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Kenyan Drake aims to emerge from the shadows with Dolphins

Kenyan Drake's explosiveness intrigued the Dolphins enough to where they were comfortable spending a third-round pick on the Alabama backup. Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

DAVIE, Fla. -- Former Alabama running back Kenyan Drake spent his college career in the shadows, most recently as the backup to Heisman Trophy winner and Tennessee Titans second-round pick Derrick Henry.

His Alabama status was one reason why Drake was surprised when his phone rang in the third round, with the Miami Dolphins on the other line.

“No, not at all,” Drake said of his expectations of being drafted No. 73 overall. “This was definitely a real surprise for me, a real dream come true. I’m definitely going to go out down to Miami and make sure that I solidify my spot in this draft and even more.”

Drake was a career backup for the Crimson Tide and wasn’t sure how many teams were paying close attention to his skills. Add in Drake's injury history (arm surgery and leg surgery), and there were reasons for him to think he would go lower.

However, the Dolphins certainly were intrigued. They need a dynamic tailback to help replace the void left by former starter Lamar Miller, who signed in free agency with the Houston Texans. Miami is confident it did enough homework on Drake's injuries and felt comfortable using a third-round pick.

“He’s been to the combine, and the doctors have done the whole work up on him,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said. “I always tell the story, I was in New England when we took Curtis Martin. And everyone said, ‘Why are you guys taking Curtis Martin, he’s always hurt and never made it.’ Curtis, the year he came out as a junior, he only played two games. So Curtis has gone on to be a Hall of Famer.”

Grier went on to say he is not comparing Drake to Martin. Grier just wanted to make a point that injuries can happen to any prospect at the next level. The Dolphins were more intrigued by Drake's ability to make defenders miss, catch passes out of the backfield and make big plays. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry at Alabama.

Drake, who spent last year behind Henry, currently is expected to backup 2015 draft pick Jay Ajayi and contribute on special teams. Drake aims to take advantage of his opportunities and emerge from the shadows with the Dolphins.

“That’s why they drafted me in this position: To come in and make an impact immediately,” Drake said. “They have great running backs there now. I look forward to being teammates with them and playing alongside of them. But at the end of the day, you have to come in and you have to make plays, and that’s what I plan on doing.”