20 Lamborghinis, 233 houses in LA, 63 thousand pairs of Balenciagas, 18 million bags of nacho cheese Doritos, and enough money left for your great great great grandkids to retire comfortably. Patrick Mahomes is now the richest ever football player and the best QB of all time. Why is this important? Because this article discusses the running back playing with Mahomes for the next half-decade. Introduce yourself to Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shortened to CEH).
Helaire was an integral part of one of the greatest college football seasons of all time, leading the team in scrimmage yards. It’s not an understatement, the Lousiana team scored 48 points per game (3rd most all-time) and went unbeaten to win the title. Although most of this success is because of Burrow’s ridiculous campaign (5600 yards and 60TDs), CEH wasn’t the weak link either with stats of 215 carries for 1414 yards, 17 total scores plus 55 catches and 453 yards through the air. The exceptional year landed him a spot on the All-SEC First-team and ranked him fourth in this year’s RB class. Most scouts gave him a second-day grade, with some even claiming that he would fall to the third round. Most experts were shocked when the Kansas City Chiefs selected the half-back with the number 32 overall pick and as the first running back off the board.
Helaire’s NFL comparisons and the fit in Andy Reid’s system
Looking at Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s metrics are confusing. He doesn’t have breakaway speed like Jonathan Taylor and is severely undersized compared to other NFL RBs, but what CEH lacks size-wise he more then makes up for it with his high football IQ. He is very similar to Leveon Bell, Helaire has exceptional vision and always attacks the right gaps. He runs into a hole drags the defender then uses his burst to make a quick cut outside. The college RB can squeeze water out of stone, and even on blown up plays still makes the right moves to get a couple of yards. The former Tiger is like past Chiefs running backs in this way. Both Lesean McCoy and Kareem Hunt lacked top-end speed but had the burst to make plays out of nothing. The most substantial similarity that CEH has with former Chief superstar running backs is that he is an incredible pass catcher. Andy Reid’s scheme requires running backs who can catch passes out the backfield, evident by the average 38 receptions the standard Chiefs running back catches. Helaire isn’t only the best pass-catching RB in the class, but an exceptional one in general. Clyde Edwards-Helaire rarely drops passes- with a ridiculous 95% catch rate (higher than Hunt and Mccoy catch rate out of college). Last year the LSU Tigers ran Sean Payton’s Saints offense which features two running backs; this philosophy was shown in 2018 when both Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram combined for 1528 yards, 102 receptions, 879 yards, and 25 total touchdowns. LSU didn’t have a capable number two (Mark Ingram role), so instead, they gave all rushing work and receiving work to CEH. The predicament shows that Helaire can run a high-level NFL offense and be a three-down back that can be on the field all game long (no durability issues).
CEH Comparison to Damien Williams
Comparing Damien Williams’ highlights to CEH’s gives a lot of insight into why Kansas City made him their first-round pick. While Damien Williams got most of his production from screens and great blocking, Clyde Edwards-Helaire created most of his yards through his elusiveness. He doesn’t run through the first semi-open gap (like Damien Williams often does). Instead, Helaire waits for the play to develop around him. Frequently, he attacks an open hole, dragging the defender in, and makes a vicious cut or juke to get into space. Edwards-Helaire doesn’t have the pure speed of Damien Williams, but more than makes up for it with his ability to make tacklers miss. Additionally, Helaire has much better vision than Williams and is a better pass-catcher and route runner.
Look at how Helaire doesn’t immediately accelerate but almost stops in the play before giving a nasty spin to one of the best safeties in college football. Helaire slows down, squares up the defender, and then use his athleticism to create space and takes in for a touchdown.
This twitter highlight reel illustrates my point perfectly. Clyde Edwards-Helaire doesn’t just run into his lineman but waits for a split second, makes a cut, and gets into space. Even when a defender is right in front of him, he can make quick successive cuts or spins to free himself.
Another paramount detail was that Helaire was selected in the first round (albeit the last pick). Most of the time, draft capital instead of talent determines usage.
Pedigree is salient as it shows commitment to a player. Coaches are generally more lenient towards high draft capital players and are willing to work with them for long periods. In the past few years, RBs drafted in the first round averaged a whopping 18 touches per game, while RBs drafted in the second round only average 13 touches per game. Additionally, first-round players have a higher chance to start than second-round players.
The Chiefs have selected three first-round prospects since Andy Reid became the coach in 2013: Dee Ford, Marcus Peters, and Patrick Mahomes are part of a very prestigious group- all being pro bowlers and some of the most talented players in the NFL today. The Chiefs picked Kareem Hunt in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft. Spencer Ware was the expected starter, but a preseason injury saw Kareem Hunt become the workhorse for the season. He completely blew up as Hunt scored 268.7 half-ppr points and finished the year as the RB4. CEH now has the best QB in history, less competition, and higher draft capital than the erstwhile fantasy breakout.
The Mahomes’ Factor
Patrick Mahomes isn’t just the greatest QB of all history, wait, that’s the highest accolade you can claim in football. Just know that Mahomes is exceptional, fantastic even, the greatest ever. And a periodical trend is that his RBs flourish and dominate the fantasy landscape (ask anyone who took Damien Williams last year). I went through and looked at all games where Mahomes was the starter and saw how his Rushers performed. In Mahomes record-breaking year, Kareem Hunt was on pace for 19 touchdowns and over 1750 scrimmage yards. Ever since his release, no RB has taken over the workhorse role with Mahomes as the starter. I created a graph below to show the occasions when a Chief RB got more than 18 touches and their fantasy points.
Look how safe the Chiefs workhorse is! The workhorse has an absolute floor of an RB2, and overall RB 1 upside. They don’t need 25+ touches to succeed like many other running backs.
The average Chiefs RB averages a ridiculous 0.947 half-ppr fantasy points per touch. Higher than many fantasy superstars and only behind CMAC (greatest fantasy football running back ever) and an insanely efficient Aaron Jones (will regress next year).
Per Vegas odds Mahomes is the leading candidate to win MVP. RBs playing with MVPs historically preform very well and have a floor of a low end RB1. This makes Clyde Edwards- Helaire very safe in this sense.
Additional Stats and Takes
Helaire’s Case for the RB1
Three main trends occur when looking at the graph, top RBs are on good offenses with good offensive lines and catch at least 50 passes. Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s situation checks off two of these feats. He’s in the most explosive offense in the NFL and can easily catch 50 passes. The offensive line is one of the best in pass blocking, but one of the worst in run blocking; this will positively help CEH in the pass game but adversely hurt him in the running game. On the plus side, the run blocking was incredible in the post-season and could be decent starting week one. Offensive line rankings only matter for the RBs that get over 320 carries; CEH is not that type of RB but rather a pass-catching one who doesn’t have to rely on volume and YPC. He could easily see a season similar to Alvin Kamara’s rookie year, where pass catching made up most of his value. In 2013 Jamal Charles had 110 paced out targets (75 receptions). Even though it’s not been done with the greatest quarterback, it certainly is possible in Andy Reid’s college football like scheme. A conservative estimate could be the receptions that Kareem Hunt was on pace for in 2018. Hunt had 26 receptions in eleven games that season but received a healthy 35 targets if Hunt had been a slightly better receiving-back he could’ve ended the year with a solid 40 receptions. A range of 40 to 75 catches might seem varied and unpredictable, but it gives Helaire a safe floor and very high upside. Outside of the consensus top 4 running backs, it’s easy to say that CEH has the highest probability to be this year RB1. Clyde Edwards- Helaire is in a much better offense than players like Joe Mixon and Derrick Henry, although he doesn’t offer the same rushing volume safety that those players have. He has a safe touchdown floor as RBs with Patrick Mahomes average 1.8 touchdowns a game; CEH is a safe option with a guarantee of at least ten scores and shouldn’t be viewed as “risky”.
If the scheme fit, situation, or talent doesn’t resonate within you, take the words of some of the best NFL players.
Joe Burrow, on the Dan Patrick Show, was asked who was the best athlete on the team last year. Burrow immediately said Clyde Edwards-Helaire and continued by saying “(he’s) unreal. He’s going to play for 20 years (in the NFL). Everyone looks at all my stats because we threw the ball so much because we had great guys on the outside as well, but, I mean, Clyde is a different beast.”
It’s high praise coming from the most illustrious college QB ever in a team jam-packed with talent.
If you don’t believe in the word of the preeminent LSU QB, listen to what the Mahomes had to say about him, “You can tell he’s a high-character guy,” Mahomes continued. “He loves football. For me, he (General Manager Brett Veach) asked me, and obviously, I wanted to add to the offense, obviously to help me out and to help our team out. So, Clyde was the first name that came to mind and I know we have a great running back room already, so I think just bringing him in, I know he’ll fit right in and he’ll compete. And we’ll be able to bring the best out of each other, every single position group, and go out there and play our best football hopefully this next season.”
Mahomes handpicked Clyde-Edwards Helaire and specifically asked the Chiefs to draft him; there is no way the star isn’t getting heavily involved. Some other players, legends, and figures that praised him are Andy Reid, Tyreek Hill, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Ingram, Eric Bienimy (coach for Chiefs), and Kevin Faulk.
Concerns From the Fantasy Community
I asked many Instagram fantasy accounts one question: if the Chiefs traded Clyde Edwards-Helaire for Leveon Bell in real life, where would you take Bell? Interestingly enough, most analysts said they would take Bell in the Chiefs top 5, but currently have Helaire ranked 9th in half-ppr. I was confused, what difference would it make to switch the two and why would Bell be better than a younger, healthier and more talented Helaire? I asked Fantasy Football Psychologist on why he would take Bell higher. He responded by saying how Bell would command more work than a rookie Helaire in this shortened offseason. Fair take. But, I went back to look at a surprisingly similar situation to what the Chiefs had in 2017 when the rookie Hunt became the starter due to an injury.
Hunt only had Charcandrick West to compete with, but it wasn’t much competition as the third-rounder blew away the 3-year vet to steal the job. West wasn’t awful either, he had 500 scrimmage yards along with 3 TDs the previous season. Now, Clyde Edwards- Helaire competition is Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson, and Deandre Washington.
Again, like Hunt, they don’t pose much competition. Darrel Williams was inefficient last year and was a cut candidate before Damien Williams opted out. Darwin Thompson isn’t that much better and shouldn’t challenge the more talented Helaire. Although they have more knowledge of Andy Reid’s scheme, the starting of Hunt showed that scheme understanding wasn’t the only important factor. With those two crossed off, only Deandre Washington remains.
Fortunately, Washington doesn’t have much more experience in the scheme than CEH, although he has shown flashes of being a great runningback, he isn’t nearly as talented as CEH and shouldn’t be much competition to the job like the other backups.
Another reason why Clyde Edwards-Helaire will have most of the workload is the fact that Damien Williams was commanding 70% snaps when healthy. And he was so bad that they had to bring in Lesean McCoy for competition. If Williams is getting that many snaps, then a first-round rookie will play virtually every down.
CEH is the perfect fit for the Chiefs and plays similar to many of the franchise’s legends. As a rookie, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is ready to take the league by storm just like Hunt did in 2017, but this time he has Patrick Mahomes and the most premier football offense of all time.
240 carries, 1,171 yards, 12 TDs, 62 receptions, 434 yards, 4TDs– 287.5 half-PPR points (RB3)