Ahead of the 2020 season — Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edward-Helaire’s rookie year — the LSU product received an unprecedented amount of hype. The back drew instant comparisons to Philadelphia Eagles team Hall of Famer Brian Westbrook and was later considered a first-round fantasy football sleeper.
Edwards-Helaire wound up having a fantastic initial season — 29th in the entire league in yards from scrimmage is nothing to scoff at — but between a lack of an in-person, physical offseason (and an injury), it fell a little short of the monster hype.
That has led to the 2021 preseason, when it feels like Edwards-Helaire may be underrated.
Enter NFL Network analyst and former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who provided a ranking of all 32 starters on Wednesday. Jones-Drew ranked the Chiefs’ second-year back No. 17.
Jones-Drew: CEH’s ranking has a lot to do with the fact that he plays alongside Patrick Mahomes. The second-year back doesn’t get the same opportunities as others; however, he does make the most of them with his short-area quickness and ability to make defenders miss in the phone booth. CEH can provide more balance to the Chiefs’ offense.
While Jones-Drew is right when it comes to Mahomes, what he may be missing here is the idea that Edwards-Helaire is expected to be used more in the Chiefs’ passing game in 2021. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy recently explained that through actual physical reps this offseason at in-person organized team activities (OTAs), Edwards-Helaire already has a “better understanding of exactly what [the Chiefs] are doing.”
There are many reasons to think he will see an increase from his 217 touches in 2020, beginning with the thought that he is 100 percent. An ankle-and-hip injury cost him three games last year. He was targeted 54 times, and with the way the team is talking, that number should be closer to 100 in 2021.
In addition, the Chiefs’ Week 1 starting offensive line in 2021 has a chance to be even better than it was at the beginning of 2020. That means Edwards-Helaires rushing numbers (181 carries for 803 yards) could go up as well.
In the span of a year’s time, Edwards-Helaire has arguably gone from a little overhyped to a bit underrated.