With the news Damien William will be opting out of the 2020 NFL season, a frenzy of player outlooks and statements on Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH) came out. I didn't want to put anything out yet, because I needed time to gather my thoughts and not get carried away on hype. A few days ago, I talked about CEH in my "riskiest early round selections" article. Obviously, he now has an entire different scenario.
In my opinion, this is a very similar situation to Kareem Hunt in his rookie season. The main competition isn't available week 1, which leads to the rookie getting the start. Need I remind you how good Kareem Hunt was in his rookie year? He finished In weeks 1-16, he only had 3 games with under 10 fantasy points, showing he wasn't very boom or bust. In 2018, Hunt scored an average of 20.9 PPG before the Chiefs cut him due to off field issues. This would put him at 313.5 fantasy points (weeks 1-16), which would have been the RB2 in fantasy last season. It is clear that Hunt had a lot of success while on the Chiefs. Even Damien Williams has had success due to their system. In his 16 games since joining the Chiefs, he has racked up 340.4 fantasy points, good for the RB2 last year.
Clyde is arguably in as good of a situation. Hunt was a third round rookie, and third round RBs don't have a great hit rate. Out of the top 24 RBs last season, 8 of them were drafted in the first round, 4 in the second round, and 3 in the third round. CEH, on the other hand, was a first round pick. While there are some first round busts like Rashaad Penny in recent years, most tends to do well. Over the last 7 years, RBs drafted in the first round averaged 280.7 touches in their rookie year, and 75% of them have finished as an RB2 or better.
Now for the talent aspect. Joe Burrow praised CEH earlier in the offseason, calling him the best football player he has ever played with. This includes the stacked LSU roster from last year, both Bosa brothers, Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, and many bona fide studs in the NFL. I don't think CEH is better than any of those guys, but when the number 1 pick gives this high of praise to a RB, it is best to pay attention. The Chiefs also asked Mahomes who he wanted in the first round, and he replied with one word: "Clyde." The best QB in football and the number 1 draft pick both love the guy, so why shouldn't we?
This year at LSU, CEH had 215 carries, 1414 yards, 17 TDs, 55 receptions, and 453 receiving yards in 15 games. This would have been 343.7 fantasy points. Granted, it was on a stacked LSU offense, but that is essentially what he is going to on the Chiefs. They have a top-5 WR, the best receiving tight end, and the best quarterback in football. Defenses can't focus on CEH because if they do, the Chiefs will tear them apart. I don't think CEH rushes for 1400 yards, but his reception and TDs will more than keep his fantasy value high.
Conclusion: I wouldn't overdraft Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but the upside is very high. I consider him better than the Kenyan Drake, Miles Sanders tier. Not yet sure if he is better than Mixon, Ekeler, Henry, and Jacobs. He certainly has the upside though and is a target at the first/second round turn for everyone.