Miami Dolphins rookie running back Kenyan Drake was labeled injury prone by some NFL teams. But is that a moniker he actually deserves?
As a Florida Gators fan living in Tuscaloosa, my “annoyance” of the Crimson Tide program (insert tongue firmly in cheek) is apparent. The team wins too much and it’s seemingly unfair when it comes to how often they have a team in contention for a national title (whew, I’m glad I got that off my chest).
All kidding aside, you have to give credit where it’s due. And every now and then a player from the University of Alabama catches my attention. I simply enjoy watching him play because I’m a fan of football.
The Dolphins were able to land Drake in the third round of the NFL draft. He fits perfectly as a compliment alongside Jay Ajayi to form a Dolphins running back tandem that could potentially get as much production as they team got from Lamar Miller a season ago. That at a fraction of the price the Texans paid for Miller this off-season.
The major question marks that surrounded Drake was his injury history with the Tide and the fact that he was never the featured back for a dominant Alabama Crimson Tide team.
The latter question mark is a moot one for me. When you play behind Heisman winner Derrick Henry, and another stud of a running back in T.J. Yeldon, it is not hard to see why Drake fell into the shadows as an Alabama player, despite his immense talent.
Another thing that hurt Drake in college stock that could help him in the NFL is his versatility. Drake was not just a running back for the Tide, he was also their best kick returner, as well as a strong receiving option. Drake lined up as a receiver, often acting a decoy to set up his fellow running backs for big runs.
In fact, this versatility is something that makes Drake feel like he was the best running back in the NFL draft. He stated that his skill set extended beyond running back.
"“I feel like, in general, with my skill set, in my eyes, it allowed me to be the best back in the draft. And I want to continue to prove that through my NFL career.”“I don’t have to necessarily just be in the backfield to make a play. I can be lined up out wide, in the special-teams game — and not necessarily just return the ball, but kickoff rundown, making a tackle on a kickoff. I feel like I try to make the most of every opportunity I have on the field and play every play like it’s my last play. So I just give maximum effort on every play."
Drake has a lot of confidence, but as he points out, he is a maximum effort player, which is a great combination for someone with something to prove in the NFL. Although this often leads to his second major question mark about him.
However, there is a legitimate case about the injury history of Drake as a college player. But does he deserve the injury prone label?
I, for one, don’t believe he deserves the label.
Drake’s career started with Alabama in 2012, as he came to Alabama as a highly touted four-star recruit. His 2012 season was injury free, but did include a suspension from the Alabama program due to a violation of team rules. He was suspended again in 2014 after an arrest and charge with one misdemeanor count of obstructing governmental operations. However, other than those two incidents, Drake has never been seen as a locker-room issue, nor a player with discipline issues.
The first and biggest injury Drake suffered in his college career was a fluke injury. In the fifth game of the Alabama 2014 season, Drake broke and dislocated his ankle, after being tackled awkwardly making a 10-yard catch. Drake’s injury looked like it could rob him of his speed and potentially end his playing career.
However, after working hard through rehab, Drake was back on the field for the Crimson Tide less than a year later, making a quick recovery from an injury many thought could sideline him for a while.
That injury was more of a freak injury than something that teams should have been worried about as a recurring injury.
In 2015, Drake had a bit more of an extensive injury pattern. Drake admitted to reporters before the Alabama semi-final match-up that he played through a variety of injuries.
Despite all of those injuries, Drake played 13 games total for the Crimson Tide in 2015. A combination of Henry’s dominant season and injuries did hold Drake to just 77 rushing attempts and 29 receptions for 684 yards. That’s an average of 6.45 yards per touch for Drake.
Like the broken leg, his broken arm was more of a fluke injury than something I’d be worried about long-term. The concussion issue is one to keep an eye on, on the other hand.
While Drake was labeled as injury prone as a college player, it is a label that is thrown around too loosely at times. Drake, enjoyed two injury free seasons before a freak play led to him breaking his leg. His 2015 season was more of a mixed bag with injuries, but none of the injuries seem to linger as he approaches his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins.
While his teammate Derrick Henry was picked a round earlier than Kenyan Drake, I believe Drake has a higher upside than Henry. If the Dolphins utilize their backfield right in 2016, they have a chance to have an offense that can keep up with many of the better offenses in the NFL.
And they might need to, with a defense that looks very suspect.