ESPN’s Clay sees regression for Kenyan Drake, upside for Cardinals WRs

Jun 19, 2020, 9:10 AM

(Getty Images)...

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

In a look at how offensive playcallers could affect the players on fantasy football teams, ESPN’s Mike Clay sees one good and one bad thing with the Arizona Cardinals.

Kliff Kingsbury, entering his second season as an NFL head coach, is calling the shots for Arizona’s offense, one that features a young quarterback and goes heavy on receivers. Clay analyzed the tendencies of playcallers around the league and found two things to takeaway for Kingsbury and Arizona.

First, Clay sees it as a positive thing that a team with DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk has a head coach that likes to pass. Arizona’s use of 10 personnel — one running back, four wide receivers and no tight ends — was 18% of plays last year. That was by far the most in the NFL.

Arizona playcaller Kliff Kingsbury distributed 70% of his targets to his wide receivers last season, which was tops in the NFL and second highest among active playcallers over the past five seasons. And that was before the team’s offseason acquisition of superstar DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins, Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald stand to profit most in an offense that will finish among the league leaders in four-wide sets.

On the other hand, Clay identified starting running back Kenyan Drake as prone to some regression, because the Cardinals were near the bottom of the league in how frequently they used their running backs but still managed to finish middle of the pack in rushing yards.

In Kingsbury’s first season calling NFL plays, Cardinals RBs ranked 29th in touches and 25th in OTD [opportunity-adjusted touchdowns] but 17th in yardage and fifth in touchdowns. That has regression written all over it. Drake is expected to handle a generous share of the backfield snaps, which may bail him out, but perhaps his ceiling is more capped than we thought.

Drake had 5.2 yards per carry last year after coming over in a trade from Miami, and the Cardinals as a whole had 5.0 yards per attempt — the best in team history.

Clay is right to suggest that those torrid paces aren’t likely to keep up, even if Drake is on a transition tag and looking to earn a big payday.

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