In a completely unexpected move, the Raiders added free agent RB Kenyan Drake to a two-year pact worth $11 million. According to Adam Schefter, Drake can earn up to $14.5M with incentives in his deal.
The timing of the Drake deal is peculiar to say the least. There is a mutiny along the Raiders offensive line with T Trent Brown, C Rodney Hudson, and G Gabe Jackson all being traded away. The Hudson move was a shock — he’s been one of the five best centers in the league and apparently wanted out. The team did bring G Richie Incognito back for 2021, but he’ll be 38 when the season starts and is coming off major Achilles’ and ankle injuries.
So, what did HC Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock decide to do? Sign a backup running back to the 13th-richest contract at the position. That’s what.
I’ve defended Gruden in the past because he’s gone through streaks of calling some great games (especially last year) and has gotten the best out of Derek Carr, but the Raiders roster-building oscillates between massive hits and misses. There is no in between. Signing Nelson Agholor to a league-minimum deal last offseason was a great call, but taking Henry Ruggs over CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Justin Jefferson might have come at a franchise-altering cost. Getting Yannick Ngakoue on an affordable two-year deal and signing John Brown for a cheap $3.75 million was sharp, but overpaying Drake and using a big chunk of their remaining salary cap will limit their ability to go after talent in the secondary — where their depth is incredibly weak. Especially at safety.
Then we have Josh Jacobs. The Raiders used the 24th overall pick to take Jacobs back in 2019 and, for some odd reason, Gruden refuses to use him as a true featured back. I thought Jacobs was a fantastic receiver when I charted him for Yards Created, but the Raiders have him pegged as a two-down banger.
This just blows my mind: In his career, Jacobs has one (1!) target on third-downs. That just seems impossible.
What makes the decision on Jacobs’ usage even worse is he’s been amazing after the catch when he actually gets the ball. Over the last two years, Jacobs is tied with Christian McCaffrey in yards after the catch per reception (8.4). That’s sixth-best among the 34 RBs with 70 or more targets. And per PFF, only Kareem Hunt (0.44) has forced more missed tackles per reception than Jacobs (0.35) in this span.
Sigh. If only Gruden knew what kind of player he had…
For fantasy, I can’t imagine a worse landing spot for Drake than Vegas. Both backs are going to cannibalize each other and with targets being about three times more valuable than carries in PPR scoring, Drake might end up being the more valuable piece of the duo (he told reporters on Friday that he expects to be used as both a running back and a wide receiver). I was mostly avoiding Jacobs in the late-first/early-second round of drafts last year and I can’t imagine being particularly excited to draft him again even with his ADP likely to plummet.
It’s a massive gut punch to Jacobs’ dynasty value, too. This isn’t one of those fake two-year deals disguised as a one-year. Drake will be on the roster in 2022 because his contract is a true two-year structure. The Raiders would have to eat $3M cash if they want to cut Drake next offseason. Gross. Meanwhile, Chase Edmonds is currently penciled in as the Cardinals starter with Drake gone. Edmonds arguably out-played Drake last season and HC Kliff Kingsbury saw it, at least on passing downs. Edmonds out-snapped Drake (303 to 251 routes run) and saw significantly more targets (67 to 31) last year. I’d be pretty surprised if Arizona didn’t add competition, but Edmonds at least seems likely to get a significant passing down role once again.