In 11 games this season, the Kansas City Chiefs have gotten 692 rushing yards (62.9 yards per game), 234 receiving yards (21 ypg) and 5 total touchdowns (less than one every two games) from their first round draft pick, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He also, of course, did not play in (though was active for) the team’s 12th game. To most, this seems like an underwhelming amount of production for a player in whom the team has invested so much draft capital.
Part of this is a function of the offense being a pass-first system. The Chiefs have the best quarterback in the world, and they are wise to let him run the show. The Chiefs also have a bevy of weapons at Mahomes’ disposal and, simply put, CEH isn’t in the top three of those options (Kelce, Hill and Sammy Watkins are all ahead of him in terms of ability in the offense right now).
So when we say that the team needs more from Edwards-Helaire, the reality is that he has pretty much done everything that he’s been asked to do. Still, he’s going to need to be prepared to do more of that as the team moves into the most important part of its season.
The team is going to lean on their rookie first rounder more and more as the season progresses. First, this is true because postseason football is often defined by a team’s ability to run the ball, protect leads, et cetera. When the Chiefs have gotten leads this year (as in the past), the offense has often gone quite conservative with play calling which has given other teams an opportunity to get back in the game.
Kansas City doesn’t want to do that when facing top flight quarterbacks in the playoffs. The team should never want to give quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees the ball with a chance to win the game. In order for the Chiefs to avoid that, they have to be able to keep the chains moving in the fourth quarter with a lead.
Second, the Chiefs need Edwards-Helaire to be more involved in the passing game. Defenses are going to have to keep safeties back to deal with the team’s speed, and the underneath passing game is the way to exploit that.
The 32nd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft has not been bad for Kansas City. He simply needs to be prepared to give more when the Chiefs lean on him over the next two months. Whether or not he is up to the task will go a long way in determining their title hopes.