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ESPN’s Seifert makes case for Kenyan Drake’s high value as free agent RB

Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake (41) motions after his fourth touchdown of the game during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The declining market value of NFL running backs could challenge the Arizona Cardinals’ Kenyan Drake when his free agency begins in March.

Or not.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert reminds us that all it takes is one team wanting to secure its running back position with a versatile, astute and lightly-worn player like Drake. In Seifert’s list of the best NFL free agents that will hit the market in the 2020 league year, Drake ranks 19th overall and as the second-best back available.

Drake was wildly productive after arriving from the Dolphins via trade. In eight games, he rushed for eight touchdowns and combined for 814 yards rushing and receiving. Drake’s age and receiving ability make him a rare valuable commodity at his position in free agency.

The only running back ranking ahead of Drake on Seifert’s list is the NFL’s 2019 rushing leader, Derrick Henry.

Seifert’s valuation of Drake contrasts that of Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner, whose list of the top NFL free agents did not include Drake in the top-50. Renner only mentioned two running backs on his rankings: Henry and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Melvin Gordon.

Those players, like all running backs, were more a product of their environments, Renner argued.

Seifert brings up the counterpoint. Or at least he explains why Drake might be different.

Drake is a new-age back with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In 2018 with the Miami Dolphins, he had 477 receiving yards (12th-most among running backs) and 535 rushing yards with nine combined touchdowns. His five receiving scores tied him for third-most that season among running backs.

In a half-season with the Cardinals in 2019, Drake rushed for 643 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 28 receptions for 171 yards.

Drake is still just 25 years old and in his three-plus seasons with Miami only carried the ball 333 times. He got 123 more runs as Arizona’s main back, a role he thrived in while quickly picking up head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.

The wear-and-tear on Drake is just more than half that on Henry, who has tallied 804 career carries after also entering the league in 2016. Consider the fact that Drake also split time with Henry in college at Alabama and Drake is, in theory, a little-used back by NFL standards.

Will all those details lead to a big payday in free agency? Only time will tell.

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