This is the sixth of my series that takes a deeper dive into the fantasy ramifications of some of the top positional battles in the NFL. This week, we are looking at the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs fantasy running back battle between rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire and “almost Super Bowl MVP” Damien Williams. Two will enter, but only one will leave victorious! FIGHT![sv slug=”mocksim”]
Chiefs Fantasy Running Back Battle: Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. Damien Williams
2019: The Chiefs win the Super Bowl
It’s hard to find anything to improve on the team that won the Super Bowl, but most people would agree that the running back position for the Kansas City Chiefs was the lone weak spot. From a fantasy standpoint, it was definitely the most confusing position on the team. Andy Reid and the Chiefs spread the ball around between four main options: Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darrel Williams, and Darwin Thompson, all of whom played in at least 11 games last year. This is bad for fantasy players.
From a stats perspective, Damien Williams was the leader of the pack with 111 rushes, 498 yards, and 5 TDs on the ground to go with 37 targets, 30 catches, 213 yards, and 2 TDs through the air. Williams finished the season strong, scoring a TD in all three playoff games, and finishing the year with 104 rushing yards in the Super Bowl. Many people thought that Williams, and not star QB Patrick Mahomes, should have won the Super Bowl MVP since he was so instrumental in winning the title. But it seems like running backs rarely win that award these days.
Everything was coming up roses for dynasty players who owned shares of Williams, and from the Super Bowl to the draft, it sure looked like they had the main man in Kansas City. It turns out the Chiefs had different plans heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.
A new challenger has entered the arena: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
With the last pick of the first round, the Chiefs selected LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the first running back taken in the draft. By the time the pick was in, it was very late in the evening, but this pick definitely woke everyone up.
According to most experts, Edwards-Helaire was not the top RB in the class heading into the draft. In Tony Pauline’s scouting report, he expected Edwards-Helaire to fall in the draft “because of his lack of speed and inability to create yardage” but also expected him “to have an immediate impact as a rotational back, and he ultimately could be a feature runner.” In his Chiefs Draft Grade article, Ian Cummings said that “with several quality running backs on the board at 32, it may have been more prudent for the Chiefs to trade back and take one in the second round, but Edwards-Helaire will provide value to the offense.”
During my own review of Edwards-Helaire leading up to the draft, I also saw him as a great compliment back in an offense looking for something dynamic. I definitely don’t think he’ll be a workhorse back, at least not right away, even though that’s generally what Andy Reid prefers.
As the new Chiefs’ fantasy running back of choice, Edwards-Helaire saw a massive boost in his value with his new landing spot and first-round draft capital. After the combine, he was ranked as the 8th best rookie, 5th best RB. Andrew Jordan even said, “the question marks about his size and downright atrocious display of pass-blocking drops the LSU running back a full tier below Akers.” After the draft, however, he shot up to number one overall and was compared to Maurice Jones-Drew. This was all because the Chiefs reached to grab him so early.
Edwards-Helaire vs. Williams in 2020
Now that CEH is on the Chiefs and went at the top of most 1QB rookie drafts, all eyes are on him to produce in 2020. As much as we’d like to say he’ll be the best option on that offense, 2019 shows us that there is a lot that we can’t predict when it comes to Andy Reid’s offense.
With the rise of Edwards-Helaire comes the fall of Damien Williams’ value. As of February 2020, Edwards-Helaire had an ADP of 58 overall with Williams at 94 overall, both largely due to the impending uncertainty both were facing. Now, Edwards-Helaire is going 13th overall, while Williams has dropped to 132 overall. That’s quite a shift in values if you ask me.
So, what does this mean for fantasy owners? Which Chiefs fantasy running back is the one you should be targeting, and which one should you avoid? Contrary to popular opinion, CEH is a sell for me, and Williams is a buy or hold.
To me, CEH’s value is potentially already at its peak, and he hasn’t even played a snap in the NFL. I’d much rather own Joe Mixon, Nick Chubb, Miles Sanders, or Josh Jacobs, all of whom are going right around Edwards-Helaire in ADP. I’m not saying you can make a one-for-one trade, but those are definitely guys I’d target.
As for Williams, he’s going around players like Matt Breida, Tony Pollard, Anthony McFarland, and Darrell Henderson. Give me Williams over all of those guys. Even if he ends up in a committee with Edwards-Helaire by the end of the season, Williams will likely start the season by outperforming him, giving you some potential trade value then if you want to cut bait on him. For me, at their current prices, I’m buying Williams and avoiding Edwards-Helaire whenever possible.
Winner: Williams at his current price
Continue to visit the Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis like the #PFNOSM data and NFL Draft news and analysis while also visiting our Dynasty Fantasy Football section for more coverage.
Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering the NFL and Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHallFF.