I thought about putting Clyde Edwards-Helaire back on the list again this year. If he were to prove himself a difference-making back this season it would definitely add a new dimension to KC’s offense. I just don’t think I’ve seen anything from Clyde to make me believe that he will ever be more than an average starting running back in the NFL. Don’t get me wrong, being an average starting running back is an impressive achievement when you consider all the running backs that enter the NFL wanting one of those jobs. However, an average running back doesn’t make a defense stop focusing on Patrick Mahomes and the passing game.
That’s why this year Edwards-Helaire has lost his spot on this list to rookie sensation Isiah Pacheco. Pacheco was the buzz of training camp with his unexpected role with the first string right out of the gate. Pacheco has shown the burst, physicality, and pass game upside to be a player that can contribute right away. Having said that, I still think he’s the least likely player on this list to really break out in a way that makes the Chiefs unstoppable this year.
First of all, the aforementioned Clyde Edwards-Helaire is going to start the season as the clear feature back and would need to get hurt or clearly underperform compared to Pacheco in order for the touches to swing far enough in Pacheco’s favor to make a difference. Second, while Pacheco has flashed more explosiveness than Clyde, he has some vision issues of his own. Pacheco’s college tape showed a player that sometimes lacked patience and would just plow ahead into the pile instead of waiting for/finding the open hole to hit and his preseason play looked similar at times.
If Pacheco can learn to be more patient and improve his vision I think he may have a higher ceiling than CEH. That feels weird to say when Clyde was a first-round pick and Pacheco was a 7th round pick, but from a pure size/speed profile I think it’s true. While it’s probably a long shot, if Pacheco could prove himself to be a difference-making weapon out of the backfield this season to the extent that it causes linebackers and safeties to hesitate a little longer before abandoning their run assignments to focus on the coverage, it could really open up the middle of the field for Mahomes and the passing attack and make this offense even more impossible to defend.
Next up, another rookie who could really boost KC if he overachieves.