Kenyan Drake is a player many expect to take the next step this year. After splitting time with the undying Frank Gore last season, Drake comes into this year as the unquestioned starter. Or does he? Kalen Ballage has been getting a ton of buzz from Miami Dolphins insiders all offseason. With a draft grade about five rounds later, Ballage is the Dolphins running back to own in fantasy football.
Kalen Ballage is 2019’s Ultimate Fantasy Football Sleeper
Drake Underwhelmed Last Season
At the beginning of last season, when Gore got the start at running back, most thought it was just in name to let Gore keep his monster starting streak alive. It turned out that was not the case. Gore not only started but consistently outrushed Drake all year. This is not to disrespect Gore, but the fact that Drake could not beat out a player that is almost ten years older than him at a position that values youth is concerning.
One thing that gives Drake some redemption is his receiving value. He had 53 catches for 477 yards. This combined with his rushing output actually gave him more yards than Gore overall. This put Drake in RB2 territory for last season. In half-point PPR scoring, Drake managed an RB17 finish. Still, it wasn’t up to par where he drafted last season, which was around the fourth round of drafts.
Many expect Drake to take a step forward this year with Gore gone, but that is unlikely to actually come to fruition.
Enter the Ballage
Ballage has been getting buzz all training camp. Many were surprised when reports of Ballage getting first-team reps surfaced back in July. After going through most of 2018 thinking Adam Gase and the Dolphins coaching staff had it out for Drake, maybe there is more to it. Or maybe it is just new head coach Brian Flores seeing what he’s got on the team.
Ballage was taken in the fourth round of the 2018 draft, where many felt he would be a steal. He compares himself to David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell – backs who can both run and catch the ball. Scouts give him compliments of having a rare combination of size and speed. He didn’t have much of a role his rookie year due to the experienced guys in front of him, but he is doing his best to show he can play in this league.
And he made a solid case for himself in the first game of the preseason. He scored a touchdown for the Dolphins while rushing six times for 23 yards. Compare that to Drake, who turned four carries into 12 yards. It is worth noting that Drake got the start and went against tougher competition, but at this point, the long-term advantage narrowly goes to Ballage.
Kalen Ballage vs Kenyan Drake Average Draft Position
With Drake still boasting an RB25, 50 OVR ranking in drafts, it should be concerning to anyone considering targeting him. Compare that to Ballage. Despite being a poorly kept secret for the Dolphins, he is still sitting at a ridiculous 174 OVR, RB51 ranking. This is deep in drafts where people start just throwing darts and hoping they catch on. Ballage comes with little to no risk, whereas Drake could end up bombing at a high price.
With Drake’s high-risk and low reward, it is probably best to avoid him completely. Amazingly, Drake is being drafted right after Sony Michel. He is going before players like Chicago Bears rookie David Montgomery and Denver Broncos runner Phillip Lindsay. Some may argue Montgomery is a bigger risk, but his floor is a lot higher than Drake’s. Lindsay finished last season as the RB12, so is a much safer bet.
Team owners might want to just take a wide receiver instead of Drake. Tyler Lockett is projected to be the WR1 for the Seattle Seahawks and is rated right below Drake. Other names to consider are D.J. Moore or Tyler Boyd, who look to have their roles increase this season. At the very least, those who do believe in Drake need to also draft Ballage as insurance.
Embed from Getty Images