2020 NFL Draft Profile: Strengths, weaknesses, best Fantasy fits for Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been a high-profile player since his freshman year in high school when he played for his school's varsity team in Baton Rouge, La. Not surprisingly, he became a four-star recruit and wound up with his home-state LSU Tigers. He played very sparingly on offense as a freshman, contributing more as a special teamer in 2017. He did more of both in 2018 as a sophomore before entrenching himself as the Tigers' primary running back during their undefeated 2019 season. His 55 receptions as a junior were tied for the second-most in the FBS and his 1,414 rush yards were 15th best in the nation. Not surprisingly, Edwards-Helaire was a consensus first-team All-SEC running back and was the only runner in the SEC to be named a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back. 

Numbers to Know

Height: 5-7 1/4

Weight: 207 pounds

DOB: April 11, 1999 (Week 1 age: 21)

Hand: 9 5/8 inches

Arm: 29 inches

Wingspan: 70 5/8 inches

40 time: 4.6 seconds

Prospect Stats

2019: 15 games, 215 carries, 1,414 yards, 16 touchdowns; 55 receptions, 453 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown

Edwards-Helaire technically played in seven games against top-10 competition, but one involved just two carries. In the other six, he compiled 105 carries for 627 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns, adding 32 receptions for 258 yards and a score.

2018: 13 games as a part-time player, 146 carries for 658 yards (4.5 yards per carry) with seven touchdowns; 11 receptions and 96 receiving yards 

Known Injury History

  • hamstring, Dec. 2019

Strengths

A three-down worker for LSU, Edwards-Helaire is plenty versatile as a runner and receiver lined up anywhere. The patient skill-set he runs with combined with his cutting ability makes him a great fit for zone-scheme running games. His calling card is making defenders miss thanks to his fleet-footed jukes, cut-on-a-dime moves and dizzying spins, all of which are helped by his natural balance and low center of gravity because he's short and stocky. This is how Edwards-Helaire primarily creates space and adds yards to his runs. Those traits also show up in his receiving game, which was responsible for nearly one-fourth of his total yards in 2019. Edwards-Helaire is a master of the angle route and is typically good for as many as 10 yards on flare routes out of the backfield. The youngster can also contribute on special teams as a kick returner, averaging 21.9 yards per return on 40 tries throughout his college career. 

Concerns

Edwards-Helaire has nifty, sudden agility, but he's not a powerhouse nor a speedster. Very frequently would the first defender to get a hand on him bring him down. Though he had 782 yards after contact per Pro Football Focus, that ranked 23rd among FBS backs with at least 100 attempts. He's a strong-willed fighter for sure, but he simply did not break tackles or push piles consistently enough (including at the goal line). Edwards-Helaire also had a 44.7% breakaway percentage per PFF, tied for 44th-best. His acceleration was only solid, he couldn't win at the edge of outside runs often enough and many of the big runs he did have were aided by LSU's award-winning offensive line clearing room for him.

And before he lands regular work as a third-down back, Edwards-Helaire must become a better route-runner and pass protector. His route tree at LSU seemed limited (angle route, flats and flares, sideline go routes) and his effort in blocking for his quarterback didn't consistently match the results. He's got the balance to set up his body for an oncoming defender but needs to work on his technique. 

Fantasy Comparison

Many people thought short, stocky running backs like Maurice Jones-Drew and Devonta Freeman wouldn't become every-down players in the pros, but they did. Edwards-Helaire will need a situation like these guys had in order to come through as a Fantasy stud. Until then, expect him to be more of a 1B-type of running back, particularly one who handles passing downs work. He could finagle his way to 100 carries and 40 catches as a rookie, putting him on a stat path somewhere between what Duke Johnson (RB31 in PPR, 8.9 PPR points per game) and Royce Freeman (RB38 in PPR, 8.1 PPR points per game) contributed in 2019 with some potential to grow in 2021 and beyond. 

Favorite Fantasy Fits

As far as beginning his career as a passing downs back with a chance to develop into a feature guy, the best bets for Edwards-Helaire would be in Atlanta (behind Gurley for a year) and Detroit (alongside Kerryon Johnson). Washington (reunited with former high-school teammate Derrius Guice) as Chris Thompson's replacement also wouldn't be a crusher.

Fantasy Bottom Line

Edwards-Helaire made a bunch of plays at LSU, but it's harder to envision him becoming a Fantasy difference-maker unless he falls into the perfect situation. Let's face it, he's perfect for the NFL's move toward tandem backfields and not necessarily a league-winner in Fantasy. That's why you'll probably see Edwards-Helaire get taken no sooner than Round 2 in rookie-only drafts and with a late-round pick in all other formats.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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