The 2020 NFL season has yet to begin, yet COVID-19 is already making a major impact on the fantasy football landscape. Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams opted out earlier in the week, leaving rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the unquestioned leader of Kansas City’s backfield.
Because of this news, the Clyde Edwards-Helaire hype train is currently going off the rails. However, can Edwards-Helaire live up to the hype and, if so, where should you take him in your fantasy football draft?
2020 Fantasy Football: Clyde Edwards-Helaire Outlook Without Damien Williams
Andy Reid and the RB1
It’s no secret that Andy Reid is a fantasy football godsend. Reid is arguably the greatest offensive mind in football and has a special gift for turning any old running back into fantasy gold. Since 2004, Reid’s lead running back has been a per-game RB1 in 13 of a possible 16 seasons.
The only times that Reid’s running backs haven’t reached that RB1 threshold is when Reid used a committee approach. Historically speaking, Reid likes to use a three-down back whenever possible. He couldn’t do it in 2009 and 2019 thanks to injuries, but Edwards-Helaire is fully healthy and ready to go. While nobody can guarantee health throughout a 16-game season, there’s no reason to believe that Edwards-Helaire carries any advanced risk of injury.
Edwards-Helaire is a rookie, and thus doesn’t have any NFL tape on which to judge his talents. This could be an issue for some positions, but it shouldn’t be that big of an issue in Kansas City. Rushing production has more to do with scheme and blocking than it does the actual runner, and Reid’s scheme is second to none.
This trend even holds true in the passing game. According to a data study performed by Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, Andy Reid is uniquely gifted at making his running backs productive in the passing game. It doesn’t matter who is doing the receiving, just as long as they’re in Reid’s system.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Chiefs also have Patrick Mahomes. Combining Mahomes and Reid creates unmatched scoring opportunities, which will only increase Edwards-Helaire’s overall potential. In 2018, Kareem Hunt was the RB8 on a per-game basis through the first 11 weeks of the season. It stands to reason that Edwards-Helaire can match that potential in this offense.
The Kansas City Chiefs probably wouldn’t have spent a first-round pick on Clyde Edwards-Helaire if they didn’t think he could be a true three-down back. However, let’s play devil’s advocate for a second and assume that he won’t be an every-snap player.
At 5’-7” and 207 pounds, Edwards-Helaire is smaller than your typical running back. He might not have the size to handle a 220-carry workload, or the team just might not give him that opportunity. While that would definitely hurt his fantasy football outlook, he can still be an RB1.
It’s hard to imagine any world where Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t the top running back in Kansas City’s passing attack. The running back thrived in that role with LSU, and Patrick Mahomes specifically asked for Edwards-Helaire in the NFL Draft.
Targets are far more valuable than carries in fantasy football, especially in PPR leagues. In an absolute worst-case scenario, he’ll probably be a 180-carry, 60-target guy with huge touchdown upside and high efficiency. That is still the formula for an RB1 finish, and that’s the worst-case scenario.
Where to Draft Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Average draft boards haven’t had the chance to fully update following the Damien Williams news, so it’s impossible to say where Edwards-Helaire is currently going in drafts. According to FantasyPros ADP tracker, the current top 12 running backs are as follows: Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Joe Mixon, Kenyan Drake, Miles Sanders, Nick Chubb, Josh Jacobs, and Austin Ekeler.
Barring injury or something completely unforeseen, there is no way that Edwards-Helaire finishes above McCaffrey, Barkley, Elliott, Kamara, or Cook. After those five, however, things start to get interesting.
As discussed in an earlier profile, Derrick Henry doesn’t do much in the passing game and is due for a huge amount of regression. Mixon has a new quarterback and is in a questionable offense, and Nick Chubb is going to share work with Kareem Hunt. Jacobs has the raw tools to be a great pass-catcher, but offseason moves indicate that the Raiders have no intention of using him in that role. Austin Ekeler, meanwhile, has Tyrod Taylor under center and might have to deal with a quarterback change midway through the season.
Personally, Edwards-Helaire would be my RB6. He’s in a better situation than the aforementioned running backs, although all of them should have solid seasons. If you want to take Drake or Sanders ahead of Edwards-Helaire, go for it. However, you shouldn’t let him slip past RB8.
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