Chiefs: Analyzing fantasy impact of Clyde Edwards-Helaire after Williams opt out

The Chiefs will now fully rely on Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2020

As the NFL season is gearing up for go-time, players are opting out of the season for safety and health reasons. One of those players is 2019 starting running back for the Kansas City Chiefs Damien Williams; now, they will fully put their trust into first round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2020.

Another major implication of this move is to take a look at how this effects the fantasy football landscape as well. Good news for owners of Edwards-Helaire, the prospect the whole organization loved: you just got a healthy dose of great news as he will see an astronomical amount of touches right away as a rookie.

Where does Edwards-Helaire currently stand in fantasy leagues?

Edwards-Helaire has already been a hot commodity for fantasy owners, with an average draft position of 28th overall. A second or third round pick for a rookie is a substantial investment in any fantasy league, but now expect him to skyrocket even further up draft boards.

Given how often Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense targets running backs out of the backfield, he will become an immediate asset in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues. It would no longer be a shock to see his ADP rise up to that of a late first round pick as fantasy drafts are beginning to begin.

How do the Chiefs use their running backs?

The difficult projection when discussing Edwards-Helaire’s numbers as a rookie involve how the Chiefs use their running backs. A year ago, Williams only took 111 carries and rushed for just under 500 yards and scored five times.

Given the talent of Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs certainly could give him more carries than the journeyman back Williams has received. However, it would be highly unlikely to see head coach Andy Reid change his scheme after the Williams news.

The good news for Edwards-Helaire, however, is how frequently Mahomes looks at his running backs out of the backfield as a receiver. A year ago, Williams saw 37 looks, racking up 30 catches for an additional 213 yards and two more touchdowns as a receiver.

Looking back to two years prior, however, when the Chiefs had a substantially more talented running back in Kareem Hunt, he was much more involved in both the rushing attack and as a receiver. It is likely that Hunt’s 2017 and 2018 seasons are a better indication of what Edwards-Helaire’s usage could be.

Using Kareem Hunt’s first two seasons as a barometer

Edwards-Helaire is certainly more talented than Williams, and will likely see a bit of an increase in touches given his status as a first rounder. Looking at how they used Hunt when he was on the roster in 2017 and 2018, Edwards-Helaire could be looking at a massive amount of production right off the bat as a rookie.

As a rookie, Hunt rushed for over 1,300 yards and scored eight touchdowns on the ground; he caught an additional 53 passes for 455 yards and three touchdowns. In just 11 games in 2018 before he was cut after a troubling video was released, Hunt had already hit 824 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, also catching 26 catches for another 378 yards and seven more touchdowns.

Projecting Edwards-Helaire’s production in 2020

These numbers are far more likely to be an accurate projection for Edwards-Helaire in 2020. Sure, it is lofty to place those expectations on a first year player to produce as Hunt did in year one, and truthfully his expectations are somewhere in the middle of Hunt and Williams.

Even if we were to take the median of the production of Williams and Hunt, we are still looking at nearly 1,000 yards on the ground with around five touchdowns. Additionally as a receiver, the middle ground of the two backs coming before him would put him around 40 catches and another handful of touchdowns.

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If Edwards-Helaire can hit 1,300 total yards, catching 40 passes, and finding the endzone around seven or eight times, then he will be well worth the investment of a late first round pick or early second round pick in fantasy football leagues.

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