Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio NFL Lens examines a play of Kenyan Drake’s in November that illustrates where Drake must refine his game.
Kenyan Drake has the athletic ability of a Pro Bowl running back. At Alabama, Drake would dazzle fans as a space player. He could also thrill if he earned a huge lane up the middle or bounce carry around the corner.
This is a nice way of saying that Drake was as raw as the stalk of celery in my refrigerator. The Dolphins were clearly enamored with Drake’s physical gifts and bet on him being a fast learner. Like most of the skill players who’ve earned early playing time because of the big-play excitement he offers, give him a basic play that’s set up well and he’ll make fans gush.
.A good pass receiver with uncommon balance, Drake will also hint at the potential for the jaw-dropping moment. You don’t see many backs with this balance when they are hit this way. Fans love these plays and they project that it’s only a matter of time before he will become a Pro-Bowl player.
This is magical thinking. It’s not that Drake won’t develop into a player with that upside but it’s also far from a given. Based on his film last year, he’s progressed as a runner of gap plays — traps, counters, toss, and power. These plays complement runners with excellent speed and strength who can out-athlete opponents once into the hole and don’t require a lot of reading and adjustment at the line of scrimmage.
We’re going to charge down the hill and you’re going to work behind this one guy as long as you can until you have to be on your own. Then, just do what you do best.
As recently as November of 2017, Drake still struggled in the perception and reaction department when the opponent has the advantage at or behind the line of scrimmage. As with any football player, the footwork tells the story. The subtler the movement of the feet in reaction to what the player sees, the more information that player is processing effectively.
Drake struggles twice in this game with handling penetration that he saw ahead of time and had room to avoid. Instead, he gives up the space he had to avoid the opponent.
The two plays below are similar to plays I’ve shown this month from Iowa State’s David Montgomery and Cal’s Patrick Laird. However, Montgomery was able to correct this issue in a similar situation later in the same game.
This video with Laird below includes how former Titans back Chris Johnson handles a similar situation. You’ll notice that he gives up zero ground and generates a big play because the connection between what his eyes see and his feet process and execute is strong.
If Drake wants to become a well-rounded back, he must develop better footwork that isn’t always leaning on the dramatic. Otherwise, his raw vision will produce a higher volume of moments like this butt-knockout below.
If the Dolphins can run gap plays most of the time and with great success, Drake will thrive. If Miami demands more, Drake will have to prove he’s learned more. Otherwise, Frank Gore can run any scheme the Dolphins use. If I’m Drake, I’m looking to Gore as a master craftsman who I’ll have an opportunity of a lifetime to have him mentor me.
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