The Kansas City Chiefs surprised some people when they made Clyde Edwards-Helaire the first running back off the board in this year’s NFL draft with the last pick in the first round. It was a bit of a luxury pick for last year’s Super Bowl Champion, but CEH is a perfect fit in Andy Reid’s system and could benefit from playing alongside Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. Should we expect CEH to be a workhorse this season? Or will Damien Williams’s presence in the backfield keep him from producing in Year One?
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Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a monstrous junior season at LSU and was a huge part of his team’s national championship run. His 16 rushing touchdowns in 13 were impressive, as was his 8.2 yards per reception. He showed an ability to impact the offensive game in a variety of ways. He’s a 5’7″, 207-pound back who drew comps to Dalvin Cook, Le’Veon Bell, and Devonta Freeman in the pre-draft process. CEH is coming from one of the most dominant offensive teams in the country – LSU broke every record in the book last season – but his NFL team maybe even better on the offensive side of the ball.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire forced 5+ missed tackles in 11 games last year😳pic.twitter.com/6saAhNiYJj
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 11, 2020
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I currently have CEH outpacing his backfield mate Damien Williams in touches by 211 to 156. Some fantasy football pundits will see the Chiefs spending a first-round pick on Edwards-Helaire as being indicative of their plan to make him a workhorse back. However, I still expect Williams to be heavily involved in the offense. Yet, with his receiving ability as strong as it is, CEH should have plenty of volume to produce high fantasy numbers – these stats currently make him the RB21 in my season-long projections.
ADP: 99.2, RB32
Auction Value: $16
I highly doubt Edwards-Helaire’s ADP will leave him as the 32nd running back off the board come August’s draft season – the hype train will build around him all summer, and I expect him to creep up towards the 5th or 6th round. However, as I’ll break down in a moment, his massive upside arguably makes him worthy of a selection even in the 4th round.
Last season, Chiefs’ running backs combined for just under 400 touches. At a minimum, I see CEH getting about half of that workload, so let’s jot him down for 190 touches as a baseline. He averaged 6.9 yards per play from scrimmage last season, which will likely decrease against the tougher defensive competition. If he can maintain about a 5.5 yards per play from scrimmage clip, he’ll easily surpass 1,000 all-purpose yards. He proved his capabilities in the red zone at LSU, as well, and LeSean McCoy leaves behind a team-leading 21 red-zone touches. CEH should pick those up, and I believe his floor is about six touchdowns. With the red-zone touches and receiving work, I don’t see how he finishes outside the top 30 running backs this season.
The ceiling for CEH is what is going to make him such an enticing draft pick in fantasy leagues this season. Would the Chiefs have spent a first-round pick on the LSU rusher if they didn’t expect him to be a workhorse right away? With so many needs on defense, you could easily make that point. Andy Reid has been in favor of utilizing a lead back historically, but with the injuries and inconsistent play among his team’s running backs, that wasn’t possible. If CEH can pick up 70% of the work in the backfield, he could get close to 275 touches – that would put him close to 1,500 all-purpose yards. Also working in his favor is that the Chiefs will likely be focusing on boosting their rushing attack up from the 27th-most attempts per game last season. CEH could approach 55 receptions, ten touchdowns, and 1,500 all-purpose yards if everything breaks his way, which would make him a top-10 running back for fantasy.
Complete mismatch when being covered by LB’s in the open field. So many teams in the league could use a guy like this. pic.twitter.com/VU4iKDZPJt
— J.R. (@JRDrafts) January 25, 2020
Kansas City Chiefs Offense
The Chiefs had one of the best offenses in football last season, ranking 5th in total points and 7th in total yards. Of course, reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes deserves a ton of credit for this as perhaps the best quarterback in football. Andy Reid has been crafting elite offenses for quite some time, though, dating back to his time in Philadelphia. Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Kareem Hunt, and Damien Williams have all produced stretches of fantasy excellence under Reid. Beyond Hill and Kelce, there aren’t too many proven pass-catchers on the roster – Sammy Watkins was mostly unproductive in 2019, and Mecole Hardman hasn’t quite ascended yet. CEH could evolve into the third-leading receiver on the roster in due time.
Strength of Schedule
The Chiefs’ schedule doesn’t look too friendly to opposing running backs at the moment. CEH will have to take on 8 of the top 12 defenses in fantasy points allowed to running backs from last season in the Patriots (1st), Buccaneers (2nd), Ravens (4th), Saints (6th), Jets (8th), Broncos twice (10th), Falcons (11th), and Bills (13th). Offering some reprieve on the schedule will be the Raiders twice (18th), Chargers twice (24th), Texans (28th), Panthers (32nd), and Dolphins (26th). As always, it’s challenging to know year-to-year which defenses will allow the most fantasy points to each position group, and while there are some imposing defenses on the Chiefs’ slate, CEH will fare just fine attached to such an elite offense.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is going to be hyped up all summer long and will likely end up being selected as high as the 4th or 5th round. At his current ADP (9th round), I’ll be racing to scoop up CEH. The Chiefs’ elite offense should work wonders for Edwards-Helaire’s productivity, and while he may not be the full workhorse at the outset with Damien Williams still involved, he’s set for some high-value receiving and red-zone work. He has clear-cut top-10 upside as an elite talent on an elite offense with an elite play-caller to boot.
Mahomes on why he asked for the Chiefs to draft Clyde Edwards-Helaire: pic.twitter.com/LWFByijifM
— CHIEFS HIGHLIGHTS (@ChiefsHighlight) June 10, 2020