The Kansas City Chiefs face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 of the NFL season, and we have you covered on all the fantasy football angles of this matchup. One of the key questions is whether fantasy managers should start running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Isiah Pacheco against the Cardinals.
Let’s dive into which Chiefs running back is a viable play for Week 1 and why you might start either.
Should you start Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Isiah Pacheco?
The Chiefs were measured in upgrading the team’s backfield this offseason. They brought Jerick McKinnon back after he enjoyed a renaissance season with the team in 2021. They also signed free agent Ronald Jones and drafted Pacheco in the seventh round to back up Edwards-Helaire.
Edwards-Helaire has retained the starting spot despite an impressive training camp from Pacheco. The Chiefs clearly implemented more inside zone concepts and play calls during the preseason which perfectly plays into Edwards-Helaire’s strengths. The former LSU standout was previously working in an offense that didn’t maximize his contact balance and patience between the tackles, so this scheme change is notable.
With Edwards-Helaire as RB1 in Kansas City and ranked RB36 and No. 79 overall in our expert fantasy football rankings, he’s certainly more of a situation-based play than some of his peers. He burned fantasy managers in previous years as injuries and inconsistent play plagued his value. Even veteran backup Darrel Williams outproduced him last year.
And yet, it’s hard to quit on a back in such an advantageous situation. It’s easier to see his value when you’re no longer penciling him in as one of your top options each week. This is the right matchup to start CEH unless you have far better options at the running back and flex positions of your roster.
The Cardinals are dealing with a slew of injuries and will be without defensive starters J.J. Watt, Antonio Hamilton, and Trayvon Mullen. Edge rusher Markus Golden may be limited as well. Expect the Chiefs to have a field day against this banged-up unit.
The Cardinals ranked sixth in points allowed to the running back position last year, but Watt was a big part of that performance. Expect the Chiefs to rely more upon their running backs to create easy yards without Tyreek Hill on the roster to bail out Patrick Mahomes in tough moments.
Pacheco’s fantasy value is certainly lower than his aforementioned counterpart at the moment, as he’s ranked 59th at running back and No. 171 overall in our rankings, and he appears to be third or fourth on the depth chart. He’s not a wise play just yet, but he could have value down the road should CEH pick up an injury or underperform.
Does Jerick McKinnon or Ronald Jones have value?
How the Chiefs utilize their deep backfield will be fascinating to see. Jones is the logical early-down backup for CEH, while McKinnon has a hold on passing downs thanks to his receiving chops and veteran reliability. But neither of these players have significant fantasy value as of now. It’s just a matter of limited touches and opportunities.
Depth at running back should be a boon for the Chiefs after the team suffered injuries at the position last season, but the current situation makes decisions tougher for fantasy managers. Right now, Edwards-Helaire is the best play, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he loses the trust of the staff with a poorly-timed drop or fumble.
Because of the uncertainty, I’d stay clear of McKinnon, Jones, and Pacheco until we see this rotation play out more.