Fantasy football is something that many football fans participate in on a yearly basis. Year in and year out, there are players who rise and slip based on their production of the previous season. Offseason hype and speculation is also a reason why players rise up or slide down draft boards.
One player who was a main recipient of this heading into last season was Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, Edwards-Helaire was a prospect who made it difficult for many people to decipher if he would work out at the next level or not. Football analysts were torn if this guy would make any situation work or if it would come down to the landing spot.
The running back class in 2020 was loaded with the likes of D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, Cam Akers, Jonathan Taylor, Antonio Gibson and Zack Moss, just to name a few. Dobbins, Swift and Taylor were universally viewed as higher prospects than Edwards-Helaire.
When the Chiefs drafted Edwards-Helaire with the 32nd overall pick, the fantasy community went into a frenzy, and the 5’7”, 207-pound running back instantly propelled to the 1.01 in dynasty formats. In re-draft formats, Edwards-Helaire began to crawl up into the back of the first and early second round after Damien Williams announced he would opt out of the 2020 season.
Edwards-Helaire was fine in his rookie season as the running back for the Chiefs, but he was a player who was inconsistent at times and struggled to make a huge impact on the field last season for Kansas City.
What is the fantasy football ceiling for Clyde Edwards-Helaire?
Edwards-Helaire accounted for 803 rushing yards and 4 rushing scores and 297 receiving yards and 1 touchdown through the air. After the season opener when Edwards-Helaire rushed for 138 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries, it looked like Kansas City found its next superstar at running back.
However, the rookie back would struggle in a number of games, only rushing for over 70 yards in two games the rest of the season. Those came against Buffalo in week 6 where he rushed for 161 yards on 26 carries and New Orleans in week 13, rushing for 79 yards on 14 carries before going down with injuries late in the game. Now, these numbers were very concerning if you were a CEH owner last season.
So far, it seems that this is an anti-CEH argument, but the 22-year-old running back should have the opportunity to take a leap in his second season in the NFL. Last season, Edwards-Helaire finished as RB22, and depending where you took him in your drafts, he probably disappointed you, especially if you used a first-round pick on the running back. Nonetheless, there are many reasons to believe that this could be Edwards-Helaire’s breakout season.
Currently, CEH is being drafted as the RB19, pick 30 in half-PPR (points per reception) leagues. In non-PPR leagues, CEH will present less value in most people’s eyes because of what he did last season in the passing game. Edwards-Helaire finished the season with 36 receptions, 297 yards and 1 touchdown, but look for the Chiefs to change that this upcoming season.
According to Adam Teicher, Patrick Mahomes has suggested getting the running backs more involved in the passing game, which should be taken into great account considering Mahomes supposedly nudged Kansas City into selecting the LSU product.
Pass-catching running backs are a premium in fantasy football, as they give you a boost in PPR formats, and these players tend to stay on the field as three-down backs. Running backs like Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry are excellent options, and I am not advising to take CEH over these guys, but these two players do not offer the pass-catching upside as some of the other running backs.
Edwards-Helaire will have a great opportunity to develop as a true three-down back if he can improve on his pass-blocking and develop his pass-catching skills. This offseason, the Chiefs coaching staff has talked about utilizing the short passing game more often. The Super Bowl was an example why Kansas City cannot just depend on intermediate to home run plays. Sometimes you have to take what is underneath.
Edwards-Helaire can exploit linebackers in that space underneath. He has the skill set to be a threat out of the backfield in the passing game. If the Chiefs are truly focused on giving the running backs more opportunities through the air, Edwards-Helaire can become a PPR machine at the running back position. It comes down to whether Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense will have the patience to take the checkdown when the defense sits back.
Touchdowns were hard to come by for Edwards-Helaire, as he only totaled 3 rushing scores through 13 games. Look for positive regression in that department.The one question mark is, how many opportunities in the red zone will Edwards-Helaire be given? Last season, Edwards-Helaire had 29 red zone rushing attempts, 15 of those were inside the 10-yard line, ranking 23rd among qualifying running backs. The 22-year-old running back’s conversion rate was extremely low at 10.34%.
Was that CEH who was abysmal near the goal line or was that the product of an underwhelming offensive line? A little bit of both, but the Chiefs set about rebuilding the entire line this offseason.
Offensive line play for Kansas City last year was nothing to brag about. Injuries and inconsistent play ultimately cost them a championship. However, heading into the 2021 season, this revamped offensive line should be viewed as the most improved unit in the NFL. Edwards-Helaire should consistently have open running-lanes to gash through.
The one thing that people bash Edwards-Helaire for is his size. It is something that I agree with, but how many times was the running back hit before he got to the line of scrimmage last season? Any running back who gets hit as soon as they receive the handoff is going to struggle. I believe Edwards-Helaire will have clear vision this season when he takes the ball from Mahomes. IF CEH can get to the outside on counter runs and halfback tosses, he will exploit defenders on the edge in open space. Edwards-Helaire has an incredible opportunity to surpass his 4.4 yards per carry from a season ago.
If you are still struggling to trust Edwards-Helaire, I have two final points to leave you with. They are not too advanced or complicated. First, CEH is on the best offense in the NFL, and Andy Reid gave the okay to draft this guy for a reason. Reid will continue to draw up plays that create space for his playmakers, including Edwards-Helaire. In fantasy football, sometimes your player just has to be on a great offense to be productive.
Second, CEH amassed five total touchdowns in 2020 and still managed to finish as a RB2, ranking as RB22. If he gets that positive touchdown regression and stays healthy for the entire 2021 season, the young running back can possibly finish the season as top-12 running back. Looking at his ADP of RB19 and a third-round investment, Edwards-Helaire can present solid value for your fantasy team.