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Clyde Edwards-Helaire is an ADP rocketship! Prior to the opt-out from Damien Williams, Edwards-Helaire was generally taken around Pick 27 or so. And some in the fantasy community thought that was a bit early. Since Williams' July 29 opt-out, Edwards-Helaire's draft stock has soared!
Now, he's often off the board in the first round.
ESPN's Matthew Berry says it's "100%" that Edwards-Helaire will be off the board in the first round.
In a recent Pros vs. Joes draft, Edwards-Helaire was the 1.01 selection. That's first overall.
To be completely informed, let's look at the Pros vs. Joes format:
- The scoring system is the same one used in the Footballguys Players Championship
- This is a best-ball league with no waiver wire, so this is each player's team for the entire season
- There is no trading, so if Team 1 really wanted Edwards-Helaire, they HAD to take him at 1.01
So, is Clyde Edwards-Helaire worth a first-round pick? If so, where in the first round? If not, when?
- The official Footballguys Consensus projections have Edwards-Helaire as RB6.
- He's the No. 8 overall Player in our PPR Top 300 list.
So yes, the official Footballguys word is we say Edwards-Helaire is a first-round pick in most formats.
But we also have lots of Footballguys Staffers with strong opinions. We asked them what they thought about this and here's what they said.
The Short Answer
- 8 staffers said Yes
- 7 staffers said No
The Long Answer
Grab a cup of coffee.
In a word? No.
Clearly worth expanding upon, the first round is often considered the round where you don't win your league, but you could lose it. That's overemphasizing the point, but the sentiment points towards avoiding risky picks and taking safe, high floor options. Rookies rarely make that grade, and in 2020 - more than any other season - that is clearly the case. The best fantasy producers result from the combination of both excellent talent and excellent opportunity, which is why many are pointing towards Edwards-Helaire as a first-round option - but the downside risk for me is higher than I would want. At any point in camp or later in the year, a veteran on the Chiefs could emerge like DeAndre Washington as a safer option to protect the Half-Billion Dollar Man in Patrick Mahomes II. Rookie jitters could result in fumbles or bad pass protection, resulting in diminished usage of Edwards-Helaire. There is no denying that he has great talent and a big opportunity, but the challenges of coming up to full speed to start the season along with the challenges of entering the NFL add too much to his risk for being a first-round pick.
- Andy Reid will use a committee when his backfield lacks experience and or skill due to injuries and suspension.
- Reid will elevate a committee back to a high-volume starter if he proves his value or the depth is lacking.
- Edwards-Helaire has the immediate potential to perform as a competent NFL contributor based on his receiving skills, vision, and footwork.
- Think of Edwards as a Devin Singletary-type back with a little more strength and quickness. However, this does not make him especially powerful.
- Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson display compelling power, and processing speed. DeAndre Washington is also a proven option that can pass protect and Edwards-Helaire struggled in this area at LSU. They may not only reduce Edwards-Helaire's potential volume but also push him into a committee by taking away various roles:
- The Chiefs play in a division that's generous to running backs as runners and/or receivers so as long as Edwards-Helaire earns volume, he should deliver starter production in leagues using two or three runners in a lineup.
- Damien Williams's value had been more touchdown-dependent than some realize and it's possible Edwards-Helaire doesn't earn that role.
- Darrel Williams and Thompson have shown enough that Reid doesn't feel tied to Edwards-Helaire as a featured back. This happened when Spencer Ware overtook a committee of Charcandrick West and Cyrus Gray and also when Kareem Hunt performed well to cut into Ware's hold as a starter before Ware suffered a season-ending injury.
Knile Davis was a third-round pick of the Chiefs after a star-studded career in Arkansas. He was on overrated NFL prospect based on his athletic ability and production and never emerged from Andy Reid's system of proving your worth in a committee.
Brian Westbrook, the player that Reid drafted and compared Edwards-Helaire to this spring, played 43 of 48 possible games during his first three years with Reid in Philadelphia. A second-round pick that Gil Brandt described as a top-five talent if he were two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier in an NFL.com article before the NFL Draft that year, Westbrook was the 75th-ranked fantasy running back as a rookie.
He earned the 20th spot during his second year and the 10th spot in 13 games during his third year. Westbrook's injuries in his fourth year derailed a potential breakout and he slipped to 18th among backs. He finally hit his stride, averaging nearly 15 games during the next three years (2006-2008) and earned three top-10 seasons as a fantasy back.
While possible Edwards-Helaire jumps into the Chiefs mix and balls-out as a rookie, the Eagles backfield that held back Westbrook during those early years consisted of Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, a 34-year-old Dorsey Levens, Ryan Moats, and Lamar Gordon.
These weren't world-beaters at running back. So while I think Edwards-Helaire could one day become a fantasy team's viable RB1 in PPR formats, my adjusted projections have the rookie as a low-end fantasy RB2.
And I'm that guy that once took rookie Edgerrin James 10th overall in a fantasy draft. The difference is that the Colts ran to set up Peyton Manning. Patrick Mahomes II will be throwing to set up the run.
Edwards-Helaire is easily a first-round fantasy selection in PPR leagues. In fact, I would take him in the middle of round one (1.06 to 1.08 range).
I find the comparison of a first-round rookie pick out of LSU to a late-third round rookie pick out of Villanova problematic for some obvious reasons. The transition to the NFL should be slower for an FCS guy than it would for a guy who was arguably the best back in the SEC. The expectations in terms of immediate impact should be vastly different based simply on draft capital, as well.
The part of Matt's analysis I agree with is that Reid has shown he will use a running back as a high-volume starter if he "proves his value." The expectation should be for Edwards-Helaire to very quickly prove his value. In fact, I personally would be shocked if he does not establish himself as the go-to back early in the season.
If you listen to Andy Reid talk about Edwards-Helaire, it sure sounds like Reid expects him to prove his value quickly. "He just knows how to play the game," said Reid. "He can block for you. He can run routes. He’s got tremendous vision and lateral abilities with cuts and route running, all those things. He’s just a real good football player, and he’s got a heart of a Tiger, as they say at LSU.” Reid was effusive in his praise for Edwards-Helaire and he is not a coach who blows smoke (looking at you Pete Carroll) and hypes everyone. “We just think he is a heck of a player,” Reid explained of Edwards-Helaire. “I know some of the coaches at LSU. They just speak so highly of him, as did the coaches that played against him...When you put the tape on, he’s one of those guys that just jumps out at you.”
I was in favor of drafting rookie Saquon Barkley in the middle of the first round in PPR leagues two years ago when the arguments against him were similar to the arguments we are hearing now against Edwards-Helaire. Edwards-Helaire may not be as freaky an athlete as Barkley but he enters the NFL with as much polish and lands in a much better situation. My argument then was that Barkley was a near lock for 60+ receptions. He ended up catching 91 passes. I believe Edwards-Helaire is also a near lock for 60+ receptions (barring injury) in 2020 and has Barkley-like upside (90+ catches) as a receiver. On top of the likelihood he racks up big receiving numbers, Edwards-Helaire should fine the end zone regularly as well. Chiefs running backs have averaged 21 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
While Edwards-Helaire has more risk than established running backs like Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, and Joe Mixon, his PPR upside is also higher because none of those guys are going to get close to 60+ receptions. The balance of risk versus reward makes Edwards-Helaire a worthwhile gamble in the middle of the first round.
I will make a distinction between the PPR format and standard scoring. In standard scoring, I would be more comfortable with Edwards-Helaire in the 10-12 range. He is still a first-rounder but without the PPR scoring boost, I would take guys like Henry, Chubb, and Mixon over him.
If drafting right now -- or at any time Kansas City has not acquired another veteran back to solidify its backfield -- Edwards-Helaire is worth a first-round pick. As it stands, his backfield mates are depth players. Darrel Williams is a veteran who will command a small piece of the pie as a means of giving the rest of the player(s) ahead of him. DeAndre Washington lacks the all-around game to have gotten on the field in Oakland and to have prevented that team from drafting its own first-round pick last season. And Darwin Thompson, despite his status as a preseason fantasy darling last year, couldn't get on the field ahead of LeSean McCoy.
Damien Williams is the only back on Kansas City's roster with the all-around talent to have kept Edwards-Helaire from dominating touches. I agree with Matt's stance on Reid utilizing committees. And that stance is overlooked by the prominent "Andy Reid RBs are Always Fantasy RB1s" crowd. But employing a split that gives Edwards-Helaire any less than 75% of the snaps or 65% of the running back touches does a disservice to the Kansas City offense -- an offense quarterbacked by a player who tweeted this upon the team's selection of Edwards-Helaire.
In 2017, then-rookie Kareen Hunt was supposed to share a backfield with Spencer Ware. Once Ware tore his ACL in the team's second preseason game, Hunt's ADP skyrocketed to the point that he was being selected in the first round of high stakes leagues drafting after Ware's injury. Hunt went on to finish as the overall RB4 that season.
The pass-blocking argument is valid for many rookies. But part of Reid's genius is leveraging player strengths and mitigating weaknesses. Hunt didn't play on all passing downs, and when he did, he was often running a route rather than pass-blocking. The fact that Edwards-Helaire might not be asked to pass block could be spun as a positive.
Edwards-Helaire certainly has risk, but he is worth a first-round pick. In PPR leagues, he's worth the gamble of selecting before Derrick Henry, Joe Mixon, and Josh Jacobs. He's in the same tier as Dalvin Cook as the fifth or sixth running back off the board.
I have him as RB7 which places him firmly at the back of round 1 on my draft board.
There is a lot to love. The Chiefs selected him as the first running back in this year's draft. As a Junior, he rushed for 1,415 yards (6.6 yards-per-carry) and 16 touchdowns in the SEC conference. He added another 55 catches for 453 yards and a touchdown. A whopping 36% of his rushes resulted in a first-down or touchdown for the National Champion LSU Tigers.
Over the last three seasons, Chief's running backs have averaged 415 PPR fantasy points per year. To finish at RB7, a running back generally needs to generate 275-290 PPR fantasy points.
With Damien Williams opting out this season, Edwards-Helaire has a clear path to the starting job and I expect he will secure that role before week 1. The Chief's offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and running backs succeed in this offense because Patrick Mahomes II, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill rarely allow defenses to stack the line of scrimmage.
Yeah, Dan, this is where we will disagree about scouting by college helmets. Westbrook was signed to a scholarship by FSU but tore his ACL in high school and the school rescinded the offer.
Westbrook excelled at the Senior Bowl and was considered a premier route runner. When a guy like Gil Brandt calls a player a top-five talent in ability, that’s major.
The positive about Edwards-Helaire to your point is that he has a year of experience in the most NFL-caliber scheme in college football. This should help him as a route runner.
Still, it’s difficult for me to see him as more than the fourth option in a passing offense that thrived without a high-target back.
It’s no doubt possible Edwards-Helaire can achieve RB1 value this year, but I like proven guys in the first round.
Matt, Westbrook (as a college prospect) was before my time so I will defer to you there. I do think that we can make logical conclusions about how big a role a team plans for a player based upon where he is drafted. Those plans do not always work out how the team envisions but an educated guess about the role based on draft capital is a solid starting point.
Kansas City used their first-round pick, in a season they are Super Bowl favorites, on a running back. The starting point of my analysis is a belief the Chiefs (a) think Edwards-Helaire is a special talent and (b) envision him quickly making a big impact. Both their words (press conferences) and actions (spending their top pick) support that.
We also disagree on how much of a role Edwards-Helaire will have as a receiver. The following numbers are worth noting:
- Kareem Hunt had 53 receptions as a rookie in this same Chiefs offense (while also leading the lead in rushing yards).
- Damien Williams had 6+ targets in each of the Chiefs' last five playoff games, including 8 targets in the Super Bowl.
- Chiefs running backs combined for 90 receptions in the regular season last year.
In my opinion, there is room in this offense for Edwards-Helaire to also see 6+ targets per game. That type of volume has been there in recent years and could increase this year because I feel Edwards-Helaire brings an added element as a pass-catcher that none of the other recent Chiefs backs can match.
Hunt's rookie year reception totals were skewed by Spencer Ware's injury. Ware was one of the best receivers in the NFL the year prior, especially in yards after the catch. Ware was also a good blocker, which would have otherwise limited Hunt far more if Ware didn't get hurt.
The Chiefs had to adjust with Hunt has a non-factor in the blocking game and be more inventive. Reid could go that route again with Edwards-Helaire but with the loss of Tardiff-Duvernay at guard, it's possible he places a higher priority on pass protection from running backs than previous seasons.
So, I disagree with the idea that Hunt's receptions as a rookie were part of a "norm" for the unit. Especially when you factor in the addition of players like Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman, who offer more compelling options downfield and Patrick Mahomes II' faster mental processing of the field than Alex Smith.
The same is true with Williams' playoff receptions. The context behind it is misleading. Hunt was suspended during Williams' first playoff run and LeSean McCoy disappointed during the second playoff run. While the Chiefs' depth chart isn't filled with world-beaters, (though I think Darwin Thompson remains a compelling talent) I think it's enough to limit Edwards-Helaire to RB2 numbers.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire belongs in Round 1, and I would draft him as high as No. 5 overall.
Arguing against Edwards-Helaire feels like making fantasy football harder than it needs to be. The Chiefs have the best quarterback on planet earth, the most consistently efficient offense in all of football, and a crater on the depth chart where last year's starting running back used to be. What's not to like?
Darrel Williams was an undrafted free agent, Darwin Thompson is the latest WAC Conference running back who didn't translate, and DeAndre Washington was essentially signed for the veteran's minimum. These are the guys who will buck the trend of first-round running backs immediately stepping into large workloads in year-one?
Ryan mentioned it already, but I'll put some numbers to it. In 2017, Kareem Hunt played on 65% of Kansas City's offensive snaps as a rookie and pass-blocked on only 11% of those snaps. He was busy running routes and scoring fantasy points on obvious passing downs for his blocking to matter for our purposes.
Over the second half of last season and in the playoffs, Damien Williams averaged about 17 total touches per game and 1.2 fantasy points per touch as the Chiefs lead running back.
Seventeen touches per game seem like a modest enough projection for Edwards-Helaire. If he can come within 10% of Williams' second-half efficiency on those touches, we're looking at roughly 300 PPR fantasy points over 16 games, which would have tied him with Derrick Henry as the RB5 last year.
There's still upside too. What if 17 touches per game is a low projection? What if more of his touches come on receptions than Williams' 3.25 per game over the second half? And what if he's simply way better than Williams?
I'm not advocating taking Edwards-Helaire at 1.01 like the gentleman in the industry draft cited above, but he shouldn't be laughed out of the room for spending his first pick on the best running back in football's best offense either.
I wouldn't draft him in the first round, which means I'm not rostering him this year. But if you're asking whether he should be? That's entirely subjective and his potential range of outcomes certainly justifies using a late-round pick in the first for him, if you tend to believe in the more optimistic end of his projection spectrum. I'm a huge Andy Reid fan and think there are very few coaches as gifted at constructing dynamic offenses. He's on record as believing Edwards-Helaire is better than Brian Westbrook, which is heady praise. Westbrook was a fantastic fantasy running back in his prime in Philadelphia, and, in particular, his value as a receiver was unparalleled at the time. The league has changed a lot since then, and now top fantasy backs have to be heavily involved in the passing game, but the point is Reid very much could build his running game around the rookie depending on how the offseason progresses.
Personally, I'm going to avoid the hype because I lean more toward Matt's way of thinking about things. I don't see Edwards-Helaire having the time to win over the team as a blocker because of the pandemic restrictions, and it just seems unlikely -- to me -- that Edwards-Helaire sees the consistent workload commensurate with a first-round pick.
Do I think it'll happen? Yes. Would I do it? No.
If, for some reason, Edwards-Helaire fell into the early second round, I would strongly consider it.
I do not have Clyde Edwards-Helaire near Round 1 of 2020 fantasy league drafts. I also would not take him 1.01 in dynasty rookie drafts, which is a separate discussion.
I agree with much of Matt's take on Andy Reid, the Chiefs run game, etc. as points to make here. Also, I am more bullish on the utility of DeAndre Washington and Darrel Williams specifically as other options for the Chiefs. Early in the offseason, I thought it was quizzical Washington signed with Kansas City considering their packed depth chart and this was before Edwards-Helaire's addition in late April. Washington has been a quality option, albeit without any consistently strong usage, with the Raiders and I thought he would see his best production beyond his rookie contract.
Washington and Williams both are two-way players and Edwards-Helaire will have his hands full to push both aside especially during the first 4-6 weeks of the season for a lion's share of the snaps and touches.
I have Edwards-Helaire in Round 3 of drafts, but that is relatively immaterial as there is bound to be a drafter in every/most leagues who would take him in Round 1, so even a ranking in the mid-second round would be a 'you are not going to get him, so do not worry about it' environment of player valuation.
I don't think Edwards-Helaire should be taken in the first round. I would happily grab him in the second round to pair with a first-round running back, but I don't see that being a realistic scenario come draft day.
The interesting thing about this question is, I believe in this format that he is worth taking in the first round. With no trading, and knowing you won't find him there in the second, if you believe in the projected upside then he's worth it. I'm not doing it, but there is ample evidence from some smart guys that he could perform as a first-rounder. I'm pretty risk-averse, however, so I just don't want to swallow that risk.
There are two other things I would note:
- Matt made this point but it is a significant issue for me - Edwards-Helaire could very easily fail to establish the goal-line role. That would end any discussion of him as a first-rounder in my mind.
- I think there is some subconscious anchoring to what happened with Kareem Hunt in his rookie year. I'm not saying everyone here who likes him has a bias, at all, because everyone has made some excellent arguments for Edwards-Helaire's value, but I find myself thinking that things would really have to go perfectly for the Hunt rookie season to be recreated with this particular situation. I believe it is possible but also far riskier than it seems.
I know that Darrel Williams is not a world-beater, but I think he'll play a role in the backfield this year, whether as a change of pace or as a guy who earns a few series a game and gets goal-line carries. Even if it isn't Williams, I think someone factors in, so the risk of using a first-round selection on the rookie just isn't for me. I'm all over him in the early second if I already have a running back, but that's the only way he'd end up on my team.
I would not take Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round. While the narrative is Kansas City is a high level running back landing spot, the Mahomes-era has been different for the Andy Reid offense. In the past two seasons, Kansas City ranks 19th in halfback targets, 16th in halfback receptions, and 28th in halfback carries. Combined in the past two seasons, Kansas City ranks 28th in halfback touches. In 2019, the top two running backs in touches, Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy, combined for 270 touches. To warrant a pick in the first round, Clyde Edwards-Helaire would need to virtually consolidate that entire workload and I'm skeptical that happens, particularly with others like DeAndre Washington and Darrel Williams as committee backs in a condensed offseason for a rookie. Otherwise, Edwards-Helaire needs Kansas City to expand the running back volume. With Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Mecole Hardman all back in 2020, I'm struggling to see Kansas City take a big shift in offensive construct.
Let's look at the Mahomes-era Kansas City offense's use of their running backs.
The 2018 Chiefs backfield:
- Kareem Hunt, who was on pace for 1748 total yards, 37.8 receptions, and 20.3 touchdowns before being released after 11 games
- Spencer Ware
- Damien Williams
- Darrel Williams
- Charcandrick West
Hunt's pace would have totaled 334.8 fantasy points -- good enough for RB5 in 2018.
The 2019 Chiefs backfield:
- Damien Williams, who missed five games
- LeSean McCoy, who wasn't the same runner he once was
- Darrel Williams
- Darwin Thompson
- Spencer Ware, who was signed out of desperation in December
With Williams' injury, the talent simply wasn't there. Even without that injury, it's easy to argue the talent still wouldn't have been there.
By the way, Hunt's 2018 pace would have been good enough for RB2 last year.
The sample size is quite small, but the Mahomes-era Kansas City offense can produce an elite fantasy running back.
Since others are stating when and where they would take Edwards-Helaire, I don't have him higher than a late third-round pick - which means he won't be on my rosters based on what everyone else is saying. I'm OK with that, as I think the floor can fall out for his fantasy value, and that is not what I am looking for with my first three picks. The downside risk is far higher than the upside for taking him in Round 1, but I could see a third-round argument and possibly a late second in some leagues. Until we have a clear understanding of how Andy Reid will use him, I am staying away. Even when Reid had proven veterans (Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy come right to mind), quite often he would be criticized for "forgetting about the running back" in his offense several times. That only adds to my "lower floor" argument to avoid taking the rookie too early.
Jeff, I don't understand how the best back in -- arguably -- the best offense has a low floor.
- Andy Reid has a history of forgetting about using even his best tailbacks.
- There's no guarantee that Edwards-Helaire has a feature-back workload.
- A veteran back can be signed to boost the depth and limit the rookie's snaps.
- No preseason games for Edwards-Helaire to get accustomed to the speed and talent level of the NFL.
- Some else on the depth chart can gobble up snaps.
- Reid may want to keep the rookie fresh for a longer season, also limiting his weekly workload.
- If Edwards-Helaire struggles in pass protection, keeping Mahomes and using a "lesser talented back" that can pick up blitzers better is a very real possibility.
Excepting the first thing on your list, everything else on that list seems like monsters under the bed, Jeff.
The Chiefs draft a running back in the first round, they gush about him immediately, his only real competition for touches opts out, and now people are worried about DeAndre Washington. To quote my good friend, Jason Wood, "It's baffling."
I'd like to see one post/article/whatever written before July 29 anywhere on the internet where someone was concerned about DeAndre Washington stealing touches in Kansas City.
Washington set career highs in carries(103), rushing touchdowns (3), and receptions (36) in 2019 yet was still off the fantasy radar due to averaging just 3.6 yards per carry (second-worst in his career). Should Washington be considered as a late-round, upside play? Yes! Should he be considered a threat to Edwards-Helaire? No! The offense, draft capital, and talent shown at LSU should be enough for a first-round pick.
One of my favorite tools to use at this time of year is our Team Projections pages. Looking at Kansas City's page, we can quickly see that over the last three seasons the Chiefs' running backs have scored 385, 461, and 401 fantasy points (PPR). That is an average of 415.6 fantasy points per season. I have a hard time buying an argument that the Chiefs running backs (as a group) aren't going to produce strong fantasy numbers.
The only real question in my mind is how much of that pie goes to Edwards-Helaire. I think it is going to be 70% or more, which is why I would happily take him in the first round. The best argument against Edwards-Helaire is if you think Reid will use a true committee approach and Edwards-Helaire only scores 50% of the backfield's fantasy points.
There is a big enough talent gap between the first-round pick and this assortment of guys who have spent most of their careers as their teams 3rd or 4th string running back for me to feel confident Edwards-Helaire is going to be the guy for the Chiefs in 2020.
Dan, the Data Dominator is also great at getting totals for entire units or positions. Since Reid joined the Chiefs in 2013, Kansas City ranks 5th in the league in fantasy points by its RBs (behind the Saints, Patriots, Rams, and Eagles in standard; behind the Saints, Patriots, Chargers, and Rams in PPR). Even if you want to exclude the Jamaal Charles era, since 2017 the Chiefs' RBs rank 9th in standard scoring and 7th in PPR. It's a good offense for running backs.
When Kareem Hunt was a hot commodity before 2017 I was pretty bearish on him. A lot of people were citing stats about how productive Andy Reid's top running backs had been, but they were omitting facts about how talented Andy Reid's top running backs had been.
Case: the "Andy Reid RBs were historically studs" argument misses fact that Andy Reid RBs were historically Westbrook, McCoy, and Charles.— Adam Harstad (@AdamHarstad) September 2, 2017
The idea was that yes, when Andy Reid has a Brian Westbrook, a LeSean McCoy, or a Jamaal Charles, that back tends to be a dominant fantasy asset. And if Kareem Hunt proved as talented as those three, he likely would be, too, but it was by no means guaranteed. (See also: Knile Davis.)
In fact, I was pretty lukewarm on Hunt because I didn't like his odds as a 3rd-round pick. (The hit rate on 3rd-round running backs isn't that great, though the 2017 draft produced a real bumper crop of success stories.) But Hunt proved to be talented and got the huge workload that his supporters predicted.
In years that Reid hasn't had a Westbrook, McCoy, Charles, or yes, a Kareem Hunt, he's operated a committee and his backs have muddled along for fantasy purposes. So really the question I think boils down to "how good is Clyde Edwards-Helaire". If he's as good as his draft status and Reid's glowing remarks suggest, he'll pretty easily justify that 1st round pick. If he's not... well, we'll probably get another committee.
100% agree, Adam.
Edwards-Helaire is easily a first-round fantasy pick. Depending on your tolerance for unknown potential, he's worth taking at the 1.05 spot in a normal PPR league.
Whether Reid forgets about his running backs is hard to quantify. I know the pass-run ratios that Reid got criticized for in the 2000s ("he's a pass-crazy mad scientist!") are basically the league averages in the 2010s. I also think that things are a bit different when you have a running quarterback; If New England gives 14 carries to its running backs and 4 carries to Cam Newton instead of giving 18 carries to its running backs, is that forgetting about the running backs or making sure to include the full range of talented players available?
With that said: from 1999-2012, Philadelphia tied for 18th for the number of games with 15 or fewer rushing attempts. (I initially used a lower number to represent the "forgot about the running game" threshold but was surprised to see how rare they were; From 1999 to 2012 there were only 42 games in the entire league where a team ran 10 times or less.)
From 2002-2012 (the span covered by our Data Dominator), Philadelphia did rank 31st in the league in rush attempts by its running backs. But it also ranked 2nd in rush attempts by its quarterbacks (the only team within 100 attempts of the Michael Vick-aided Falcons), and it ranked 3rd in receptions by its running backs, which are much more valuable than rush attempts (especially in PPR, but even in standard scoring).
Overall, from 2002 to 2012 Andy Reid Eagles ranked 9th in fantasy points from the RB position in standard scoring and 4th in PPR. Maybe on a game-by-game basis, you could find a few tactical decisions to criticize, but overall it's hard to make the case that he neglected the position (rather than just, say, used it in a way that was atypical at the time but has since become much more the norm).
I'd also like to push back on Jeff's "you can't win your league in the first round, but you can lose it" quote. This is the conventional wisdom in fantasy, but I think it's pretty much the opposite.
But that's a whole other article.
For 2020, the question is whether Edwards-Helaire is a talent that hasn't fully emerged yet. I'm leaning towards more of a committee, especially with DeAndre Washington both (A) showing he can be a feature back last December w/ the Raiders and (B) reuniting with his former Texas Tech teammate in Mahomes.
I sure hope you guys include the caveat that if nor for Spencer Ware getting hurt early, there’s little reason that Kareem Hunt earns as much time as he did. This seems to be ignored by every poster talking about Hunt’s rookie year. Hunt is a fine runner and pass receiver but Ware cane off an excellent receiving season with yards after the catch and catch percentage and he blocked way better than Hunt. The changes to the system were by necessity to minimize Hunt’s woes. Just so there’s accuracy to the context behind Hunt—even if Edwards-Helaire being an early pick proves worthwhile.
Certainly, if you look at individual players on the Chiefs as monsters under the bed then you can make the argument against appear childish. But it’s hyperbole when we’re debating the difference between Edwards-Helaire as a 1st or late-2nd pick and the underlying argument about these players is actually the coach and system tendencies and discerning what was the norm versus the anomaly and whether Edwards-Helaire is an exceptional option THIS year.
Matt, isn't that pretty analogous what has happened here too with Damien Williams?
If memory serves, Hunt was going in the 7th-8th round early in the offseason. Ware got injured in Week 2 or 3 of the preseason and Hunt's ADP shot up to the 3rd round.
The plan may have been for Edwards-Helaire to ease his way in alongside Williams but that went out the window when he opted out. Now, it looks like Edwards-Helaire should benefit and he is also seeing his ADP rise by a round or two.
Yes, let's assume Edwards-Helaire has growing pains in pass protection. Why wouldn't Reid "make changes to the system out of necessity to minimize his woes" the same way he did for Hunt when Ware got hurt? I fail to see how Ware getting hurt is any different than Williams opting out.
Because Ware got hurt late in the preseason season and the rest of the depth chart wasn't on par to handle Ware's duties.
This depth chart has more prepared talent in terms of players who have been in the system and showed pass-pro and receiving skills prior to this year.
I think if you compared that depth chart to the 2020 depth chart, you could pick Thompson, Williams, or Washington and be correct in saying that they'd outplay anyone under Hunt in 2017 after Ware got hurt.
Now, to make an argument in your favor:
Look at the 2017 depth chart and touch distributions:
- Hunt 325 (80.4%)
- West 45
- Sherman 20
- Hunt 12
- Spiller 2
Let's look at the touch distribution for the lead back before and after:
- 2016 -- Ware (62%)
- 2018 -- Hunt (54%) and if you extrapolate from 11 to 16 games... (79%)
To me, this is the clearest indication that if Edwards-Helaire meets early on as a rookie, that he could account for 60-80 percent of the touches.
I currently have Edwards-Helaire at 62.5 percent of the touches, earning 0.885 points per touch. (217.8 in PPR). If I up that to 70 percent of the 393 touches for the backfield, that's 275 PPR points, which places him just inside the top-15 backs.
If I up that total to 80 percent? That's 314 points and he's nearly tied with my sixth and seventh-ranked players overall.
So I get where you would look at Hunt's 80 percent share of the backfield and determine Edwards-Helaire will get that opportunity.
I don't believe he'll earn that share. Hunt is a powerful runner with vision. That's the thing he does best. Edwards-Helaire has good vision and excellent route skills but he's not in the same class of contact-balance and power as Hunt.
To me, that's the difference between 60-70 percent share and 80 percent share and while it may turn out in favor of Edwards-Helaire as an RB1 in fantasy, I can't recommend to people that a runner like Helaire will earn that much of a workload as a rookie.
To follow up on workloads under Andy Reid, Brian Westbrook earned 69 percent of the running back workload during his 2006 season as the No.6 fantasy back in the game.
In 2007, Westbrook earned 79 percent of the workload as the No.2 back. It was his peak year.
By this time Westbrook understood protections much better than he did as a rookie. While Edwards-Helaire played in the most "NFL offense" in the NCAA last year, we don't even need to get into projections because his baseline fundamentals as a blocker were lacking.
Now, the Chiefs could go empty but I have to expect they will place a higher premium on running back help with protections based on this year's pandemic and the loss of their starting guard that already makes this OL depth chart less stocked.
So 80 percent of the workload seems like you're pushing the ceiling of his potential as your baseline.
Matt, that analysis makes sense to me except the point per touch numbers look low.
Chiefs RBs have averaged over 1.05 points per touch over the last three seasons. 1.08 over the last two. I would argue Edwards-Helaire should at least match that average because he is going to be used more heavily as a receiver and because receptions are about 3X more valuable than carries on average (PPR).
Using your touch numbers, if Edwards-Helaire just matches the 1.08 average and gets 70% of the touches, he would score 297. Looking at Dodds' projections, that would put him at RB4.
I accounted for a dip because points per touch should account for offensive line play. You lose a good starting guard this late in the year and your offensive line has limited work like it usually has, and I'm ignoring that three-year average.
As former NFL lineman, Ross Tucker, mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago after a show we did, even veteran offensive linemen who have played together for years need that practice time on the field where they are in close contact to develop the feel for when one player will pull or peel off a double team.
Without that same level of work, I'm projecting a drop in line play--especially with replacement guard entering this scenario and a rookie back who won't get that opportunity to earn this level of timing, either.
Coming in at the end of a spirited discussion seems superfluous, but here we go.
In a short answer, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is worth drafting late in the first round but is something I would struggle to pull the trigger on. He would be worth considering somewhere around the eighth pick for me.
If I decided to take him, I would alleviate some risk by grabbing two other reliable backs in my first five picks and forego tight end and quarterback unless the top two at each position fell ridiculously.
I do not doubt that he will be given the opportunity in his rookie season, but Andy Reid doesn’t have to throw him out there because he is desperate. He will want him educated and developed properly. If that means putting Darrel Williams, DeAndre Washington and Darwin Thompson out there to play some type of Frankenstein hybrid back, so be it. None of those guys can approach the all-round effort that the rookie could, but all can do a role and keep Andy Reid happy until Edwards-Helaire knows what he is doing.
Maybe the guy is a fast learner and can play in week one? Reid doesn’t have to prove anything anymore and will need Patrick Mahomes II protected at all costs. An inferior running game is worth that cost if it needs to be.
The important thing to remember is that selecting Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round could be a league-winning decision and that in and of itself is vital.
The perfect storm of facts is there:
- The Chiefs have arguably the best offense in the league.
- The depth chart has opened itself leaving Edwards-Helaire at the top.
- We've read this chapter before with Kareem Hunt. With the same team, coach, and rookie appeal.
So why not take the chance? I condone taking Edwards-Helaire in the first round after McCaffrey, Barkley, Elliott, Kamara, and Henry are off the board because that's what I would do. I wouldn't fault anyone for taking a chance on him before those players.
Jumping into this thread at the tail end, so I won't bother getting into much of the analysis and deeper dive stuff already covered. The basic question is whether Edwards Helaire is worth a first-round pick. If I look at this as objectively as possible, knowing it's a very subjective topic, I am looking at all of the data points I can collect as part of my process for developing projections throughout the preseason. Based on all of that input, I would look at it this way.
It's unlikely that he won't lead the team in snaps and touches out of the backfield (barring obvious things like injury).
His skills translate extremely well for the Chiefs offense for nearly every aspect of situational football: early downs, passing downs, hurry-up offense, red zone, etc.
I remember watching him play against Alabama when I was already aware and intrigued by his game. He was phenomenal at making tacklers miss, breaking tackles, powering through multiple defenders and he plays well above his height and weight.
Taking a player in the first round is a decision based as much on confidence and risk avoidance as much as it is looking at projections, rankings, and taking the highest-rated player on your board.
It's not impossible to think that Edwards Helaire could catch 75 passes, or score 15 touchdowns, or carry the ball 250 times. It's not likely he does all three, but it's definitely not a stretch for him to do one of those, and even more likely that he could approach the other two - especially in this offense.
So, is he worth a first-round pick? For me, absolutely. I would not draft him higher than the first four or five backs, and probably not higher than Michael Thomas either, but I think he is absolutely capable of eclipsing 100 yards and 1 touchdown per game while amassing somewhere north of 275 touches over the season. If I'm sitting at 1.08 or later, I think he's just as safe to pick as Kenyan Drake, Joe Mixon, any of the top-rated receivers, and possibly even Derrick Henry in PPR leagues.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire to me is a mid-second round pick for me this season which means I won't have any of him on my roster this season. The upside is clearly there for Edwards-Helaire and there is a lot to get excited about with a running back with receiving skills coming into this offense. However, there are concerns here that caused him to slip down the draft boards which is primarily his pass protection. Eric Bieniemy had said about Edwards-Helaire that he has a willingness to block, which isn't exactly confidence in his ability to block. In a pandemic shortened off-season my concern is that he will not have the proper time to adjust and develop cohesiveness with this team. I have him just below Austin Ekeler in PPR leagues who to me has established a role with his team and has shown that he can catch 100 passes while still being featured in the running game.
Devin, I like Ekeler as a player and think there are a lot of similarities between his game and what Edwards-Helaire should bring to the table. I could see going with the more proven option, all things being equal situationally.
But their situations couldn't be much more unequal. In his last season as a full-time starter (15 games), Tyrod Taylor completed a grand total of 263 passes for 2,799 yards and 14 touchdowns. We know what type of passing numbers an offense led by Patrick Mahomes II is capable of.