At the end of the first round, the Chiefs made the most fantasy-relevant pick in the NFL Draft by selecting LSU’s Clyde-Edwards Helaire . The Chiefs effectively made a luxury pick and are signaling that they view Edwards-Helaire as a crucial weapon in their offense. Kansas City’s organization was all-in on the pick. Not only did HC Andy Reid call Edwards-Helaire a better version of Brian Westbrook after reviewing his film but Patrick Mahomes personally hand-picked Edwards-Helaire at No. 32 overall.
On the most explosive offense in the NFL, Edwards-Helaire has a chance to dramatically tilt the running back landscape in fantasy. Let’s dig into his Yards Created data and see if he’s worth the hype.
Yards Created Data
At 5-7, 207lbs Edwards-Helaire has a very similar build to both Brian Westbrook (5-10, 205lbs) and Devonta Freeman (5-8, 208lbs). And, like those two backs, Edwards-Helaire can grind out tough yards in between the tackles.
Edwards-Helaire averaged 4.04 yards created per attempt on his inside hand-offs, which ranked ahead of D’Andre Swift (3.98), A.J. Dillon (3.81), Cam Akers (3.24), and Zack Moss (2.98) in this class. Both Jonathan Taylor (4.52 YC/A) and J.K. Dobbins (4.48) were better inside runners, but Edwards-Helaire is far more agile. Edwards-Helaire’s 0.42 missed tackles forced per carry easily led the class.
The most important skill that Edwards-Helaire adds to the Chiefs is not his ability to run inside the tackles, though. It’s his route running ability and versatility as a receiver. Edwards-Helaire’s quick hips and feet allow him to generate leverage and create space against defenders in coverage. In four of LSU’s biggest games of the year against top-ranked defenses with NFL caliber athletes, Edwards-Helaire caught 28 balls for 243 yards and a score against Alabama, Clemson, Auburn, and Georgia. Edwards-Helaire created separation with ease against the best linebackers in college football and routinely made throws easier for Joe Burrow.
Edwards-Helaire natural receiving ability is why he was often used as a wide receiver to get one-on-one mismatches with linebackers. Over the last five years, only six running backs have been split out wide as a receiver on more than 20% of their routes:
|Name||Routes lined up at WR (%)|
Edwards-Helaire is near the top of virtually all of opportunity-driven metrics, too, ranking 3rd in targets per game (behind Saquon Barkley and Eno Benjamin) and 3rd in routes run per game (behind Benjamin and DeAndre Washington) over the last five years. Edwards-Helaire was also one of only four RBs in this class to see at least 10% of his team’s passing targets and none of those backs had to compete with No. 22 overall pick Justin Jefferson or future star Ja’Marr Chase for targets.
This is now my fifth year writing Yards Created and I feel comfortable saying Edwards-Helaire is the second-best receiving back I have evaluated. Christian McCaffrey still holds the top spot in my book of top RB route runners, but Edwards-Helaire possesses a rare ability to create separation and shake defenders in coverage. Like most backs coming out of college, Edwards-Helaire needs to progress in pass protection -- his 71% pass protection execution rate grades out slightly below average -- but it almost doesn’t even matter. What Edwards-Helaire provides as a receiver drastically outweighs any of his weaknesses as a pass blocker.
The argument for Edwards-Helaire in fantasy football is relatively simple. Not only is he the best route running RBs to enter the NFL in quite some time, but this is also the most draft capital Andy Reid has spent on a running back since he was HC of the Eagles back in 2009 when they selected LeSean McCoy at 53 overall. The opportunity to play with the best quarterback on the planet also does not suck.
Over the last two years, Patrick Mahomes ranks 1st in passer rating and 4th in adjusted completion rate (taking out drops and throwaways) when targeting his running backs. However, Kansas City’s usually strong screen game struggled a bit in 2019. Per Sports Info Solutions, the Chiefs threw 46 screen or swing passes to their backs (8th-most) but they were largely inefficient and gained just 4.7 yards per target (7th-fewest). Edwards-Helaire’s separation skills and yards after the catch ability will boost the offense as a whole when the Chiefs manufacture touches to him as a receiver.
It’s also no secret that Andy Reid is one of the most RB friendly coaches of all-time. Per our own Scott Barrett, Reid’s RB1 has finished top-8 in fantasy points per game in 12 of the last 16 seasons (75%). And, since 2001, Reid has had at least one top-20 fantasy finish at running back on his team in 15-of-19 seasons (79%).
In Kansas City specifically, we’ve seen consistent success from Reid’s backfields. Jamaal Charles was the RB1, RB8, and RB2 in PPR points in 2013-15. Even Spencer Ware was the RB17 in 2016 while Kareem Hunt finished as the RB5 and RB8 in points per game in 2017-18. And when Damien Williams got some burn as the starter, he has produced like an RB1. Over the last two years, Williams has played over 50% of Chiefs snaps in 16 games and has put up 346.6 fantasy points in those starts -- which would have made him the season-long RB2 last season.
Edwards-Helaire will, at worst, open 2020 as the “1A” in a committee with Damien Williams. Sure, Williams has produced when given the opportunity over the last two years, but you don’t spend 32 overall on a running back if you’re not going to feature him immediately as a rookie. Draft capital (how early a player was taken) is one of the best predictors of future fantasy points we have. I think the Chiefs plan to use Edwards-Helaire similarly to Kareem Hunt back in 2017-18, where CEH will play 65-70% of Chiefs snaps every week, leaving Williams in a change-of-pace role.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s landing spot could not have been any better. His ability as a pass-catcher would have made him a PPR stud on any team, but getting a chance to play with Patrick Mahomes and have plays drawn up by Andy Reid are what dreams are made of. I originally had Jonathan Taylor as the No. 1 back in this class before the NFL Draft, but this fit is just too good to pass up. Edwards-Helaire is my runaway choice to be the first pick in rookie dynasty drafts and I will be targeting Edwards-Helaire in the second- and third-round of seasonal PPR fantasy leagues for his RB1 upside.