The NFL regular season may be over, but with four more weeks of football, fantasy doesn’t have to stop just yet. Like myself, I’m sure many of you are in fantasy playoff leagues. For postseason formats where you have to select your entire roster prior to Saturday’s kickoff, let’s analyze the fantasy football value of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, and Jerick McKinnon for the NFL playoffs.
Kansas City’s backfield remains in flux with injuries to Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams
Edwards-Helaire suffered a shoulder injury in the Chiefs’ Week 16 destruction of the Steelers. He missed Kansas City’s final two games of the regular season. During that time, Williams was unquestionably the lead back. He played 80% of the offensive snaps in Week 17. Unfortunately, he also found himself on the sidelines during Week 18 when a late first-half toe injury cost him the rest of the game.
Following Williams’ exit, Gore and McKinnon split work in about a 65-35 timeshare. Unsurprisingly, McKinnon was clearly the preferred option on passing downs. He ran 16 routes to Gore’s 11.
How should fantasy managers handle the Chiefs’ backfield in the fantasy playoffs?
In regular-season fantasy football, it would be easy just to throw Gore or McKinnon on your bench and see what happens. For playoff fantasy, you need to be much more calculated.
Pro Football Doc thinks Edwards-Helaire could have played in Weeks 17 and 18 if the games were vital. Fantasy managers won’t have to finalize rosters for full-length playoff leagues until later in the week. We should have some clarity on whether CEH will be ready to go by Thursday or Friday.
Following the Chiefs’ Week 12 bye, three of their subsequent four games were non-competitive (those represent the four games CEH played in). In the sole competitive contest, a 34-28 victory over the Chargers, CEH played 71% of the offensive snaps.
If Edwards-Helaire is ready to play this week, he is the clear lead back and belongs on your fantasy playoff roster if you’re going all-in on a Chiefs’ Super Bowl run.
What should fantasy managers do with Williams if Edwards-Helaire is not playing?
This is where things get tricky. Last season, CEH missed KC’s Divisional Round game before returning for the AFC Championship and Super Bowl. For those building rosters around the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, you still needed to select him and just sit on him for two weeks.
This season, the situation could be similar. The challenge would be determining how likely CEH is to return if he misses the Chiefs’ opening-round game. We were confident last year. Will it be the same this year?
If not, Williams is the clear next man up. In the 2021 regular season, Williams averaged 7.5 PPR fantasy points per game in his 10 games with CEH active and 19.1 PPR ppg in his six games without Edwards-Helaire.
Of course, the struggle in selecting Williams is knowing Edwards-Helaire’s return would render him useless for fantasy purposes. Unless we get word that CEH will miss the entirety of the postseason (or, at bare minimum, the first three games), I don’t think it’s wise to go with Williams even if we find out his toe injury is no big deal.
What about Derrick Gore and Jerick McKinnon?
If Edwards-Helaire and Williams were to be out the entire playoffs and you also believed in a Chiefs Super Bowl run, one of Gore or McKinnon would still be in consideration for playoff fantasy rosters.
Despite Gore and McKinnon not being as fantasy-viable as CEH or Williams, there is significant value in having players on Super Bowl teams, even if those players aren’t that productive. It’s especially true when that player is in a high-powered offense led by Patrick Mahomes.
With that said, between Gore and McKinnon, it would be challenging to pick one. Gore had 7 carries for 30 yards in the Chiefs’ season finale against the Broncos. He would be the favorite for carries and goal-line work. McKinnon had 5 carries for 24 yards and 3 catches for 26 yards and a touchdown. He’s the more dynamic player and would be the heavy favorite for targets and receptions.
I prefer McKinnon to Gore if it came down to those two. McKinnon is just the way more talented and explosive player. Kansas City will face stiffer competition in the postseason and are unlikely to be in the position to grind out the clock with Gore in the second half.
Should fantasy managers put Edwards-Helaire, Williams, Gore, or McKinnon on their playoff rosters?
Ultimately, I think CEH will end up playing, rendering much of this discussion moot. However, just to make sure fantasy managers are prepared, it’s still important to consider all possibilities in advance of locking down rosters that cannot be changed for the duration of the postseason.
Assuming Edwards-Helaire is ready to rock this weekend, he belongs on your playoff fantasy roster if you are building it around a Chiefs Super Bowl run. CEH averaged 12 PPR ppg this season and is good enough to benefit your fantasy lineup if you have him as rosters dwindle in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl.