Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake is one of the biggest names in fantasy football. The former Miami Dolphin is currently the RB10 by FantasyPros Average Draft Position, as owners across the league expect a breakout season in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. However, recent comments by the head coach are causing some to have doubts in Drake’s presumed workload.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Kingsbury said that he and the organization view backup Chase Edmonds as “a starting running back in this league”, while adding that “[h]e can catch it, run it…He’s everything you want”.
Based on this quote alone, it sounds like Kingsbury plans to feature both Drake and Edmonds in his backfield. This could be a huge blow to Drake’s fantasy value, but can we believe the quote? August is a time for optimism, after all, and coaches unnecessarily hype up their own players all the time. Actions speak louder than words, so let’s take a look at how Kingsbury used his running back last year to predict what he’ll do in 2020.
Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds Fantasy Football Outlook: Workload Projection
Follow the Money
When in doubt, it’s always good to follow the money and see how a team invests in its players. Organizations want to see their investments pay off, and they’ll always give those high-investment guys the first shot to prove their worth to the team.
From this regard, Drake clearly outshines Edmonds. The Cardinals selected Edmonds in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Based on his limited playing time, it’s safe to say he could outperform this draft capital if given the opportunity. However, Arizona’s actions over the past 12 months make it clear that Drake is the king of this backfield.
Midway through the 2019 season, the Cardinals traded away a fifth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for Drake’s services. This wasn’t an all-in move for 2019 – the Cardinals were 3-4-1 at the time of the trade and clearly weren’t a running back away from winning the Super Bowl. They did this so they could see Drake in this system and have an inside path to securing his services in 2020.
Drake performed well during his time in Arizona, and the Cardinals made sure he wouldn’t be going anywhere in 2020. Arizona used the transition tag, effectively giving Drake a one-year, $8.5 million deal for 2020. You don’t do this if you truly believe in Edmonds, so we can expect similar usage in 2020.
Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds Snap Counts and Usage
Of course, Drake being the starter doesn’t mean that he’ll have complete command of the backfield. Most teams across the league use some form of a committee approach, and Arizona theoretically could do the same this year. However, that feels unlikely based on what Kingsbury did in 2019.
Once Drake arrived in Arizona, he became the unquestioned workhorse for the offense. From Week 9 onward, Drake played in 79.6% of the offensive snaps while averaging 15 carries and 4.4 targets per game. Chase Edmonds and David Johnson, meanwhile, combined to average just 3.2 carries and one target per game over this same stretch.
In fairness, both Johnson and Edmonds battled injury during the back half of the year. In theory, these injuries could have limited both backs and artificially inflated Drake’s workload. However, a deeper dive shows that probably wasn’t the case. Edmonds and Johnson were both healthy for the start of the season, so taking a look at their usage prior to injury should give us an accurate representation of how Kingsbury likes to run a backfield.
Even when Johnson and Edmonds were both healthy, Kingsbury clearly showed a preference for using a three-down back. Over the first six weeks of the season, David Johnson played in 78% of the offensive snaps, which falls in line with how Kingsbury used Drake towards the end of the season. During this time, Johnson averaged 12.7 carries and five receptions per game, while Edmonds received a measly four carries and 1.3 receptions.
Chase Edmonds is a talented running back that could probably thrive in Arizona’s scheme if given a chance. However, it’s hard to see that opportunity coming to fruition with Kenyan Drake around. The Cardinals clearly love what Drake brings to the offense, as they traded for his services and paid him $8.5 million all in the last calendar year. You don’t do either one of those things if you don’t believe Drake will be the focal point of your backfield.
Based on his first year in the league, Kliff Kingsbury is one of the few coaches left that believes in using a true workhorse running back. No matter who the starter was, they always saw the field at an absurd rate while relegating the backup to a glorified benchwarmer.
Kenyan Drake is the unquestioned starter, and Kliff Kingsbury loves to use his starter as much as possible. Don’t let coach speak turn you away from what should be a fantastic fantasy football player.
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