I'm breaking my own rule for posting the entire article, but it isn't any of the South Florida media. So, don't rat me out.
This week’s Player Showdown looks at one current Dolphin running back, Kenyan Drake, and his ex-teammate, current Eagle Jay Ajayi. They’re currently both being drafted as mid-RB2s, with Ajayi going 19th in consensus ADP rankings while Drake has gone 20th. Both come with risks, but their respective ceilings are that of RB1s.https://www.profootballfocus.com/news/f ... nyan-drake
For Ajayi, It’s been a roller coaster of a career. After he slipped to the fifth round in the 2015 draft due to potential issues with his knee, he broke out in 2016 with more than 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns. And that was after not even traveling with the team in Week 1 of the season. But then Ajayi hit another valley through the first half of 2017, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry with Miami. He was rejuvenated after a midseason trade to the Eagles that saw him rush for nearly as many yards (408 as an Eagle; 465 as a Dolphin) in only half the carries (70 as an Eagle; 138 as a Dolphin). He now sits as the starter of the defending Super Bowl champions for the 2018 season without former teammate LeGarrette Blount to vulture carries.
For Drake, there isn’t a lot of information to go off of. He’s still just 24 and has logged fewer than 200 carries in his two-year career. But despite the small sample size, he’s been pretty electric. He’s averaged five yards per carry on 166 carries. He also caught 41 balls in his seven starts, most of them after taking over the starting job in Week 13. In fact, between Weeks 13-17, his 444 rushing yards led the NFL, while he was first in PFF’s elusive rating during that same span. But he’s not just evading tacklers, as evidenced by his 4.1 yards after contact per attempt, a whole half-yard above the next running back during those big five weeks.
Additions and subtractions
For Drake, perhaps the most critical addition was the signing of guard Josh Sitton after the Dolphins line ranked dead last in run-blocking last year. Drake mitigated that by forcing a lot of missed tackles and gaining yards after contact, but it would be extremely helpful if the line could take some of the load off. Signing Sitton should help — he finished sixth last year in PFF’s run-blocking grades — as should the addition of new offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn. Washburn coached Sitton and the Bears offensive line last year, a line that finished seventh in PFF’s run-blocking grades.
But there are a couple of additions that could be obstacles to more carries for Drake, carries that were hard enough to come by last year after Miami finished dead last in rush attempts per game at 22. First was the signing of Frank Gore. No one thinks Gore will steal the starting job, but he proved last year he can still be effective, posting a top-20 PFF grade. The Dolphins also added fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage in this year’s draft. Ballage is a huge player at 6-3 and 230 pounds and it’s possible the Dolphins throw him into the mix as well to be the thunder to Drake’s lightning.
Ajayi should benefit from the subtraction of Blount, as the Eagles failed to add another running back in either free agency or the draft (they did sign undrafted free agent Josh Adams after the fact). So while Ajayi might not be a workhorse, the loss of Blount means he should be able to improve upon the 10 carries per game he averaged in Philadelphia. The Eagles are still a run-oriented team, finishing sixth in rush attempts last year with 29.6 per game, leaving plenty of room for Ajayi’s role in the offense to grow. He also has a full season of an offensive line that remains unchanged after finishing as a top-five run-blocking unit.
Best case/worst case
Best case for Drake: He holds off Gore and Ballage to take a majority of the carries in the Dolphins offense. The Dolphins run the ball like it’s 2016, giving their lead back 250-plus carries, and Drake turns that into a 1,000-yard season. He also picks up some the targets left behind by perpetual target hog Jarvis Landry and tops 500 yards receiving. All told, Drake ends up a RB1.
Worst case for Drake: He sputters out of the gate and is in a legitimate timeshare with Gore, with the old-timer vulturing the goal-line snaps. Ballage starts getting sprinkled in the middle of the season and breaks out (much like Drake did a year ago), eventually ending the season as the starter with Drake only handling passing-down duties.
Best case for Ajayi: He sees a majority of the Eagles’ rush attempts and ends the season with 250-plus carries and 1,000 yards. The high-scoring Eagles offense sets up dozens of goal-line carries for Ajayi and he totals double-digit touchdowns, ending up as a low-end RB1.
Worst case for Ajayi: The Eagles add a veteran back before the season to spell Ajayi and he’s back averaging 10 carries per game and falls well short of 1,000 yards. He continues to see only 1-2 targets per game and adds nothing in the passing game, making him a middling RB3.
Jay Ajayi. While Drake certainly has a leg up in the passing game, his role just doesn’t appear to be as secure as Ajayi’s. Whereas the Dolphins signed and drafted running backs, the Eagles let their leading pre-Ajayi rusher walk. Furthermore, the offensive lines are polar opposites, with the Dolphins ranking near the bottom last year in run-blocking grades and only adding one piece in an attempt to improve it. By contrast, Ajayi has a top-five run-blocking unit and will now have (presumably) the whole year to work behind it.