Don't Be Afraid to Buy Right Back Into Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 3:40 pm ET

CEH's 2021 Season Will Be What 2020 Was Supposed To Be

CEHClyde Edwards-Helaire is not getting any RB1 love this off-season. It's almost as if everyone has forgotten the kinds of returns that come with an Andy Reid fantasy running back.

He wasn't great during his rookie season, but he wasn't that bad all things considered. First off, he was a rookie. And he was walking into a massive role with a lot of responsibility. No easy feat. Secondly, he was doing it without a traditional off-season or any preseason games to speak of. The kid deserves a second chance.

Despite this trial by fire, he averaged 4.4 yards per carry as a rookie. This ranked 13th out of all running backs with at least 150 carries. His rushing efficiency paints his rookie season in a different light than is generally perceived. He averaged a broken tackle every 12.1 attempts. Out of running backs with at least 150 carries, this ranked 10th. Under those same parameters, he was 13th in yards after contact.

He missed three games, but still managed to record 1,100 scrimmage yards. He was on pace for over 1,350 scrimmage yards total. That is not a bad season by any means.

He received 54 targets and was active in the passing game, even as a rookie. Clyde Edwards-Helaire caught 36 of them for 297 yards and one touchdown. If he had not missed three games, he would've been looking at 66 targets, 44 catches, and 365 yards.

Edwards-Helaire finished as the RB22 in 0.5 scoring in 2020. His PPG average ranking was slightly better. Edwards-Helaire was RB21 in that category. Getting into that RB1 range would take a big increase in production. Here's why I think it's possible.

A More Defined Year Long Role

Clyde Edwards-Helaire started the season as the bell cow. He recorded 16 touches or more in five of his first six games. Through the first six games, he touched the ball over 21 times. Over 16 games that would equal over 341 total touches. That's an elite number. Andy Reid trusted him early and often.

There were areas where he struggled however, especially in the red zone. In a Super Bowl or bust season, this pushed the Chiefs to add Le'Veon Bell mid-season after he was released by the Jets. It was a good football decision, but it crushed Edwards-Helaire's fantasy upside.

For the rest of the season, he was stuck in an annoying timeshare. He had one nice game the rest of the way but was mostly quiet. To make matters even worse, Edwards-Helaire got hurt near the end of the season. His 2020 season did not end as it had begun. But there's a silver lining here. His ADP and perceived value for 2021 are lower than they should be.

This off-season the Chiefs released Damien Williams and they have not re-signed Bell. Clyde Edwards-Helaire's only competition is Darrel Williams. Put another way, this is Clyde Edwards-Helaire's backfield. Williams will be worked in, but I have no doubt CEH is going to see the vast majority of the work. If Andy Reid had any doubts or concerns about CEH being “the” guy, he doesn't release Damien Williams. Not without at least bringing someone else in.

He's primed for a workhorse role in one of the best, if not the best offense in the NFL. Everyone was jumping at the bit because of this last year. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out as expected, but that process was correct. And we should always trust the process even if the results don't follow. Drafting a workhorse running back on the league's best offense is always a good idea.

The Offensive Line

The Chiefs released their two starting tackles from the 2020 season. The offensive line began to look like a major liability late in the season. In the Super Bowl loss, the Chiefs' offensive line was destroyed by Tampa Bay's front seven. The Chiefs felt unhappy by what they saw too because they addressed the offensive line in a monster way.

First, they traded for Orlando Brown Jr. from the Baltimore Ravens. He's a two-time Pro-Bowler. He's one of the young and elite offensive linemen in the league. He'll be an immediate impact player at left tackle.

They also signed Joe Thuney away from the Patriots in free agency. He was widely considered to be the best guard on the open market. He's an exceptional player.

The Chiefs weren't done there though. They kept adding guys. They drafted Creed Humphrey in the second round. He's expected to challenge for a starting role early after being viewed as the second-best center prospect in the draft. The Chiefs also signed Kyle Long out of retirement who made three Pro-Bowls with the Bears. Austin Blythe from the Rams was also added after he put together a quality 2020 season.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire should be running behind an excellent offensive line. On paper, the 2021 offensive line looks to be well ahead of the 2020 version. The left side of the line is one of the best in the league with Brown and Thuney anchoring it. Those five guys upfront will give CEH plenty of open holes to run through.

Patrick Mahomes Effect

This is no mystery, Patrick Mahomes is good at football. Stupid good. He is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. Mahomes can carve up a defense and beat them single-handily.

With Tyreek Hill on the outside and Travis Kelce at tight end, defensive coordinators need to put the majority of their time and resources into stopping Patrick Mahomes. It's a necessity. If you can't stop or at least slowdown Mahomes, you've already lost.

This is perfect for CEH. With Mahomes under center, Edwards-Helaire is rarely ever going to see seven or eight-man boxes. The defense is forced to have another secondary defender on the field to slow down the Chiefs' passing attack. When you factor in the improved offensive line and the light defensive fronts, this is running back's fantasy.

Patrick Mahomes doesn't just make it easier for CEH to run. Mahomes creates more scoring opportunities. CEH and Bell combined for 21 rushing attempts inside the 10-yard line. That would've been tied for 11th most among running backs.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has the chance to be a very efficient runner in 2021. He also has high-scoring potential. It's like hitting the jackpot.

Offensive Consolidation

The Chiefs have some of the very best pass-catchers in the NFL between Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. After those two, the cupboard is pretty bare.

Mecole Hardman and DeMarcus Robinson are not high-end players. There's no consistency to either one of their games. Sammy Watkins left in free agency and signed with Baltimore.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a good opportunity to carve out a high-volume role in an explosive offense. Kelce, Hill, Clyde Edwards-Helaire are going to see the majority of the touches. And most of the scoring opportunities. There aren't many other playmakers on this roster.

That's good news for Clyde-Edwards Helaire.

Final Stat Prediction

Clyde Edwards-Helaire finished 2020 with 181 carries for 803 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. Over 16 games that would have equaled 223 carries, 988 yards, and five touchdowns. He also had 36 catches for 297 yards and a score. Over 16 games, this would have resulted in 44 catches and 365 yards.

Last year, he averaged around 14 carries per game. Now with Le'Veon Bell gone and only Darrel Williams working behind him, I expect Clyde Edwards-Helaire to flirt with a 15 carry per game average. Over 16 games this would be right around 240. With the newly added 17th game, I gave him around 255 carries.

With the improved offensive line and his own internal improvement, I expect his YPC average to get slightly better as well. Over 16 games, with a 4.5 YPC, I'm predicting CEH to have around 1,080 yards rushing. With 17 games, this would push him to about 1,150 yards rushing.

He struggled in the touchdown department as a rookie, scoring on only 2.2% of his carries. I'm expecting this rate to improve. CEH's rate won't be as high as other running backs because the Chiefs are going to continue throwing the ball no matter how close they get to the end zone. This might be the one downside to having Mahomes be the quarterback for your fantasy football running back. I still expect CEH's touchdown total to double and be around eight scores on the ground, while fully realizing the ceiling is much higher than eight touchdowns.  

Edwards-Helaire was on pace for 66 targets through 13 games as a rookie. With Le'Veon Bell and Sammy Watkins out of the picture, there are more targets available. I expect him to have around 75 targets over 17 games. I'm predicting him to catch around 50 passes for around 400 yards and two scores.

What this amounts to is 1,550 scrimmage yards, 50 catches, and 10 total touchdowns. In 0.5 scoring this would equal 240 points. That equals just over 14 PPG on a 17-game schedule. That kind of average most likely results in CEH finishing as a back-end RB1 based on the PPG averages from 2020. 

Playing for the Chiefs' offense provides CEH with an ultra-safe floor drafters can feel confident in. The depth chart behind him at running back is not frightening. He is a trustworthy RB2 with RB1 upside. 

CEH presents tremendous value anywhere after the RB15 range. All of the same reasons drafters were so high on him last year still exist. Don't be afraid to buy right back into that narrative.

When don't you want a running back who is in line to handle the majority of the backfield touches on the best offense in football?


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