News & Analysis

Instant reactions to Kenyan Drake, Leonard Williams trades

As the Tuesday trade deadline approaches, two AFC East teams struck deals to send veteran talent elsewhere in exchange for draft capital.

The Miami Dolphins sent 25-year-old running back Kenyan Drake to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a conditional sixth-rounder. And the New York Jets traded former first-round pick Leonard Williams to the New York Giants for a third-round pick and conditional fifth-round pick, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

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RB KENYAN DRAKE

Prior to his 2019 campaign, Drake rushed for 1,358 yards, 47 first downs and nine touchdowns on 286 carries (2016-18). He ranked tied for fifth in yards per carry (4.9), tied for second in forced missed tackles per carry (0.22) and second in yards after contact per carry (3.4) among backs with 250 or more carries in the three-year span. His rushing grade (80.4) ranked ninth among qualifying backs, as well.

Driving Drake’s success is his ability to win after early contact and force missed tackles, as evidenced by the metrics mentioned above. Among the 54 NFL backs with 100 or more carries where they’ve been contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage from 2016-18, Drake ranked tied for first with Cleveland Browns’ Nick Chubb – yes, Chubb had more than 100 such attempts as a rookie – in yards after contact per attempt (3.7). And the average for the group was just 2.3.

In his best NFL season (2017), Drake earned career-highs in rushing grade (81.3), yards after contact per attempt (4.29) and forced missed tackles (29). He also earned a stunning 96.3 elusive rating on the year, the second-best single-season mark of any running back in the PFF era (2006-18).

Drake totaled 210 offensive snaps with Miami before taking his talents to Arizona. He had 10 or more carries in just two of the games and totaled 174 rushing yards across 47 rushes in six games. He forced 10 missed tackles and averaged 2.49 yards after contact per attempt in said span.

With Chase Edmonds and David Johnson battling injuries, Drake very well could see a significant role in the desert sooner rather than later. And the situation will be a lot better than the one he’s leaving in South Beach.

Running a combination of 10 and 11 personnel on more than 70% of their offensive snaps, the Cardinals’ offense sees the highest percentage of light boxes in the NFL. Drake shouldn’t benefit from lighter boxes and make the most of his opportunities in Arizona.

DI Leonard Williams

Williams earned 75.0-plus overall grades in each of his first four seasons in the NFL, including a 78.2 overall grade across 866 defensive snaps in 2018. His success, however, is rooted in his run defense rather than his pass-rushing ability. It wasn’t until last season that Williams earned a pass-rushing grade above 67.0, and he still earned just a 71.4 pass-rush grade across 541 pass-rushing snaps.

Of course, Williams is still one of the NFL’s dominant run defenders. He ranks inside the top-five in total run stops (97) among all at his position since 2016. He also owns an impressive 82.9 run-defense grade since entering the league in 2016, ranking 21st among the 40 interior defensive linemen with 800 or more run-defense snaps over the past four seasons (2016-19).

Gifting their East Rutherford rivals a third-round pick and conditional fifth-round pick for a run defender on an expiring contract is a bit a rich for PFF’s taste. Williams is a solid player, but he offers little value on passing downs in a league where throwing the ball effectively and stopping the pass is of the most importance.

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