After the news of Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams opting out of the 2020 season, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been fantasy football’s hot topic.
On July 29, the Chiefs announced that Williams would sit out the 2020 NFL season due to concerns about COVID-19. The major reason for his departure was that his mother was recently diagnosed with cancer, Williams told SiriusXM NFL Radio.
Damien Williams was a major part of the Chiefs’ offense, not just because of his role in running the ball, but due to his highly touted receiving out of the backfield. Williams caught 30 balls for 213 yards last season despite starting just six games.
Now, with Williams out of the picture, Clyde Edwards-Helaire figures to get a heavy workload after being selected with the Chiefs’ first-round pick in April.
Rising Up the Boards
Edwards-Helaire, or CEH, was already in the mind of fantasy owners before the news of Williams leaving. Many had him as a top 20 running back, with TGH ranking him 13th among backs. His value stems from his ability to run the ball (notching over 1,400 rushing yards last year with LSU) and his pass-catching, which is similar to the role Williams played on the Chiefs last year. Edwards-Helaire caught 55 passes for 453 yards with LSU last year.
In the minds of many fantasy owners, CEH is a more talented Williams with less competition. Not many fantasy drafts have occurred yet, just because it’s so far ahead of the season, but if they had, there would likely be a huge boost in the position he’s being taken at.
Many fantasy experts are lobbying for CEH to be a first-round pick, including Michael Fabiano with NFL Media and Dave Richards with CBS Sports. The question is, should he be taken over proven studs like Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry?
Edwards-Helaire had the good fortune to be drafted by the Kansas City, home of the NFL’s best offense. The Chiefs’ offensive line isn’t outstanding, but running backs have had a history of succeeding in the offense. In 2017, Kareem Hunt took off for over 1,300 yards and 11 total touchdowns in his rookie year. Since then, the position has been largely running back by committee, with a Spencer Ware, LeSean McCoy and Williams all filling in.
The Chiefs’ offense is led by a newly re-signed Patrick Mahomes who is flanked by high-speed receivers that stretch the field like Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman. Since 2015, every running back that has played 15 games under Andy Reid‘s Chiefs has produced a top-eight finish, according to Pro Football Focus.
With the track record of rookie running backs having an immediate impact in the league (Hunt, Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliot, Nick Chubb), it seems likely that CEH could have a standout year barring any injuries or splitting carries.
As of July 31, the main threat to edge into CEH’s carries is DeAndre Washington. Washington has plenty of talent, rushing for 387 yards and three touchdowns with Oakland last season. In addition, he caught 36 passes for 292 yards, which is more impressive knowing that he only started three games last year.
Washington has the pass-catching ability to trickle into Edwards-Helaire’s catches out of the backfield, but the Chiefs took CEH in the first round for a reason. There was still plenty of talent on the board, and they could have taken steps to improve their offensive line or their run defense. They allowed the seventh-most rushing yards in the league last year with 128.2 yards per game.
As for the free agency field, there are still some interesting options for the Chiefs. Lamar Miller, Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell headline the few running backs that have yet to be signed. Miller stands out as a two-time 1,000-yard rusher in the league who is 29 years old. He has averaged 981 rushing yards per season over the past five years and would certainly take carries away from CEH on the off chance he’s signed.
Still, there is absolutely no indication that the Chiefs are in the market for another running back. Head Coach Andy Reid has previously stated that CEH is better than Eagles great Brian Westbrook, making the chances of another running back being signed seem very slim. If Washington is Edwards-Helaire’s only rival for snaps coming into Week 1, there is a very convincing case to be made for CEH in the top 10 of fantasy drafts.
Featured image courtesy of FanSided.