Clyde Edwards-Helaire Fantasy Outlook: A Breakout Candidate in the Final Year of His Contract?

While no longer the starter, Kansas City Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire still has significant appeal. What is his fantasy outlook in 2023?

At PFN, we’ve researched more than 350 fantasy football players, trying to identify which ones are overrated, underrated, and priced right. With that in mind, here is Kansas City Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s fantasy outlook for 2023.

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Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook

Sometimes in fantasy, managers look back and ask, “How did this happen?” In fact, it happens fairly often — surprising stars and shocking disappointments. It’s far more unusual for a guy to play “as expected.”

In his first three NFL campaigns, Edwards-Helaire has never consistently played as expected. The former first-round draft pick had sky-high upside as a rookie in 2020, with an ADP of RB7. A fantastic running back in an elite offense, with a seeming smattering of significantly lesser RB talent surrounding him.

But CEH turned out to be only “very good,” which wasn’t good enough for many managers who invested a first-round pick on him. Despite a near-elite broken-tackle rate and strong usage in the passing game, Edwards-Helaire finished as the RB22 in fantasy points per game while missing three contests.

He went on to miss seven in each of the next two seasons, as his points-per-game steadily declined, culminating in last year’s shocking (but not entirely shocking) demotion behind upstart seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco.

By NFL standards, Edwards-Helaire was still good, including posting a respectable 4.3 yards per carry and a career-high 8.9 yards per catch. Among the 75 players with 60+ carries, CEH’s 2.4 yards after contact ranked third in the league, behind only Khalil Herbert and Tony Pollard.

So before dismissing Edwards-Helaire as a has-been, we have to understand the skills he still possesses and how that’s translated on the field. Injuries certainly have marred his NFL development. And objectively, Pacheco outplayed him in last year’s Super Bowl run.

For fantasy managers, this is a shining beacon of opportunity. For the first time in his career, Edwards-Helaire is arguably undervalued. Despite being only 24 years old (and somehow younger than Pacheco), the prevailing notion is that his time has passed — at least in Kansas City, where he’s playing out his rookie contract.

However, we should never underestimate talented players with much to prove and little to lose. Edwards-Helaire has nothing on the table beginning in 2024. When active, he’s probably a top-20 starting RB and quite possibly top 16. Any upward tick in playing time and productivity could propel his stock.

Much depends on Pacheco, who dealt with a broken hand and torn labrum last season, requiring offseason surgeries. We cannot dismiss how well he played in 2022, yet it’s important to remember that Pacheco was never a high-volume bell cow at Rutgers. While topping out at 15.4 carries per game as a sophomore, he didn’t hit 14+ in any of his other three seasons.

The Chiefs apparently understood this because, with only one exception, they gave Pacheco more than 15 carries just once last year in 20 outings (including the postseason). In fact, in 14 games as a starter (again, including the playoffs), he averaged only 12.6 rushing attempts.

The 31-year-old Jerick McKinnon presumably is on the downside of his career. He received his highest touch total since 2017, partly because of Edwards-Helaire’s season-ending injury and partly because Kansas City seemingly didn’t want to run Pacheco into the ground. McKinnon dominated through the air but was merely pedestrian on the ground.

Yes, this could become a three-man backfield. But it’s more likely to become a battle between Pacheco and the underappreciated Edwards-Helaire. Assuming Pacheco remains a 12-to-14-touch option, there will be plenty of opportunities for CEH to reassert himself. It might be no more than 6-8 touches, but it could also grow to a workhorse role.

Either way, he’s massively undervalued in an offense that should continue to score in buckets and where Edwards-Helaire appears to be the only running back with workhorse potential if things break his way.

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