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What You Need to Know:
-- No Andy Reid team -- through 21 years -- had drafted a RB higher than Round 2.
-- Edwards-Helaire had the 6th SEC season with 100+ fantasy points receiving and rushing since 2000.
-- GM Brett Veach likens him to former Eagles RB Brian Westbrook.
-- OC Eric Bienemy calls CEH “a piece of the puzzle.”
Big College Finish
A year ago at this time, Edwards-Helaire had just 169 offensive touches and 7 total TDs as a college player. Then came his breakout 2019 in a historic LSU offense.
Edwards-Helaire handled 58.2% of the Tigers’ RB carries (215) and ranked 3rd in a stacked group in receptions (55). According to Scott Barrett of Fantasy Points, Edwards-Helaire became just the 6th SEC player since 2000 to deliver 100+ fantasy points receiving and 100+ rushing in the same season. The previous 5:
Playing 15 games in the highest-scoring offense of all time helped. Edwards-Helaire ranked just 9th in his RB class in PPR points per game.
His play, however, drew comparisons to former Eagles stud Brian Westbrook from Chiefs decision makers. (Andy Reid reportedly called Westbrook, though, to dispute the “better than” anecdote.)
Pro Football Focus graded Edwards-Helaire #1 in rushing among all draft-eligible RBs in the nation.
From One Top Offense to Another
Edwards-Helaire won’t stop benefiting from the strength of his offense now that he has moved to the pros. The Chiefs have finished 3 straight seasons among the top 6 in both points and yards -- including the year before Patrick Mahomes stepped in. They have finished Mahomes’ 2 seasons ranked 1st and 3rd in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA. Last year’s version lost Mahomes for 2 games and watched him play through a sprained right ankle in others.
Chiefs RBs ranked just 15th in PPR points last season but 5th the year before. Touch volume hasn’t favored the group either season, however.
The Kansas City backfield ranked just 25th in touches last season and 28th the year before. That’s where Chiefs RBs have sat for nearly all of Andy Reid’s time there:
27th in 2017
26th in 2016
30th in 2015
21st in 2014
7th in 2013
That first season was the majestic Jamaal Charles campaign, when he rushed 259 times, caught 70 passes and scored 19 total TDs. The next 2 Chiefs in catches were Dwayne Bowe (57) and Dexter McCluster (53).
Chiefs RBs have fared much better at reaching the end zone, though. Five of Reid’s 7 K.C. teams have ranked among the league’s top 10 in RB scores. Three of those finished among the top 2, including the 2018 group. Last year’s backfield ranked 13th, the 2nd-worst finish since Reid arrived.
Enter the 1st-round RB.
‘A Piece of the Puzzle’?
When the Chiefs selected Edwards-Helaire with the final pick of Round 1, it marked the highest any Reid-coached team has drafted a RB. LeSean McCoy for the 2009 Eagles is the only other RB a Reid team has taken before Round 3.
That draft capital suggests we should expect a big impact. But how soon?
OC Eric Bienemy said in May of Edwards-Helaire, “He’s just going to be a piece of the puzzle.” That screamed COMMITTEE to fantasy owners everywhere.
In the same interview, though, Bienemy also said: “I think the kid is just a special kid. You’ve seen the things we’ve done on tape as far as running the ball, having the ability to get outside in the open field and make some plays as a receiver. You can create matchups with him. He’s one of those ideal kids that fit in what we do.”
Damien Williams has fared well in his 2 seasons with the Chiefs. But he’s not special. If he were, they’d have gotten him the ball before Week 13 of 2018 -- the first time Williams carried more than twice as a Chief. If he were special, they wouldn’t have tried Carlos Hyde and then LeSean McCoy last year, when Williams reached 10 carries just once before Week 9.
Williams racked up 6 total TDs and 66 opportunities (46 carries, 20 targets) over Kansas City’s 3 playoff wins at the end of last season. And then the Chiefs went out and drafted a RB in Round 1.
And don’t be under the mistaken impression that Reid prefers committee backfields. In his 21 years as a HC, Reid’s top back has averaged 20.6 opportunities (carries + targets) per contest. Over just his 7 years in K.C., the top back has averaged 19.2 opportunities per game. Just 11 RBs averaged more than 19.2 opportunities per game in the NFL last season.
One question Edwards-Helaire will need to answer this summer is how he’ll fare in pass protection. Bienemy said proving himself in that area would help the rookie get onto the field, and the coach seems encouraged.
“One thing I will say, he does have the attitude and mindset to get it done,” the OC said.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
It’s easy to love Edwards-Helaire’s 2019 tape and the TD upside of playing in the Chiefs offense.
The obvious question with Edwards-Helaire is touch volume. Damien Williams has seen inconsistent usage over his 2 seasons with the team but has delivered late each year. CEH’s draft capital -- the highest ever spent for an Andy Reid RB -- says we should expect him to quickly pass Williams and the rest of the depth chart.
But an ADP around the 2-3 turn in 12-team drafts leaves little room for downside risk. The rookie can certainly pay off from there if he takes over the clear lead role in the K.C. backfield. If he doesn’t, though, you could be looking at a week-to-week rollercoaster.