The Kansas City Chiefs running back situation has been a puzzle all season. Darrel Williams spent four weeks as the starter and filled in admirably for both the Chiefs and fantasy football managers. With Clyde Edwards-Helaire questionable due to an illness, should fantasy managers prepare to start Williams once again?
Update 12/05/21: The Kansas City Chiefs announced that Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be active for their matchup against the Broncos.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s injury status
In years past, I would dismiss non-injury-related questionable tags and deem them irrelevant. Historically, players just played through illnesses. But as this season has shown us, we can no longer take that for granted. Guys like Lamar Jackson and A.J. Brown have had serious bouts with stomach bugs that knocked them out of commission.
Edwards-Helaire is not injured and was not on the injury report Wednesday or Thursday. Then, on Friday, he didn’t practice due to a stomach bug. Head coach Andy Reid said he expects Edwards-Helaire to play. Normally, I’d say there’s nothing to worry about, but we’ve seen this before.
Fantasy managers were burned in 2020
Edwards-Helaire has already been forced to miss a game due to an illness. In Week 13 of the 2020 season, he popped up on the injury report late in the week due to an illness. Head coach Andy Reid said CEH would be fine and would play. Thus, fantasy managers mostly kept Edwards-Helaire in lineups, but he was “fake active” — not playing a single snap.
We do not want a repeat of that game. When I say repeat, I mean literally. Last year, the game CEH played but didn’t play was a Week 13 contest at home on Sunday Night Football against the Broncos. This year’s illness doesn’t sound nearly as serious, but forgive me for experiencing a bit of déjà vu.
Darrel Williams’ fantasy value is tied to CEH’s status
CEH returned from the injured reserve prior to the Chiefs’ bye week. He played just 47% of the snaps while Williams actually played more (53%). While this may suggest a legitimate decision between the two for fantasy managers, it’s not actually the case.
Williams had 5 carries for 15 yards in Week 11 while adding 1 catch for 11 yards. Edwards-Helaire carried the ball 12 times for 63 yards and caught 2 balls for 13 yards. CEH had more than double Williams’ touches.
This season, we have a solid sample size of Edwards-Helaire and Williams both being active and with CEH being inactive. In five games without CEH, Williams averaged 17.8 PPR points per game. In the six games where both played, Williams averaged just 6.3 PPR ppg.
CEH is averaging 16 opportunities (carries + targets) per game this season, excluding Week 5, where he got hurt after just 22 snaps. He is the clear lead back and should be in fantasy lineups if active and healthy. Williams is not a viable fantasy starter while playing in tandem with Edwards-Helaire.
Should fantasy managers start Edwards-Helaire or Williams?
The good news is if both are active and healthy, the decision is easy. You start Edwards-Helaire. The bad news is this game is Sunday night and what happened in 2020 still looms large.
This illness feels different from the one last year. It doesn’t sound like it’s much to worry about, and CEH should be a full go. If he is, fantasy managers should start him as usual.
However, if you don’t have Williams or an alternative to pivot to in case Edwards-Helaire doesn’t play, there is risk associated with leaving him in lineups.
Fantasy managers without both Chiefs backs would be wise to grab Mike Boone or Matt Breida as a fail-safe in the event CEH doesn’t play. If we get some bad news about Edwards-Helaire between now and Sunday night, if there is still time to get Williams in your lineup, he would make for a solid RB2 without CEH.