49ers: Kenyan Drake would be the perfect free agent splash

The San Francisco 49ers won’t have a ton of money to spend in free agency, but one player they should target is running back Kenyan Drake.

Now that the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl run has officially ended, general manager John Lynch and company can turn their full attention to the 2020 NFL season.

The Needs

The 49ers boast one of the best overall rosters and coaching staffs in the league. However, there are a few noteworthy weaknesses that the team would be wise to address this offseason.

San Francisco’s hopes of capturing an elusive sixth championship would improve drastically if the team could acquire help at defensive back, running back, and receiver.

While the need for a corner to play opposite of All-Pro Richard Sherman is pressing, I believe the 49ers would be wise to make adding an elite running back their top priority.

While the team could elect to add a player like D’Andre Swift with their first-round pick, there are also options available on the free agency market. One in particular, stands out as a great fit — Kenyan Drake.

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The Other Options

At first glance, targeting a player like NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry could immediately add a dangerous component to the 49ers’ biggest strength.

If Kyle Shannahan’s zone-blocking scheme was able to earn such success with lower-tier players like Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert, imagine what the offense could do with a legitimate star.

However, Henry’s projected $13+ million market value makes him a difficult play for a San Francisco team with just over $13 million in available cap space.

Melvin Gordon is another player with a great track record but a big price tag ($11.7 million projected).

The Solution

This leaves Kenyan Drake as a clear option.

The former Alabama star struggled in his first few seasons as a professional with the Miami Dolphins. While he flashed great potential, Miami never seemed to feel confident in his ability to be an every-down back.

However, Drake received a career jolt during a midseason trade to the Arizona Cardinals in October of 2019. The former third-round pick immediately thrived in a system where he was allowed to carry the bulk of the backfield workload.

He set career highs with 817 yards and eight touchdowns. 643 of those yards came in just eight games after the trade to Arizona. He also scored all eight of his touchdowns during that span.

If Drake were to stay healthy for a full season, 1,000+ yards and 8-10 touchdowns is well within the realm of possibility.

At the end of the day, Drake is the perfect combination of upside and price. His expected market value of $5.5 million in annual salary would fit well into the Niners’ cap space.

In fact, the team could even elect to part ways with injury-prone back Jerick McKinnon, in order to save $4.5 million in space.

The Conclusion

If the team chooses to add a lead rusher in free agency, Drake would be a phenomenal addition. Not only would he be an excellent fit with the team, but he could come at a very minimal cost.

The 26-year-old should also have several more years left in his prime. He could be a player the 49ers utilize in 2020 and beyond.

Signing Kenyan Drake would also allow the franchise to target a top defensive back like C.J. Henderson, Bryce Hall, A.J. Terrell, or Bay Area native Ashtyn Davis in the first round of the draft. The 49ers have a clear path to address their biggest need while bolstering their biggest strength.

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They would be wise to take advantage of the opportunity as they seek a return trip to the Super Bowl next season.

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