As the Cardinals official website noted this week, when he was a top recruit looking for his college, Kenyan Drake
had a plenty of offers, and the knowledge he could’ve gone just about anywhere and been the lead running back.
He chose Alabama, where the assurances of a heavy load and the spotlight was anything but certain.
“I wanted to go to Alabama because I knew it was going to test me, mentally, physically, emotionally because of all the talent and the process they have there,” Drake said. “It set me up for where I am now.”
Indeed, lodged behind Derrick Henry
and T.J. Yeldon
, Drake had to be patient with the Crimson Tide. He had to be patient after being drafted by the Dolphins, and coaches there always finding someone else they thought should get more touches in the backfield. He was patient after being traded to the Cardinals earlier this season, knowing starter David Johnson
was injured and would be back soon, ostensibly to take back his spot.
Two 100-yard games into a six-game stint with the Cardinals, Drake doesn’t have to be patient anymore.
“He’s been waiting to show what he can do and be kind of the focus point of an offense for probably seven years,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury
Drake had 137 yards rushing and four touchdowns against the Browns, and now has 417 yards on 87 carries – a 4.8-yard average – since arriving in Arizona six games ago. He's added 22 catches for 130 yards. Yet, had Chase Edmonds
not gotten hurt after Johnson was already down, Kingsbury said, Drake probably wouldn’t have been a trade target.
Instead, Drake has locked down not only the starting role but the bulk of the work.
Drake said he had a “great time” in Miami, lauding his coaches and teammates, and the decision to distribute playing time among running backs only served to put him in the position he’s in today.
“I don’t really regret anything,” Drake said. “Everything, good or bad, is a learning lesson.
“I feel like, sometimes, you have to bet on yourself, and I guess that’s where I am now.”
Free agency beckons in March. Kingsbury noted that Drake’s jump in touches and production has worked out well -- “Timing,” Drake acknowledged, “is everything” – and it would be hard to believe at this point the Cardinals wouldn’t want to try and keep him around.
Given Johnson’s contract situation, and the $10.2 million in guaranteed salary Johnson has for 2020, the running back situation as a whole has to be sorted out by general manager Steve Keim, who addressed the situation on Friday.
Keim said that the team hopes to re-sign the impending free agent.
“As far as waiting until after the season, that’s not necessarily the thing either. I would certainly love to have Kenyan Drake
back,” Keim said. “I think he fits in this offense and he really has given us a spark in many ways.”
The Cardinals are in a comfortable position in terms of the salary cap, so they could re-sign Drake while carrying Johnson’s guaranteed salary next season. Given their clear preference for Drake over Johnson in recent weeks, their push to get a deal done could be a strong one.
As for tomorrow's game against Seattle, FantasyPros' Mike Tagliere notes the Seahawks have allowed a rushing touchdown every 18.8 carries, which ranks as the second-most often
in the league behind only the Panthers. Despite seeing the fourth-fewest carries (18.8 per game), they’ve allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns (14).
"No matter which way you slice it," Tagliere added, "Drake should be looked at as a low-end RB2 who has upside for more considering how inefficient the Seahawks have been at stopping running backs."