The first significant shockwave just hit the fantasy football world as Kansas City Chiefs RB Damien Williams has announced he is choosing to opt-out for the 2020 season. We all now have to decipher what the loss of Williams will do to the Chiefs for 2020 and how that will impact fantasy football.
While I am sure this will not be the last player we see choose to opt-out, we knew this was a possibility for some time. PFN NFL Insider Tony Pauline has been releasing news on the NFL’s preparations for several weeks, as both sides worked together to get football back on the field and on our TVs.
What are the Chiefs losing with the Damien Williams opt-out?
Williams was a point of contention going into fantasy drafts last season. It seemed you either bought into the late-season success of 2018 or thought it would be an aberration. The latter proved correct as Williams had solid games, but they were few and far between, leading him to be a much better “real-life” player than a fantasy asset.
For the Chiefs, Williams proved to be a useful player, and there is an argument he could have been named Super Bowl MVP. From a pure stats standpoint, Williams had a solid season but proved his worth in big games down the stretch.
2019 Regular season: 711 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns
2019 Playoffs: 290 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns
Super Bowl LIV: 133 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns
On paper, this looks great, but from a fantasy aspect, it was underwhelming. William’s 12.1 fantasy points per game (PPR) is a far cry from his RB14 (24.6 ADP) draft price. In most redraft leagues, Williams was sitting on waivers as frustrated owners moved on.
Going into 2020, Williams presented a much better value and was sitting around RB38 (98.11 ADP), according to MyFantasyLeague. As a depth piece on the roster, knowing the volume the Chief’s offense will see, made drafting Williams an easier pill to swallow, and he had a shot at outperforming that draft position.
The Chiefs will now rely on a backfield of rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darwin Thompson, Darrell Williams, Elijah McGuire, and DeAndre Washington. It will be interesting to see if they bring someone else in to bolster the backfield.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a must-own player.
Those who were selecting Clyde Edwards-Heliare in the first three rounds of fantasy drafts are laughing, as he won’t see that value again. Edwards-Helaire instantly vaults up to a late 1st-round or early 2nd-round pick in upcoming drafts.
The list of players who I would take over Edwards-Helaire is a small one: Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and Dalvin Cook.
I think that is about it during a PPR draft and who I would take ahead of Edwards-Helaire. When scoring is changed to 0.5 PPR or even standard, Derrick Henry becomes a much tougher choice, due to volume. The opportunities that Edwards-Helaire is going to see this year in such a high powered offense give him a ceiling that puts him into a different category. While I think players like Joe Mixon or even Henry are better running backs purely on talent, they don’t have the upside, so they slide behind him for me.
While I need to go in and tweak my fantasy football rankings given Damien Williams’s decision, my first impressions are Edwards-Helaire is now my RB6 heading into drafts. For Dynasty, given its longer approach, the conversation between him and Jonathan Taylor is still up for debate. I am on Team Taylor, but for 2020, the debate is over.
Over the last 15 years, the RB1 in an Andy Reid offense has averaged 18ppg in fantasy. Adding in that Edwards-Helaire is the first running back ever drafted in the first round by Reid should tell you all you need to know about his confidence level in his new backfield weapon.
Beyond Edwards-Helaire, I think the other running back I would want might be DeAndre Washington. We have already seen how volatile the offseason can be, so taking a late-round flier makes sense. He already has chemistry with the NFL’s $500 million man as they played together at Texas Tech.
While the three-game sample size is small, Washington did an excellent job when starting in place of Josh Jacobs when he was in Oakland. He averaged 20.5 fantasy points per game and was an RB1 in each of those weeks.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.