Le'Veon Bell didn't waste any time finding a new home after being released by the Jets, but Fantasy players aren't going to be happy with where he picked. Bell will sign with the Chiefs, which raises a lot of questions about both Bell and Clyde Edwards-Helaire's Fantasy appeal moving forward.
Bell was reportedly motivated to choose the Chiefs by a desire to win, and given that he chose the Chiefs when the Dolphins were reportedly offering a mutli-year deal tells you he wasn't worried as much about playing time or money. Bell's motivations for coming to KC make some sense if you believe that, but it's harder to see why the Chiefs would make Bell a priority after adding Edwards-Helaire with a first-round pick in this year's draft, and that's what makes this such a worrisome move for Edwards-Helaire's Fantasy value.
The Chiefs may just view this as an opportunity to add a premium talent at a discount — similar to how the Browns added Kareem Hunt after Nick Chubb had already established himself last offseason. If that's the case, then Edwards-Helaire's role should be pretty safe. The Chiefs like to use multiple running backs, and the combination of Darrell Williams and Darwin Thompson wasn't doing much with their opportunities, so this could be a chance to upgrade the backup RB spot. Especially because, while Edwards-Helaire has been active in the passing game, he has been used in pass blocking just eight times; any upgrade there probably helps the Chiefs. In that case, Edwards-Helaire remains a must-start running back.
It's also possible Bell comes in and just flops for whatever reason. Maybe his struggles the last year-plus weren't just the result of a bad situation; maybe he really has just lost a step or two. Or maybe he won't be happy playing a secondary role. If Bell isn't the right fit, Edwards-Helaire will be fine, too.
But Edwards-Helaire has seen 77% of the team's running back opportunities (targets plus carries) so far and ranks just 20th in PPR scoring per game. With the way the rookie has played so far, there isn't a lot of margin for error in his Fantasy value. Bell was complaining about his lack of touches in the last game with the Jets before his release, so it's hard to believe he'd be content with the 6.2 touches per game Williams and Thompson were combining for.
The first question, then, is how much of Edwards-Helaire's role is Bell coming for? My guess would be something like 10 touches per game for Bell to start, leaving around 17 for Edwards-Helaire. If that's the case, you're probably still viewing Edwards-Helaire as a top-20 running back, while Bell would be a solid flex, with more value in PPR formats — ironically, not unlike the situation Hunt has found himself in with the Browns over the last year.
Edwards-Helaire is likely to play better moving forward than he has so far, if only because he has yet to score on any of his 10 carries inside the 10-yard line. It's entirely possible that he loses those touches but doesn't lose much Fantasy value because he becomes a more efficient player overall, while Bell gets enough work to be in the discussion for starting most weeks. That might limit Edwards-Helaire's ultimate ceiling — those dreams of him being a top-five back might be in the past for good, now — but it wouldn't make him irrelevant.
The problem comes if Bell starts taking more work than that — especially in the passing game or near the goal line. And, given Bell's track record, the passing game seems like the most obvious spot for him to replace Edwards-Helaire. Even last season, Bell was pretty much an every-down back, rarely coming off the field for any reason. If the Chiefs trust Bell more as a blocker — which seems like a reasonable assumption — he could fairly quickly become the preferred back in the passing game, a valuable role for any back.
And that would really put the onus on Edwards-Helaire to improve as a runner, especially near the goal line — 45% of his Fantasy points have come from the passing game so far. If the Chiefs also view Edwards-Helaire's struggles as a problem in short-yardage situations, things could get pretty dicey pretty quickly, and it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Bell could have a renaissance and usurp Edwards-Helaire as the primary option here.
But none of that is fated. There hasn't been much to indicate the Chiefs are unhappy with Edwards-Helaire, so Bell could be coming in to strictly be a role player. Maybe after a year butting heads with Adam Gase, Bell will be content to contribute to a winning team, playing well in a few big moments, and rehabilitating his image around the league.
One thing is clear in all of this, though: Bell's addition makes Edwards-Helaire much riskier for Fantasy moving forward. Whether it ultimately costs him enough to push him to Fantasy benches remains to be seen. You shouldn't panic and trade Edwards-Helaire for anything you can get, but you should prepare yourself for the possibility that he just won't be as good as you hoped moving forward.