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2020 Chiefs position preview: running back

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The Super Bowl hero will likely start the season as the lead back, but the rookie should be ‘the guy’ by year’s end.

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Over the next few weeks, the AP Nerd Squad is going to be breaking down the Chiefs roster position by position as we head into training camp. We’re going to work from the top of the depth chart down to the bottom, briefing how we think each position group is set up.

The Chiefs have compiled a deep group of running backs as they head into training camp. Let’s take a deeper look.

The “guy”

I believe a certain first-round pick will ultimately be the leader of the pack, but let’s be sure to give Damien Williams some love now (because I do think he will take a back seat as the season goes on).

Williams had an exceptional stretch to end the season that was capped off by a two-touchdown Super Bowl performance. The key word there is stretch. We’ve still yet to see Williams be able to put together an entire season — his success has always been in spurts.

While Williams was ultra-productive to close out the most important games in franchise history, it didn’t stop Brett Veach from looking to replace him with his first-round pick. The advantage Williams has for significant opportunities this season is that rookies will have the challenge of acclimating quickly — especially without preseason games. Don’t expect it to last, but I could see Williams in the backfield at a significant clip early in the year.

Williams is a proven pass-catcher and a high-variance runner that might be best in a complementary role. Regardless, you can expect to see production from Williams — especially catching the ball out of the backfield.

New kid on the block

Rookie first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire is behind the eight ball as he enters the league amidst a pandemic, but if there is one position that could make that transition fast, it’s running back. The Chiefs got the perfect fit for their offense.

Edwards-Helaire has a lack of time on the field working against him, but once he gains the trust of the Chiefs’ coaches, he’s going to get the lion’s share of the work for the offense. Edwards-Helaire possesses rare route-running and pass-catching ability and was asked to do a lot of things at LSU that will certainly translate to Kansas City.

With rare vision and contact balance he’s a dynamic runner and excels against second-level defenders in space. Edwards-Helaire is the complete package with an emphasis on his ability as a receiver — he has the chance to be a star with Patrick Mahomes in the backfield with him.

Sleeper candidate

DeAndre Washington has a better chance of making this roster than some may believe. He too fits perfectly in Kansas City as a pass-catcher (seeing a theme here) and better vision than Williams. While not the same kind of athlete that Williams is, Washington will find a roster spot somewhere else if not Kansas City. He is coming off a 36-catch season in Oakland — the highest total of his career.

There is also history between Mahomes and Washington — who teamed up at Texas Tech. The familiarity can’t be overlooked. In a stacked running back room, the Chiefs felt the need to grab an NFL-quality running back to bring in the mix. Washington is a natural pass-catcher who has chemistry with the best player in the world. Do not sleep on him.

Best battle

A couple of young running backs added in the last two seasons could be fighting for a roster spot on the 53-man roster. Darrel “The Barrel” Williams and Darwin Thompson are both entering training camp with a lot to prove if they want to survive cut-down day — and it likely won’t be both surviving.

Williams has shown some chops in pass protection and Andy Reid has shown the trust to put him out there. Those opportunities have earned him some touches — catching 15 passes for an impressive 11.1 yards per catch. Williams also has great rapport with fellow LSU Tiger Edwards-Helaire — who cited Williams as a huge help in his transition to college when they were together the first time.

Thompson was a fun day-three project in 2019 with special contact balance and explosiveness. The rest of his game is going to need development. Pass protection is far from his strong suit, and there were some issues of miscommunication between him and Mahomes on routes out of the backfield.

The Chiefs made him one of two running backs active for the Super Bowl and gave him a carry at the goal line. He earned opportunities by being a special teams contributor. You may remember him catching a fumble in the air against the Houston Texans in the Chiefs’ comeback to win the Divisional round.

Williams contributed on special teams as well. Both will have to continue to show their value there if they want the opportunity. Thompson has a higher ceiling as the running back but Williams has a very clear role when he’s on the field. This battle will be tough, but the Chiefs have enough weapons — they need a guy that can protect the passer like Darrel Williams.

Poll

Who makes the Chiefs roster?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Darrel Williams
    (1030 votes)
  • 32%
    Darwin Thompson
    (806 votes)
  • 13%
    Both
    (345 votes)
  • 12%
    Neither
    (309 votes)
2490 votes total Vote Now