Damien Williams has informed the Chiefs that he intends to opt out from the 2020 season over concerns related to COVID-19. Williams has been a reliable postseason hero for the Chiefs and figured to be the team's starter to begin the season, but his personal choice obviously changes that.
And it just so happens that Kansas City spent a first-round pick in the draft on a certain someone who we've debated constantly. A rookie who won a national championship at LSU and is among the most polished pass catchers in the draft class. A guy who, without playing a single down of professional football, will be a first-round pick. And a guy who's already going by his initials.
CEH. Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
There was no doubt about his pedigree after 2019. As LSU's lead running back, Edwards-Helaire ran for 1,414 yards and caught 55 passes for another 453 yards, totaling 17 touchdowns in 15 games. He specifically came through with nice numbers against tough competition, rushing for 627 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and seven scores over 105 carries with 258 yards and a receiving score on 32 grabs in six games against top-10 competition (there was a seventh game but he had just two carries in it).
Edwards-Helaire is the first running back Andy Reid has ever taken with a first-round pick. There's good reason for it. Beyond the college production, Edwards-Helaire profiled as a mostly NFL-ready three-down player. He runs with good patience and very good cutting ability, and as a passing downs back he's already quite accomplished in terms of catching the ball and creating yards after the catch. He'd be a perfect prospect if he ran a little faster (his 40 time at the NFL Combine was 4.6 seconds). Reid and GM Brett Veach famously compared Edwards-Helaire to Brian Westbrook following the selection, but in reality, Edwards-Helaire compares quite favorably to Kareem Hunt.
The same Kareem Hunt who totaled nearly 1,800 yards with 11 touchdowns as a Chiefs rookie. And then averaged over 100 total yards per game with 14 scores in 12 outings alongside Patrick Mahomes.
Fantasy managers can connect the dots here. Reid's offenses have been great for running backs, and there's no doubt that's the case again in 2020 so long as Mahomes is under center threatening the deep ball play after play. Safeties will rarely, if ever, crowd the line of scrimmage to discourage the Chiefs from running. Reid's history includes several rookie running backs, like Hunt, who have done well in their first season. Edwards-Helaire is in this fortuitous position.
It's safe to say Edwards-Helaire, barring a meltdown in training camp, will be the Chiefs' top back in 2020 and in a position to have a rookie season similar to that of Hunt. And that, friends, is worth risking a first-round pick on. Weighing his upside against every other not-obvious top fve Fantasy rusher puts him as high as sixth overall in PPR and seventh overall in non-PPR. Miles Sanders was someone I was delighted to draft with 1,500-total-yard potential. I think Edwards-Helaire can beat that. I'd rather have CEH.
Solidifying this projection is a Chiefs running back depth chart that isn't very threatening to Edwards-Helaire's status. Really, the only running back who might challenge for some playing time is DeAndre Washington, the ex-Raider who does have some good experience along with impressive versatility to help Edwards-Helaire shoulder the load. Guys like Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams, while skilled in their own ways, just don't appear to be serious threats. Nor would any running back the Chiefs would sign at this point of training camp.
I do think Washington warrants a late-round selection. In addition to being an experienced runner who could play three downs and supplement Edwards-Helaire, Washington has the built-in advantage of playing with Mahomes at Texas Tech for two seasons. That chemistry, particularly in a year where teams won't have many practices to get ready for the regular season, is an advantage. Remember Washington's name late on Draft Day.