One of the best examples of recency bias is Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. With the 2021 NFL Draft beginning on Thursday night, everyone recalls the fantasy football ripple effect with the Chiefs selection of Edwards-Helaire in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. While he failed to justify last year’s lofty redraft ADP, Edwards-Helaire presents savvy fantasy drafters with a golden opportunity in 2021.
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Edwards-Helaire Rookie Fantasy Numbers
When the Chiefs selected Edwards-Helaire with the 32nd pick in last year’s draft, the fantasy community not only touted the Kansas City rookie as a first-round fantasy pick but worthy of the overall first redraft selection.
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) August 9, 2020
That was a clear case of hyperbole, except Edwards-Helaire’s season wasn’t as bad as most think. Due to his high ankle and hip strains, he only played 13 games for the Chiefs. Edwards-Helaire averaged 4.2 targets per game, ranking 14th at the position. When given the opportunity to rush the football, he produced as a high-end RB1, with three games as the overall RB10 or better.
Per PlayerProfiler, Edwards-Helaire’s 4.3 true yards per carry only ranked 28th among all running backs. His 5.1 yards per touch was only slightly better at 25th overall. With these moderate rankings, one questions as to where the majority of the blame be placed for his inefficiency?
Offensive Line Trouble
In 2020, Kansas City ranked fifth overall with a 62.6% offensive pass percentage. Most will remember the poor pass blocking display in Super Bowl LV when quarterback Patrick Mahomes was constantly under pressure. Nevertheless, for the majority of the season, Kansas City’s offensive line was actually worse at run-blocking than pass-blocking. The Chiefs ranked sixth in pass block win rate but just 31st in run block win rate per ESPN. It is also worth noting starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz missed every game after Week 6 due to a back injury.
Therefore, Kansas City prioritized improving their offensive line this off-season, starting with releasing both their starting offensive tackles. Then, the Chiefs signed former New England guard Joe Thuney to a five-year, $80-million deal. Since his rookie year, Thuney has started every single game. He is graded among the best run blockers in the league and has the second-lowest run-blown block rate among guards per Sports Info Solutions.
The Chiefs also just completed a huge trade with Baltimore for two-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
Kansas City gets:
🏈 OT Orlando Brown
🏈 2021 second-round pick (No. 58)
🏈 2022 6th round pick.
🏈 2021 first-round pick (No. 31)
🏈 third-round pick (No. 94)
🏈 fourth-round pick (No. 136)
🏈 2022 fifth-round pick
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 23, 2021
Kansas City also coaxed 32-year old guard Kyle Long out of retirement on a one-year, $1.1 million deal filled with incentives. Long is a former three-time Pro Bowl linemen capable of playing both guard and tackle. He will now join Thuney, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who returns after opting out of last season, and Andrew Wylie along the interior. Now, the Chiefs have a much improved and deeper offensive line depth chart for 2021.
At the same time, the Chiefs have 66 vacated carries with the departures of Le’Veon Bell (63) and DeAndre Washington (3). The presence of both Darrel Williams (39 carries) and Darwin Thompson (27 carries) should provide little concern for Edwards-Helaire, who saw 181 carries in his first NFL season. In fact, Edwards-Helaire’s rookie season compares very favorably to that of some former All-Pro running backs.
The only missing part of his rookie profile is the touchdowns. That is likely to experience positive regression in the explosion Chiefs offense in 2021.
Edwards-Helaire is primed to outperform his suppressed ADP. Per FootballOutsiders Best Ball ADP, he is currently going as RB15 and in FFPC Classic Best Ball leagues, Edwards-Helaire is going two spots behind fellow 2020 NFL Draft pick J.K. Dobbins.
Unless Kansas City adds a running back in the early rounds of this week’s draft, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a Top 5 fantasy running back outlook for the 2021 NFL season.
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