Ahead of the 2021 season, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Kenyan Drake to a two-year contract with $11 million guaranteed. He looked like he was the team’s RB2 for at least the next two years. Well, following a regime change, the new coaching staff doesn’t feel that way and cut Drake in favor of rookie Zamir White and free agent signee Ameer Abdullah.
Drake did not remain a free agent for long, though. The once again running back-starved Baltimore Ravens came calling. Old, washed running backs and the Ravens go together like lamb and tuna fish. This is a seemingly innocuous signing, but there are bigger fantasy implications here. What does Baltimore signing Drake say about J.K. Dobbins, Mike Davis, Gus Edwards, and the rest of the backfield?
Fantasy impact of Kenyan Drake signing with the Ravens
The instant Drake was released, I remember one of my buddies in a discord chat saying the Ravens were going to sign him. I chuckled, but also realized it made far too much sense. Sure enough, the moment players victimized by camp cutdowns were eligible to sign with other teams, the Ravens gobbled Drake up.
Kenyan Drake’s fantasy value
Let’s start with Drake himself. This signing is eerily reminiscent of when the Ravens signed Le’Veon Bell just ahead of the start of the 2021 season. Baltimore’s backfield was decimated by injury, and their go-to replacement strategy has always been to sign old veterans who aren’t that good anymore. To say it went poorly would be an understatement.
While the parallels are there, Drake is nowhere near as cooked as Bell was ahead of the 2020 season, let alone 2021. By no means am I suggesting fantasy managers should go out and pick up Drake, but there is potential fantasy relevance here if he were to see enough work — something that was not the case with Bell.
Drake is still only 28 years old. Despite playing seven professional seasons, he has under 1,000 career touches. He’s nowhere near as good as the guy who was an RB1 for the Cardinals after being traded in 2019, but he’s got way more left in the tank than any of the Ravens’ top three backs from 2021 did.
In the event Drake finds himself in a role similar to Devonta Freeman’s in 2021 (10-12 touches a game), he could have RB3 value.
Drake’s impact on Mike Davis’ fantasy value
Not many of you out there were drafting Mike Davis. Outside of leagues with deep starting lineups where you needed an RB2 for Week 1, you weren’t even considering Davis. For those of you who were, though, this wipes him out of the picture as a spot start.
Davis is still poised to be the Ravens’ primary rusher in Week 1. However, prior to the Drake signing, I almost expected Davis to be a three-down back. He had a real shot at 10-12 carries and third-down work. But with Drake in town, Davis is probably now looking at 8-10 carries while ceding passing-down work to Drake. That’s a recipe for fantasy irrelevance for both guys.
If you were thinking of picking up Davis for a Week 1 spot start, look elsewhere. If you were thinking of drafting Davis in the final round of a deep league, also look elsewhere.
What does Drake’s signing say about J.K. Dobbins?
Reports on J.K. Dobbins’ recovery have been more positive than negative. At the same time, head coach John Harbaugh stopped considerably short of saying he’d be ready for Week 1.
Ultimately, I expect Dobbins to avoid starting the season on IR, which would cost him the first four games. However, I don’t expect him to be the Ravens’ lead runner capable of handling 20 carries a game until at least October.
Baltimore already has Davis and Justice Hill. They didn’t need Drake…unless they felt like they needed Drake.
The takeaway from this signing is that Dobbins isn’t fully healthy, and the Ravens need someone they can trust aside from Davis. At some point this season, Dobbins will return to full strength. My concern now is that may be much farther away than his RB21 ADP suggests.
In the wake of this news, I lowered Dobbins to RB27 in my personal rankings. I can’t justify drafting Dobbins as more than my RB3 as fantasy managers won’t be able to rely on him in the early part of the season.
What about the rest of the Ravens’ backfield?
The reality is Tyler Badie was never going to matter. He’s not a bad player by any stretch, but sixth-round rookies are not even locks to make the team, which is evidenced by Badie not making the team.
The Ravens’ history of actions at the RB position proves Badie will never be fantasy-relevant. Even if Dobbins and Gus Edwards had setbacks while Davis and Drake got hurt, the Ravens would just sign more veterans.
Over the past two seasons, we’ve seen Baltimore use Bell, Freeman, Mark Ingram, and Latavius Murray ahead of their young, lesser-experienced backs. None of these guys were particularly effective — quite the opposite, in fact — but their jobs are more to not screw up and make sure Lamar Jackson doesn’t get killed.
Projecting the Ravens’ backfield
I think there’s a 50/50 shot Dobbins is active for Week 1. We should see him get involved no later than Week 3, but top-end rusher Dobbins is still several weeks away.
As a result, expect Davis to open the season as the starter. He’ll be the primary rusher and carry the most fantasy value, for whatever that’s worth. Drake will operate as the passing-down back in an offense that seldom throws to running backs. He won’t have much in the way of fantasy value.
If Dobbins is active, expect him to mix in for a few carries here and there, amping up his usage each week. Eventually, he’ll take over, and the sooner you think that is, the better value Dobbins will appear to you in fantasy drafts.
Badie and/or Hill will only be active on game day if Dobbins is not or if the Ravens decide to activate four running backs. Neither will ever be given enough work for fantasy relevance.
Edwards is on the PUP list so he’s out until at least Week 5. By the sounds of it, Edwards may not be ready to return until midseason. I don’t envision him mattering at all this season.