One of the hottest rookies on the market this year is the Kansas City Chiefs’ Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire at 32nd overall, the only rookie running back to go in the first round, and he walks into a best-case scenario with the defending Super Bowl champs.
DraftKings Sportsbook sets the over/under for rushing yards at 800.5 in his rookie season. The over is a juicy +108, while the under is the favorite at -134.
Over the last three seasons, two rookie running backs each year has surpassed 800 rushing yards out of 20 or more players. Can Edwards-Helaire be on of the few rookie backs, if any, in 2020 to hit the lofty rushing mark?
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Clyde Edwards-Helaire History Trip
In his final season as a junior at LSU, Edwards-Helaire had his breakout season beside Heisman winner and now Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Edwards-Helaire posted 17 total touchdowns (16 rush) on 215 carries for 1,414 yards and 6.6 ypc. He led the SEC in rushing touchdowns, plays from scrimmage, and yards from scrimmage. He also finished second in rushing yards, rushing attempts, and fourth in rushing yards per attempt.
Edwards-Helaire was very involved in the passing game receiving 55 passes of 58 targets (94.8%) for 453 yards and one score. He received a 10.2% target share in the passing game and recorded three or fewer drops, or incompletions threw to him in each of his three seasons at LSU per PlayerProfiler.
Across the NFL, 22 running backs recorded over 800 rushing yards in 2019, and David Montgomery and Josh Jacobs were the only two rookies to do so. In 2018, Saquon Barkley and Sony Michel were the only two rookies of again, 22 backs to total 800 or more.
In 2017, we had one of the deepest running back classes, of maybe all-time, and only two rookies did so again out of 20 this time (Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette). If you have to pick two running backs to do it this year, possibly, Edwards-Helaire is a name that should pop up quite often.
Running Back by Committee, but for how long?
Edwards-Helaire is a big-play running back and should be able to co-exist with current Chiefs starter, Damien Williams. The Chiefs had two running backs record over 100 rushing attempts (Williams, LeSean McCoy) and finished 23rd in rushing with 98.1 ypg and T-13th with 16 rushing touchdowns. Williams only recorded two breakaway runs in 2019, while McCoy posted seven.
Williams was consistent, but underwhelming in 2019, opening the door for Edwards-Helaire to earn the starting role. Williams received a 51.9% snap share last season, and McCoy was on the field for 33.9%, both ranking 50th or worse among their position in 2019.
Despite Edwards-Helaire 17 total touchdowns, he only recorded four multi-score games but went over 100 rushing yards seven times in 15 games. He combined rushing and receiving for over 100 yards in 10-of-15 games this past season, and he was his strongest down the final stretch. In the second half of the season, Edwards-Helaire recorded 20 or more touches in six-of-eight games and surpassed 100 total yards in seven-of-eight.
With Patrick Mahomes under center, the passing game will always be the focal point, and last season the Chiefs recorded 375 rushing attempts, good enough for 27th overall. Williams faced eight-men in the box, 8.11% of the time last season, the fourth-lowest among qualified running backs per NFL’s NextGen Stats.
Mahomes requires a defense to defend the pass first and foremost, and with a formidable 1-2 punch between Edwards-Helaire and Williams, the Chiefs will open up the running game a little more. With Mahomes under center, the passing game will always be the focal point, and last season the Chiefs recorded 375 rushing attempts, good enough for 27th overall.
It should only be a matter of time before Edwards-Helaire claims the starting role and becomes the bell cow back for them. The Chiefs will return mostly the same offensive line as last season, and each lineman started at least eight games in 2019. The offensive line ranked 16th overall as a unit in 2019, per Pro Football Focus.
Edwards-Helaire should see the ball quite often as a rookie, but Willaims’ familiarity with the playbook and being a veteran is an advantage, at least early in the season.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire Rookie Projections
FantasyPros projections peg Edwards-Helaire to record 164 carries, 713 rushing yards, and 6 touchdowns as a rookie. He’s also projected to total 46 receptions, 413 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns through the air, giving him 1,126 total yards and 9 scores with the Chiefs. Those are certainly impressive numbers for a rookie, and Edwards-Helaire is ranked second behind Colts’ Jonathan Taylor in terms of projected rushing yards but leads all rookies in total yards.
His counterpart Williams is projected to total 709 yards (516 rushing) on 145 touches (120 rushes) and 7 touchdowns. Williams led the team in rushing (111), rushing yards (498), and rushing touchdowns (5) in 2019, which were all career-highs.
Any other season, I would say this is a lock, but considering training camps, practices, and the season potentially being altered, a rookie’s over is anything but a lock. Edwards-Helaire has an excellent opportunity to combine for over 1,000 total yards as a rookie, and I believe he will do just that, but 800 rushing yards is lofty.
Edwards-Helaire, to me, should be compared to the Saint’s Alvin Kamara with their ability to catch out of the backfield and still make plays on the ground. The playbook and adjusting to the speed of the NFL without regular practices could affect a rookie like Edwards-Helaire in the Chief’s quick-paced offense.
Edwards-Helaire will share snaps with Williams, and all the different variables mentioned previously for a rookie this season makes me ultimately back FantasyPros projections and bet the under 800.5 rushing yards. Once Edwards-Helaire takes control of the starting role, he should be one of the more exciting rookies in league with Mahomes by his side, but we may not see Edwards-Helaire fully unleashed until after the first month of the season allowing him to adjust.
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