Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had arguably the highest expectations of any rookie running back last year. Drafted in the first round to play in Kansas City’s high-scoring offense, a large percentage of fantasy football enthusiasts expected Clyde Edwards-Helaire to be one of the top running backs in the league. That didn’t happen as a rookie, but can the LSU product bounce back in Year 2?
Clyde Edwards-Helaire Fantasy Football Profile
Even though he didn’t play up to expectation, Edwards-Helaire still had a solid rookie season. Starting and appearing in 13 games, the rookie finished his season with 803 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns to go along with 36 receptions for 297 yards and a touchdown. This made him the RB22 on the season, which certainly isn’t a bad thing for a rookie.
However, the way in which he earned that finish has some in the fantasy football community worried about his long-term outlook. Through the first six games of the season, Edwards-Helaire rarely left the field. He played in anywhere from 60 to 73% of the offensive snaps while averaging 23 opportunities per game. He was a good fantasy asset that could have been great had touchdown luck bounced his way. Rushing touchdowns have more to do with luck than the actual talent of the running back, so there is no reason to worry about this being a long-term issue.
CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE WITH NO REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFEpic.twitter.com/TL25fYDaj1
— PFF (@PFF) September 11, 2020
That usage dropped as the season progressed, as injuries and the presence of Le’Veon Bell turned him into a role player down the stretch. From Bell’s arrival in Week 7 up until Week 12, Edwards-Helaire still had a fairly reliable workload. While Bell did eat into some of the carries, the rookie still had a 50% snap share while averaging 12 opportunities per game. Edwards-Helaire missed Week 13 with an injury but earned a 74% snap share in his first game back. However, he suffered another injury in Week 14, sidelining him for the remainder of the regular season.
Historically speaking, Andy Reid likes to use a three-down workhorse whenever possible. That hasn’t happened since the Kareem Hunt days, but Edwards-Helaire has a chance to earn the role in 2021. He has the draft capital and the support of the coaching staff, and we did see the team use him in a three-down role early in the season.
The biggest question is whether he can retain that massive workload. At 5’-7” and 207 pounds, Edwards-Helaire does not have the build of a true three-down back. However, the lack of competition ensures he’ll earn a big role. Le’Veon Bell is gone, and the Chiefs cut Damien Williams. There is nobody left to threaten Edwards-Helaire for snaps, outside of a washed-up Jerick McKinnon and Darrel Williams.
In terms of projecting actual carries, it’s worth noting that the Kansas City Chiefs love to throw the ball. This makes sense, as this is the most dangerous passing attack in the league. The Chiefs will probably finish the season with approximately 400 carries, and Edwards-Helaire should be able to earn a 65% market share. With a strong offensive line and opposing defenses worried about stopping the pass, the LSU product should finish the season with 260 carries for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Kansas City REALLY likes to throw the ball pic.twitter.com/R9P8IBFcqa
— Dave Latham, Lifelong Bucs Fan (@DLPatsThoughts) July 14, 2021
Of course, rushing work is only a part of the picture. Edwards-Helaire is probably a better receiver than a runner, and Kansas City needs a third option in this passing attack. With Sammy Watkins gone and no adequate replacement added, Edwards-Helaire could easily be the third target offense. For my projections, I have Edwards-Helaire finishing the season with 47 receptions on 70 targets for 400 yards and four touchdowns.
These projections, if accurate, would give Edwards-Helaire 17.47 fantasy points per game, which would have been seventh-best in the league last year.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire Fantasy Football Average Draft Position
As of this posting, FantasyData.com currently has Clyde Edwards-Helaire going off the board as the RB15. This puts him right in the same range as guys like Najee Harris, Joe Mixon, and J.K. Dobbins.
Personally, I think this is highway robbery. Edwards-Helaire has no competition for touches and plays in the best offense in football. While he obviously isn’t in the same tier as guys like Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook, he has a pretty clear path to a top-10 finish with top-five upside.
Najee Harris has yet to play a snap in the NFL and is going to be on a terrible offense with an atrocious offensive line. Ditto for Mixon, as Cincinnati’s offensive line still looks like one of the worst in the league. As discussed in his profile, J.K. Dobbins simply doesn’t have the snap share or passing work to possess top-five upside.
Edwards-Helaire burned a lot of people as a rookie, and that disappointment is reflected in his ADP. However, good fantasy football players don’t let past performances affect their future evaluations, and Edwards-Helaire is proving to be one of the best values in the draft.
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