On Thursday — just as we were making a similar point about the Kansas City Chiefs’ second-year running back — Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Edholm was publishing his list of 10 offensive players he thinks will have breakout sophomore seasons. And Clyde Edwards-Helaire was among them.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire • RB • Kansas City Chiefs
It was fashionable to bag on CEH last season, but we won’t have anything to do with that silly slander. Edwards-Helaire didn’t build on a big opening game as well as we hoped, but there’s plenty to appreciate from his rookie season — and even more to be excited about in Year 2.
His rookie numbers were quite comparable to what Christian McCaffrey did his first season. There was similar ambivalence over McCaffrey’s rookie production at the time, too. That went away with his sterling second season.
Edwards-Helaire could see a similar jump. It’s unclear why he wasn’t used more as a receiver. That element of his game is what made CEH, to use Joe Burrow’s words, LSU’s MVP in the Tigers’ national championship season of 2019.
Expect the receiving bump to happen. Edwards-Helaire received just shy of seven targets a game over his final seven games in college (not counting the Oklahoma game in which the injured CEH played only a few snaps as a decoy). That number last season, including the two playoff games, was below four targets per game.
Edwards-Helaire also figures to benefit from a vastly improved offensive line, a unit that was in shambles by the end of last season.
Of course, Pete Sweeney’s main point on Thursday was that Edwards-Helaire would enter the season with lower expectations than he did as a first-round pick in 2020; Edholm’s article could help push the needle of the expectations meter a little higher.
Otherwise, Edholm is essentially making the same points about the former LSU star that Pete did: he should get more receiving targets in 2021 — and will be playing behind what we presume will be a better offensive line.
But Edholm makes another significant point: in his first and second seasons, we saw something similar with McCaffrey. Should Edwards-Helaire develop into the kind of threat McCaffrey has become, the complaints about the round in which he was drafted might simply fade away.
And I’d be fine with that.