Fantasy football managers have spent much of the 2020 season trying to figure out the Arizona Cardinals backfield. Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake came into the season with high expectations after an impressive, albeit short, stint with the team in 2019. However, we have instead seen the emergence of Chase Edmonds, which has muddied up the once clear RB rotation. Now, with an important NFC West showdown with the Seattle Seahawks set to take place on Thursday Night Football in Week 11, who out of Edmonds and Drake should you be starting in your lineups?
Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake impressed during the 2019 season
During the regular season last year, the Cardinals made a trade with the Miami Dolphins to bring Kenyan Drake to Arizona. After joining the Cardinals, Drake played eight games for the Red Sea and rushed for 643 yards while averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He also added in eight rushing touchdowns. During his final three games of the 2019 season, Drake went crazy, racking up 363 yards and an amazing seven touchdowns. This offseason, Arizona ensured that he wouldn’t leave town by putting the transition tag on Drake.
That usage isn’t the norm for Drake. Going back to his tenure with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Drake split time with Derrick Henry. With the Dolphins, rarely did Drake see a full time or bell-cow role. Of course, there is an obscene amount of competition for carries at Alabama, but several coaching staffs have seen Drake as more of a part-time player rather than someone to give the ball to over and over.
He is a very explosive runner with great acceleration, but Kenyan Drake isn’t a banger and doesn’t have great mass or power. He is a slashing runner that can separate from defenders when he gets a crease, but Drake isn’t going to push a pile or wear a defense down over the course of 60 minutes. He is good at what he does but isn’t an overly well-rounded running back.
The Cardinals RB isn’t thrown to with nearly enough regularity. He’s only been targeted 11 times in 2020, catching just eight of those passes for only 38 yards. There is no reason to think that will change in Drake’s favor based on his usage this year, but we shouldn’t ignore that Drake caught 28 passes during his eight games in Arizona last year as well as another 22 in a Dolphins uniform in 2019. He is a capable receiver but just isn’t used that way now by Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Kenyan Drake’s return from injury and the emergence of Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds
After returning from his ankle injury, Drake played just three more snaps than Chase Edmonds in Week 10 this past Sunday. Before Drake was injured, that snap share favored him more so, and maybe the Cardinals were easing him back in. Even so, you can’t expect Drake to play a large percentage of the snaps, especially with Edmonds clearly being the favored option during clear throwing downs. Edmonds is better in pass protection and the more developed route runner.
What you should expect from Kenyan Drake is about half of the Cardinals carries with Chase Edmonds and Murray basically splitting the other 50% evenly. So, you really need Drake to get into the end zone to really pay off for your fantasy team. That could happen, and Drake can always break off a long run, but don’t forget that that quarterback Kyler Murray is also in play here. In fact, he now has a rushing touchdown in five straight games.
As for this week in Seattle on Thursday Night Football, expect there to be a very high number of plays to be run. Thursday night games can be highly unpredictable, but both the Seahawks and Cardinals are notorious for playing games with very high snap counts. Seattle’s opponents average the most plays per game in the league. Arizona’s opponents average 67.7 plays per game-just the Seahawks and two other teams allow more. The Cardinals’ offense also averages running the sixth most plays per game.
Also, for this week’s matchup in Seattle, it is very noteworthy that teams are attacking the Seahawks through the air. Seattle’s run defense isn’t bad. Their pass defense is horrible. The Seahawks opponents know they will have to score a lot of points to keep up with Russell Wilson, and Seattle’s pass defense deficiencies lend itself to doing exactly that. Obviously, that tidbit favors Edmonds over Kenyan Drake.
With the state of the running back position for fantasy football right now, there is much value to be had in both Drake and Edmonds. You could do a lot worse than starting either one of these guys. And on Thursday, there should be enough snaps to keep both running backs afloat. But they cap one another’s ceiling.
In the eight games that Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds have played together, they have averaged just about the same amount of fantasy points. While it would be wonderful if one or the other could really take this job over, it will probably remain how it has been for the rest of the year if both Drake and Edmonds stay healthy.
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