Drake and Jacobs finished ninth and 10th respectively in terms of yards per carry.

 

2021 Outlook

From a fantasy perspective, it's clear both running backs need the volume to produce. In half-PPR leagues in 2020, Jacobs finished as the RB8 and Drake the RB14 despite their putrid averages on the ground. While both have the chance to be more effective with fewer carries, their respective fantasy values are sure to take a hit next season. Jacobs figures to remain the lead back, but the number of carries is likely to decrease. Raiders running backs averaged 24.6 carries per game a season ago.

As a complementary back with the Dolphins, Drake never averaged fewer than 7.5 carries per game. It's hard to imagine the Raiders would pay Drake as much as they are if they didn't intend to give him at least that number in 2021. If that's the case, Jacobs's rush attempts likely drop to between 15-17 per game compared to his career average of 18.4 carries per game. Combine the decrease in rushing volume with the probable decrease in targets, and Jacobs becomes more of a mid to low-end RB2 as a result. With seven to nine carries and three to four targets, Drake could work his way into the low-end RB3 conversation in addition to being one of the more valuable handcuffs in the league.

On the other side of the coin, Chase Edmonds just became the de facto lead running back in an uptempo Cardinals offense. But don't get too excited just yet, as Arizona is likely to bring in another running back via free agency or the NFL Draft. But if they don't...



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