The Kansas City Chiefs added another weapon to their glut of talented position players, and many believe the running back will be an instant fantasy star. But, is that a reasonable expectation?
Now that NFL rosters are nearing completion for the 2020 NFL season that we all hope occurs, it is time for the annual run on fantasy football predictions and speculation. Of course, Chiefs fans are no strangers to fantasy stars riddling their roster; one of the best offenses in the league has regularly featured quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce amongst the top ranked players (if not the top players) at their respective positions as it relates to fantasy.
Kansas City fans should be prepared to see another name added to that list for the 2020 season. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is believed to be a breakout star and fantasy stud in year one for the Chiefs—at least that’s what the “experts” think.
According to ESPNs Mike Clay, Edwards-Helaire boasts one of the best chances for fantasy star ascension in 2020:
I’ll play the Mr. Obvious role and go with the first running back drafted in the first round by an Andy Reid regime. Elusive, great after contact and a good receiver, Edwards-Helaire was already atop my rookie running back rankings prior to being drafted by the Patrick Mahomes-led, high-scoring Chiefs. The LSU product will be pricey on draft day, but he has immediate RB1 upside.
We can all agree with parts of Clay’s analysis. Yes, Edwards-Helaire is an absolute stud who excels running the football, receiving out of the backfield, breaking for yards after contact and missing would-be tacklers all together. Because of the system he will play in, he may very well be the number one overall rookie running back for the 2020 fantasy season.
But, is a RB1 from an Andy Reid offense really worth a “pricey” selection in your fantasy football draft? Is that really a wise investment for fantasy general managers to make?
The resoundingly clear answer is… who knows, but probably not? Since the draft ended we have heard general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid (and Mahomes) sing the praises of their first round pick. But, we’ve also heard both Reid and Veach declare that incumbent rusher Damien Williams will be the team’s starting running back entering the 2020 season.
Is the former an indication of CEH’s role in the offense early on? Is the latter merely a nod to the respect they have for the veteran?
Even in spite of how much the NFL world seems to love the fit of the former LSU superstar in Andy Reid’s offense, it is unclear how much we can count on fantasy RB1 production from Edwards-Helaire in 2020.
Last season, fantasy footballers selected Damien Williams at an average draft position of 25th overall on many of the same speculations (elusiveness, usage in the offense, pass-catching) as what people speculate about Edwards-Helaire. Unfortunately, owners were severely disappointed in Williams’ overall production which placed him 140th overall in points earned, which is not even in the top 25 of running backs for the season.
Part of this reality is due to the shared-load that Kansas City has often employed at the running back position in the Andy Reid era. In 2019, Darrell Williams, LeSean McCoy, Spencer Ware (briefly) and even rookie Darwin Thompson took carries from Damien Williams.
In 2020, should we expect to see something different than what has always been true? The Chiefs still have Damien, Darrell, Darwin and have added free agent DeAndre Washington to a very crowded running back room.
A comparison that was made of CEH right after the selection was made was to former Reid running back, Philadelphia Eagle Brian Westbrook. If we roll with that comparison from a fantasy perspective, or even from a usage rate perspective, Westbrook received only 55 touches as a rookie. He did eventually become a fantasy stud, reaching the pinnacle of his fantasy (and NFL) career in 2007 by ranking 4th overall in points earned and earning his only 1st Team All-Pro selection. But, keep in mind, that was his sixth year in the NFL, and while the Eagle offense was good, it he was not surrounded by the likes of Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and/or Mecole Hardman.
Load-share is different in the offense. Edwards-Helaire has the potential to be a dominant running back for the Chiefs, and across the NFL. He adds a new element to an already prolific and terrifying offense. But, to expect a rookie running back to come in and suddenly be a top 25 fantasy player, in an Andy Reid offense, seems a little far-fetched. Reid simply does not utilize the running back position (often) in a fantasy football kind of way.
Of course, Reid had never taken a first round running back before Edwards-Helaire’s selection either, so its always possible that with the rookie rusher, all comparisons to history should be off the table.