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How the Chiefs could address a thin running back group this offseason

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the only Kansas City back with game experience who is currently on the roster.

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The first — and only — first-round draft choice for the Kansas City Chiefs under general manager Brett Veach is running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, was who was taken with the 32nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He is also the only running back with meaningful 2021 snaps who is now under contract; Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon are both set to hit free agency.

McKinnon could be brought back — and with solid performances sprinkled throughout the season, could even be given a more prominent role.

Williams — a reliable backup who stepped up when other players were injured — is not likely to return. While Williams led the team in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns in 2021, Edwards-Helaire will now bear the brunt of the responsibility for that production — but given his injury history, the Chiefs will need to have viable backups.

Should the Chiefs choose to move on from either (or both) of last season’s backups, the free-agent market is a good place for them to find veterans who could become valuable ball carriers.

Free agency

  • Melvin Gordon
  • Phillip Lindsay
  • Marlon Mack
  • Alex Collins
  • Jalen Richard
  • Sony Michel
  • James White
  • Ronald Jones II
  • David Johnson

With a first-round pick already invested in the position, the Chiefs aren’t likely to spend a lot of money on a free-agent back. Now entering his third season, Edwards-Helaire is under contract for two more seasons — and the team has an option for another.

A seven-year veteran like Gordon will probably garner too much attention (and money) for Kansas City to be a likely landing spot. But if he is ring-driven, Gordon might at least take a meeting with the Chiefs.

In the past, Mack has been linked to Kansas City as a trade candidate while Edwards-Healire was injured. Now — following Johnathan Taylor’s ascendance with the Indianapolis Colts — Mack is hitting the open market. With his ability to be dangerous both on the ground and as a pass-catcher, Mack would be a great fit for the Chiefs — and the sixth-year player still has plenty of value left.

I am close to pounding the table for Lindsay, who most recently played for the Miami Dolphins. He started 2021 with the Houston Texans, but was waived and claimed by Miami. He is most memorable for his time in Denver, where he gained notoriety as an undrafted free agent who rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. Lindsay offers everything the Chiefs need in the backfield — and in the stability of the Kansas City offense, he would thrive.

You can check out the full list of free-agent running backs here.

The draft

There are plenty of running backs in this season’s NFL Draft class. There just isn’t a lot of star power. Still, the Chiefs could use late-round picks to acquire backs who would cost little — but provide a lot of value. There are plenty of backs who could see early reps for whichever team selects them.

  • Rachaad White (Arizona State)
  • Tyler Badie (Missouri)
  • James Cook (Georgia)
  • C.J. Verdell (Oregon)
  • Jerome Ford (Cincinnati)
  • Tyler Allgeier (BYU)
  • Dameon Pierce (Florida)
  • Ty Chandler (North Carolina)

In 2021, Mizzou’s Badie lit up the SEC — and could be a late add. Players like Verdell or Chandler could also be found in the last few rounds and still provide impactful reps as rookies.

But let’s focus on a Kansas City native.

Rachaad White, Arizona State

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

White attended Center High School before continuing his playing career at a community college: Mt. San Antonio in California. After transferring to Arizona State in 2020, he impressed both coaches and scouts over two seasons. In 2021, he earned 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground, along with 456 yards and a touchdown as a receiver for the Sun Devils.

Right now, it looks like White could go as early as the fourth round — but with the running back class as saturated as it is, it’s hard to tell how different teams could value them. White doesn’t have a lot of reps against Division I talent, but don’t be surprised if he pops off in a few 2022 games. It might as well be for his hometown Chiefs.