Running back carries are all the rage this time of year and it was a major subject in the NFL on Tuesday when Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive lineman Cam Heyward said first-round pick Najee Harris will carry the ball 30 to 40 times a game.
“I think as a defender, we’re most excited to have him,” Heyward said of Harris while on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football show. “Having a guy like that that can tote the rock 30 to 40 times a game really puts an ease for the defense. He can do multiple things. I think the investment in our offense this offseason has been huge.”
Of course, that is never going to happen. Only one player in league history — James Wilder of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1984 — averaged more than 30 carries a game at 30.75 carries per game. Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans led the NFL in carries in 2020, averaging 23.6 carries a game.
Las Vegas Raiders’ running back Josh Jacobs had the third most carries in the NFL last season with 273 carries in 15 games. That is an average of 18.2 carries a game. Jacobs averaged 18.6 carries a game in his rookie season in 2019.
What will this mean for new Las Vegas backup running back Kenyan Drake? The Raiders committed a two-year contract worth $11 million with $8.5 million guaranteed this offseason to Drake.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden recently said on the team’s in-house show Raiders Report that Drake will play a key role behind Jacobs and noted that starters can get hurt, so teams need a quality backup. Jacobs missed one game last season and three games as a rookie.
“Doug Martin had 190 touches three years ago when [Marshawn] Lynch went down,” Gruden said.
“DeAndre Washington had 144 touches when Jacobs went down two years ago. And this past year, Josh went down and DeVontae Booker got 110 touches. So we’re going to try to circulate the touches Kenyan Drake’s way. He’s a guy that’s made big plays.”
What is the the carry range for Drake in 2021?
In 2020, DeVontae Booker actually had 93 carries. The Raiders had 457 carries as a team. Booker averaged 5.8 carries a game. Drake had a career-high 239 carries in 2020 (an average of 14.9 carries a game). I’d expect Drake to be in the 10-12 attempt range per game.
He will also be a factor catching the ball out of the backfield, so he’ll be on the field a lot as the Raiders both try to keep Jacobs fresh and use Drake as a play-book wrinkle depending on game flow.