Fantasy Sports

Fantasy High Rizer Series: Running Back

Can Clyde Edwards-Helaire fulfill his fantasy football potential?

I don’t know about you, but there are times where acronyms, numbers, and general data overwhelm me.

There’s a growing trend in the fantasy industry of analytics, and unfortunately you are looked at as a bit ignorant if you don’t know what true catch rate is, or how to grade prospects. 

My suggestion would be to learn and read about what you value the most in a fantasy football player, and ignore the rest. Sift through the madness, if you will. I’m also old school, so I don’t mind using my eyes and instincts to come to decisions.

That sermon was brought to you by none other than: Clyde-Edwards Helaire. 

As Tua was my pick for a potential High Rizer quarterback in the 2021 fantasy football season, Edwards-Helaire takes the cake for the running back position.

High Rizer Series

I will be discussing one player at each position who finished outside the range of an 1/2 (Top 24) at their position in 2020 that are candidates to potentially finish Top 12 (Number 1 rank).

For consistency, I will be using fantasypros.com half point ppr finishes for 2020, along with current 2021 ADP (average draft position) information from thefantasyfootballadvice.com. 

Running Back High Rizer – Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Clyde Edwards-Helaire didn’t fulfill his ADP from last season, but the eye test tells us the talent is there. When it all comes together, an RB1 season is in sight.

I’ll go ahead and say it, even though it has no bearing or meaning on anything for his fantasy outlook. I feel bad for Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

I guess not specifically CEH, but the narrative that surrounded him. Because he was the only running back selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, and because it was to the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, and because it was Andy Reid as his head coach, he shot up draft boards. He was the consensus 1.01 in dynasty drafts and was being taken as a Top 10 pick in redraft leagues. 

Coming out of LSU, Edwards-Helaire was a dual threat running back in a high powered offense that won the National Championship. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry in his final season and grabbed 55 catches. He is a bit on the small side at 5’7” and 210 pounds, but he’s still a very physical back. 

Fantasy owners – specifically in dynasty – had dreams of a near guaranteed, immediate impact RB1 season. 

Alas, it didn’t happen that way. Let’s take a look at why.

2020 Recap

If you want to get technical (please don’t), CEH finished as RB24 in fantasy points per game last season in half-point ppr leagues. In my hometown dynasty league, based on our scoring system, he finished as RB25. So yeah, technicalities. But still, he was more or less a back end RB2/high end RB3.

The largest issue about Edward-Helaire’s 2020 final stat line was in his touchdown output. Mix in efficiency and health, it’s a recipe for a disappointing rookie season.

He came out with a bang in his first ever game. He toted the rock 25 times for 138 yards and two scores. CEH ended up playing just 12 full games (13 total) and missed time with a hip injury. He had 217 touches that resulted in 1,100 yards and just 5 total touchdowns. 

For comparison, Ronald Jones had 220 touches for 1,093 yards and 8 total touchdowns. Add three touchdowns to CEH’s profile and you have yourself a Top 20 running back. For all of our sake, we hope he can, at minimum, have the ceiling of a Ronald Jones.

If Edwards-Helaire played all 16 games he was on pace for nearly 1,400 total yards and six touchdowns.

So when you break it down, his numbers weren’t awful for a rookie running back. 

But when you put it in a specific context, it was disappointing. For example, the Chiefs have arguably the best quarterback and offense in the NFL. Also, when you compare it to fellow rookie Jonathan Taylor (8 overall) and D’Andre Swift’s (17) finish, and the potential Cam Akers and JK Dobbins showed, CEH was overshadowed.

2021 Outlook

Harkening back to the beginning of this article, there are analytics behind why CEH could be undervalued. Trust me when I say it’s interesting. However, I’m going to save you from the haze.

I’ll simply mention a couple of tangible transactions in regards to the team that owners can take note of for the 2021 season:

  • Depth – Le’veon Bell was a pain in the backside to CEH owners. Hard to fathom, I know. He had 63 carries and 17 targets while taking up 38% of the snap share. He’s gone. So is Damien Williams. The backfield competition is Darrell Williams and Jerick McKinnon. So, nobody, really.
  • Offensive line – KC did a massive overhaul after getting demolished by Tampa Bay’s defense in the Super Bowl. They released longtime tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. Meanwhile, they acquired Orlando Brown Jr., who, according to Pro Football Focus, ranked as one of the best tackles in the league the last three years. They also acquired Joe Thuney, a perennial Top 10 guard, and Austin Blythe to play center.

It’s hard to take any offseason speak seriously, but Edwards-Helaire and his MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes both mentioned the Chiefs need to target the running backs more. Music to fantasy owners’ ears.

A healthy season assures the second year back surpassing his 217 touches from 2020. This means 1,500 yards from the line of scrimmage is in his range of outcomes. 

Touchdowns are one of the hardest (impossible) stats to predict. I think it’s a safe bet he finds paydirt more than five times though.

So projecting a 1,500 yard, 40-plus catch, 8 touchdown season in a half-point ppr league means he likely ends as an RB1 in 2021. These numbers are not a reach.

Where to Draft Edwards-Helaire

CEH is currently being drafted as the 15th running back in redraft. That’s right near names like Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders, and Swift. In terms of draft position, he’s being taken around the back of the second round. 

I would be ecstatic to have a Top 3 overall pick in redrafts. It means I can pair a Christian McCaffrey or Dalvin Cook with the likes of CEH when it comes back around. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about the running back spot until much later in the draft. Who knows, maybe Darren Waller/George Kittle falls to you in the third round. So your squad could look like: Christian McCaffrey, Edwards-Helaire, and Waller to start. Solid if you ask me.

Absolutely snag him if he ends up dropping to the third round of your draft.

Right now he is being taken 16th overall in dynasty startups. He’s still just 22-years-old and has a minimum three years left as Mahomes’ backfield mate. The immediate future is bright. As long as he stays healthy, and let’s be honest, Mahomes stays healthy, he has big upside.

Even after a disappointing 2020 finish the fantasy community has not faded CEH. Consider yourself lucky if he’s your RB2 because I think he will finish as an RB1 in 2021.

Fantasy Finish Prediction for Edwards-Helaire: Running Back #9

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