Dynasty Fantasy Football

2021 Dynasty Football Profile: Clyde Edwards-Helaire


Welcome to the 2021 Dynasty Football Profile: Clyde Edwards-Helaire!

Coming off a victory in Super Bowl LIV, the Kansas City Chiefs rode into the offseason high. The team’s offense led by Mahomes and company put up 31 points on the NFL’s best defense in the 49ers led by Joey Bosa. Guys like Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill were formidable playmakers all through not only the season but the entire Super Bowl playoff run.

Coming into the 2020 offseason one thing was clear for the Chiefs: draft a running back to help Patrick Mahomes. The ability to run the ball elevates the passing game. Playmaking pass catchers that can rush for five or more yards per carry don’t just grow in trees.

That’s exactly what Clyde Edwards-Helaire was supposed to be and is currently. His versatility defined him as a player at LSU. A true three-down game wrecker with size, speed, pass-catching ability, and just an overall naturally gifted athlete propelled him in the NFL draft. SO much even that the Chiefs selected him with the last pick in the first round in 2020.

Now, one year removed, knowing what we know, people are souring on the young second-year runner from LSU. I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t count out this young star in the making. Let’s break it down and get a closer look as we examine one of the NFL’s most polarizing young prospects from 2020. This is the 2021 Dynasty Football Profile: Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

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2021 Dynasty Football Profile: Clyde Edwards-Helaire

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1.) The Intro

You may have drafted Edwards-Helaire in fantasy, you may have not. Either way, the fact remains, the expectations for the rookie back were miscued from day one. Moving from what was expected to be a fifth- to sixth-round projected average draft position in redraft, all the way to a low-end first-round draft position, set the scale for unprecedented behavior in the fantasy community.

Even in dynasty formats people were reaching left and right. Edwards-Helaire flew up the board sometimes into even as high as round two-three. With all the hype, the season was deemed as a failure. The Chiefs brought in former star, Le’Veon Bell. Now, heading into year two, Helaire remains as the lead back on a loaded Chiefs roster.

2.) Rookie Season Turned Bust?

The ups and downs come as a rookie, especially last season’s rookies. No OTA’s, no preseason games, no mini camps, no anything really. It’s hard enough to be a rookie, but strip all that, it makes things just that much more complicated for the world’s hardest sport.

With the world on lockdown for COVID-19, people developed a newfound passion and fondness for the game we all love, football. Tempers flared, expectations rose, and excitement fluttered. New rookies like Helaire were crowned as legendary before even taking a snap.

A rookie season that was good to great was appointed as bust worthy for the Fantasy Football community. Helaire fought through injuries, shortened seasons, no camps or drills, other veterans, and still came out the lead dog in the end.

Examining his rookie season, one thing is clear. It was no bust. The 22-year-old played and started in 13 games in 2020. He racked up a total of 1,100 yards rushing and receiving while combining for five touchdowns. He saw a nice volume of carries in which he turned it into 4.4 yards per carry and near 62 yards per game on the ground.

His average per game fantasy numbers were 12.2, that’s good for 24th among all running backs. Taking a look behind the scenes you can see some clear clarity.

Read it and weep, running back nine in half-PPR. This kid’s rookie season was no failure.

3.) With Le’Veon Bell gone, the sky’s the limit

The volume, the volume, the volume. We always preach about it in fantasy football. Guys who get volume and are just halfway decent can get it done for your Fantasy Football team. You can see the stat above. Through the first seven games of the season, Helaire was the RB9 in fantasy football.

He scored 13.9 Fantasy Points per game which would rank him at RB15 in points per game last season. As a rookie, that’s a great benchmark for points per game.

Before Bell got there, Helaire saw 25, 10, 20, 16, 10, 26, and eight total carries in consecutive weeks. Not quite a workhorse runner number but good enough to be an RB1 on the low end in fantasy.

His per-game carries put him on pace for 288 carries for the 2020 season before the Chiefs signed Bell. That ranks 3rd most in the entire NFL, behind only Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry, both of which are fantasy stallworts. Just amazing metrics, if he were to reach that he would’ve been a sure-fire RB1 in fantasy and potentially a top-five back.

The tweet above says it all about where Helaire would be if he had received his pre-Bell workload.

4.) The Main Back in Town

As I’ve continued to touch on, Bell is gone and Damien Williams, the (should have been) 2019 SuperBowl MVP is also gone. That leaves a backfield of Helaire, Darrell Williams, and Jerrick McKinnon. Surely not the most exciting group, nobody strikes fear in opposing defenses outside of Helaire.

Williams has only 93 career rushing attempts, while McKinnon has 555 career attempts. However, the former San Fransisco back has tons of mileage and is twice removed from knee surgeries. Last season, he carried the rock just 81 times to the tune of 319 yards. That’s a measly 3.9 yards per carry.

Since the knee surgery, McKinnon hasn’t been the same back as in his earlier years. With such little competition in my mind, Helaire should be the lead back and not see much competition.

Bell’s absence alone opens up 82 rush attempts last season, those would put Helaire at 263 for 2020.

5.) The Advanced Rush Metrics

Taking a peek behind the curtain there are some super positive signs of life for Helaire and the rushing game for 2021. The signs are especially positive from the broken tackle and yards before contact. Check out these numbers and where he ranked last season.

  • 12.1 Rushing attempts per broken tackle (12th)
  • 15 Broken tackles (15th)
  • 2.1 Yards after contact (22nd)
  • 2.3 yards before contact (28th)

Breaking down the stats a few things stand out. The first is the yards before contact, 2.3 yards per attempt. That’s a concern for most but for me, it’s not. This offseason the Chiefs added nearly 7 new linemen to replace the banged-up 2020 unit. That means that Helaire in theory should see an uptick and move that number to around 2.5 before contact.

The next one that stands out is the broken tackle numbers, showing just how effective he is with the ball in his hands. He’s a bruising type back who clearly doesn’t go down easy. He was middle of the NFL with nearly the least amount of attempts of all ahead of him on the lists.

An upgraded offensive line, the broken tackle ability, and the potential groove that Helaire should be in with no competition should spell amazing production for the Chiefs back.

6.) New Offensive Additions Will Get Helaire to the Moon

A banged-up Chiefs offensive line really set the tone in 2020. In the pre-season, the Chiefs lost top guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif due to an opt-out (COVID-19). A big blow for the Chiefs as he helped them lead the way to a Super Bowl victory in 2019. The Chiefs also got rid of nearly the entire offensive line unit. All of which ranked in the bottom 50 or more in PFF grade.

The new additions to the offensive line include: (PFF Rank among position)

This went from a sub-par line to an elite line overnight not to mention bringing back two high-quality backups. According to PFF, the Chiefs rank as the 7th best offensive line per their metrics this season.

Combined better health with an offensive line that is loaded with talent and depth, and Edwards-Helaire will be better. Damien Williams is gone in free agency, and Bell is not coming back.

7.) The Andy Reid Effect

It’s no secret that Andy Reid is one of the best coaches in the league. He has been for the better part of nearly two decades now. One thing we tend to overlook is how great he is for fantasy, running backs especially.

Guys like Spencer Ware, LeSean McCoy, Brian Westbrook, and Damien Williams have found themselves shaded with success due to the mad scientist named Andy Reid. Take a look at this graph that shows what Reid’s backs have done in their careers with him at the helm.

15 seasons of having an RB1 in fantasy along with 21 seasons of having at minimum an RB2. Only two seasons in his career has he had a back finish outside of the top-24 in fantasy points. That is unreal efficiency.

8.) Week 1 of 2020 is the Benchmark

A breakout game in Week 1’s opening night game in 2020 against the Texans was what set the tone. Helaire started his NFL career with 25 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown against the Houston Texans.

His electric Fantasy Football start and real-life start propelled him to have Reid play him at least 60% of the offense’s snaps and racked up 18-plus combined carries and targets in every game in Weeks 1-6 before Le’Veon Bell came on the scene. There was a low-volume stretch for Edwards in Weeks 7-9 when Mahomes decided to largely go nuts on everyone, but the Chiefs were back to giving the rookie 15-plus touches in three of his final four games.

The volume and expectations are based on week 1’s elite performance. if Helaire can string anything like that he is in the conversation for an RB1.

9.) Clyde Edwards-Helaire was better than expected

People will try to discredit the young man out of LSU, painting narratives of an ineffective season. But the metrics show one thing, the young back is clearly good if not great.

  • PFF rushing grade: 76.8 (No. 18 among 47 qualified RBs)
  • Missed tackles forced per attempt: 0.19 (tied for No. 14)
  • Yards per carry: 4.4 (tied for No. 25)
  • Yards after contact per carry: 3.0 (tied for No. 19)
  • 12.1 Rushing attempts per broken tackle (12th)
  • 15 Broken tackles (15th)
  • 2.1 Yards after contact (22nd)
  • 2.3 yards before contact (28th)

His yards before contact numbers listed above show how terrible his line was and just how fantastic he was even with it. A thing to note about the Chiefs back, he fumbled not a single time during his time in Kansas City. Edwards-Helaire also showed strong ability in the receiving game, which was a knock on him in college. Edwards-Helaire reeled in 36 of 50 targets for 297 yards and a score. His issue was overall volume, not efficiency.

10.) Redzone Rushing Bounce-Back

One of the hardest things to predict is the volatility of touchdowns in fantasy. Guys may have years where they score 10, or 16, or even just three. Last season, over the first five games, Edwards-Helaire rushed for -1 yard on nine goal-to-go carries. In just Week One alone, Helaire had 10 red zone carries and six carries inside the 5-yard line without a score.

CEH had some bad touchdown luck last year. He had nine carries inside the five-yard line and only scored three times. After the first half of the season. Helaire often lost carries to Bell throughout the second half of the season. This was one of the biggest areas he struggled with. Expectations are he regresses back from his non-double-digit touchdown season.

Out of 18 rushers who had over 180 carries, CEH had the second least amount of touchdowns at just four rushing scores. Only 38-year old Frank Gore had less (2). But are we really counting Frank Gore? No.

Here’s a list of the number of running backs and touchdowns they scored in 2020:

  • 15+ Touchdowns: 2
  • 10+ Touchdowns: 7
  • 7+ Touchdowns: 16

16 of the 18 backs that carried the ball over 180 times had seven or more touchdowns, only Gore and CEH had less. He’s clearly due for some positive regression. Adding just three to five touchdowns is enough to propel him to an RB1 on the low end.

11.) The Closing

One thing is clear with the 2021 Dynasty Football Profile: Clyde Edwards-Helaire: he is a fantastic runner. His 2020 season was doomed to fail from the start. With an awful offensive line paired with an injured Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes, things got out of hand quickly. His hype building around him marks a shadow on a rookie season that wasn’t all that bad.

He’s in for workhorse numbers and some positive regression. An improved offense, elite QB, and defense’s inability to stack the box against Mahomes should all be positive signs for CEH. His 2021 should be a breakout year for a guy I expect to be an upper-echelon fantasy back.

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