The Curious Case of Clyde Edwards-Helaire

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 15: Clyde Edwards-Helaire #22 of the LSU Tigers reacts after rushing for a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Clyde Edwards-Helaire hype train has officially left the station. The Chiefs’ rookie running back has been put in arguably the best situation in the league. Damien Williams opted out of the season on July 29th, leaving Edwards-Helaire as the new starting running back in Kansas City. Expectations are insanely high for him as a result, but what type of production is actually realistic for the rookie back this year?

LSU Career 

Edwards-Helaire didn’t get the chance to show his true potential until his senior season, playing behind Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette in prior years. However, once he got his chance in 2019, he made the best of it. Edwards-Helaire rushed for 1,414 yards and caught 55 balls for 453 additional yards. It’s easy to see why Kansas City selected him as the first running back off the board in the draft. A 5’7, he’s extremely shifty with phenomenal vision and surprising strength for his height. People seriously underestimate the power that Edwards-Helaire can generate running downhill. Pair that with his pass-catching ability, and the most suitable pro comparison for him — in my opinion — is Brian Westbrook. They’re both undersized, shifty backs with underrated strength and an inherent receiving ability. If the Chiefs can get prime-Westbrook production out of Edwards-Helaire, they’ll be ecstatic. 

Kareem Hunt Comparisons

The Kareem Hunt comparisons were inevitable after Williams opted out, leaving Edwards-Helaire as the undisputed starter in Kansas City. I think those comparisons are unfair to Edwards-Helaire. Hunt’s rookie season was otherworldly. He won the rushing title (1,327 yards), caught 53 passes for 455 additional yards and scored 11 total touchdowns. Is that type of production attainable for Edwards-Helaire this year? Sure. But it seems like everyone is just expecting it to happen. Hunt was the perfect pro his rookie year, but Edwards-Helaire could be more of a project. For example, his limited ability to pick up the blitz could force Andy Reid to leave him off the field in certain situations. He has all the talent in the world to succeed, but expecting him to match one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history for a running back is unfair. 

Realistic Fantasy Expectations for Edwards-Helaire 

What are realistic expectations for Edwards-Helaire this year? I’ve seen him go as high as #1 overall in redraft leagues, which is absolutely absurd. He’s in arguably the best situation to succeed in Kansas City, but it’s hard to draft him over established elite backs like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. Finishing anywhere from RB5-RB15 seems like a reasonable range of projection for Edwards-Helaire this year. He could rush for 1,000 yards, but what will make or break his fantasy season is his target volume and touchdown production. Both could be extremely high catching passes from Patrick Mahomes, but as we’ve learned over and over, rookie running backs are never a sure thing. Edwards-Helaire has the skills to put up insane numbers this year, so don’t be afraid to take him in the late-first or second round in drafts. Just try to temper your expectations.

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