Talk about a perfect fit. Rarely do things come together as smoothly as Kenyan Drake’s transition to the Arizona Cardinals following a mid-season trade from the Miami Dolphins. Drake has been champing at the bit for an opportunity to be a featured back and Arizona was more than willing to give him an opportunity after pretty much all of their running backs got injured.
Drake made the most of his newfound opportunity and flourished immediately. He ran for 110 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries against the San Francisco 49ers in his first week with the Cardinals. He had more modest totals over the next month before exploding for 363 rushing yards and seven touchdowns over the final three games of the season.
What does 2020 have in store for Drake as the locked-in Arizona starter? MyBookie.ag has his total rushing yards prop set at 1050.5 (over -115; under -125).
Drake does not have a 1,000-yard season under his belt. Quite frankly, he hasn’t had a workload sufficient enough to even make that a reasonable possibility. Drake finished last season with 817 yards over 14 games, but even that isn’t a 1,000-yard pace. Will that all change in 2020?
There’s no doubt Drake walks into this season with a better chance to succeed than any other time in his career. The Cardinals will feature him heavily and, if he can remain healthy, he’s poised for a career-year. However, despite all of that, MyBookie has heavier juice on the under. So which side should you bet on?
Drake has a 4.8 yards per carry average in his four-year career. That number elevated to 5.2 yards per attempt in his eight games with the Cardinals. His career-high is 5.4 yards per carry, which he posted in his rookie season. His per-touch numbers haven’t been, and likely won’t be, an issue when it comes to this prop bet. His workload is the key factor.
Drake had 123 carries in his eight games in Arizona. Doing the very easy math, that extrapolates out to 246 carries over a full season. However, it would be misleading to just double his usage.
The Cardinals averaged about 25.2 rushing attempts per game following Drake’s arrival. That was an increase of nearly one attempt per game compared to the first half of the season. Taking quarterback Kyler Murray’s rushing attempts out of the equation, along with wide receivers, Arizona averaged between 17.2-18.0 running back rushing attempts per game in 2019.
If that number seems a little low, it is. Arizona ran the ball on just 39.6% of their offensive plays, the 12th-lowest percentage in the NFL. Will that number increase in 2020? Maybe, but given the team’s defensive issues and the addition of superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, banking on a significant uptick in running back workload is risky.
The next thing bettors must factor in is Drake’s competition. How many carries will Chase Edmonds get? He averaged 4.6 per game last season but had only two in total after Week 8 due to injury and Drake’s acquisition. If you take out his 27-carry game against the New York Giants in Week 7, Edmonds averaged 4.4 carries per game before suffering a hamstring injury. That’s a reasonable number to use for 2020.
If we subtract Edmonds’ 4.4 carries per game from Arizona’s 18 running back attempts per game, that leaves 13.6 carries per game for Drake. Over a full season that works out to about 218 carries. At his 4.8 yards per carry career average, that amounts to 1,044.48 yards over 16 games. At his 5.2 yards per carry mark, his 16-game total equals 1,131.52 yards. If Drake maintains the 15.4 carries per game he had with the Cardinals last season, he’ll be around 1,200 rushing yards at either per-carry total.
Therein lies the crux of this wager. Do you believe that Drake will either continue to get 15-plus carries per game or maintain the 5.2 yards per carry he displayed in a half-season with the Cardinals? Or do you believe he’ll have a bit more modest output over a longer stretch of games? If it’s the former, take the over. Those who believe in the latter should bet the under.
I lean toward under 1,050.5 rushing yards (-125) because there’s more risk in the other direction. Things need to go just as well for Drake over a 16-game stretch as they did in an eight-game sample for the over to hit. He can’t get hurt or see much of a drop in carries. Over the last three years, an average of only 13 running backs per season have rushed 219 or more times. If Drake can’t get to that number in 2020, the under should cash.