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How Does LSU Running Back Clyde Edwards-Helaire Fit Into Kansas City Offense?

Edwards-Helaire can grow into bell cow role for Chiefs but will contribute right away regardless

You can't help but root for former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He was one of the feel good stories of the 2019 season after much offseason speculation as to how big an impact the running game would have in the LSU offense.

Edwards-Helaire proved to be one of the more versatile players in all of the SEC, rushing for 1,414 yards and a conference leading 16 touchdowns. But what made the junior such a dynamic weapon for the Tigers was his ability to affect the passing game, bringing in 55 receptions for 453 yards.

"He's a three down back," coach Ed Orgeron said ahead of the draft. "The way he catches the ball out of the backfield adds a lot of value. He reminds me of Maurice Jones-Drew. This guy has a low center of gravity, he's very smart, very competitive. I think the game he had against Alabama was one of the best football games I've ever seen a running back have. The way he catches the ball out of the backfield makes him different."

Edwards-Helaire's lunch pail work ethic is what made him one of the more respectable figures in the program and why the Kansas City Chiefs selected him with the No. 32 overall pick in the first round. He's drawn comparisons to former pro bowl running back Brian Westbrook and drew some high praise from new teammate Patrick Mahomes.

“I wanted to add to the offense, obviously to help me out and to help our team out. So, Clyde was the first name that came to mind and I know we have a great running back room already, so I think just bringing him in, I know he’ll fit right in and he’ll compete,” Mahomes said, according to Chiefs Wire.

“I think the first thing that stood out from Clyde is when the competition and the games got bigger, it seemed like he played better. I always like guys that can rise to the competition, and whenever you’re on the biggest stage, you play your best football, and you rise up and compete with your team.”

Chiefs reporter, Joshua Brisco of Arrowhead Report wasn't a huge fan of the Edwards-Helaire pick at first but now that it's official, he's in agreement that the LSU running back is a seamless fit into the Chiefs offense.

I wasn’t thrilled when the Chiefs drafted Clyde Edwards-Heilare. It wasn’t his fault, though. I had spent the better part of the last month confidently proclaiming that the Chiefs wouldn’t take a running back in the first round, because smart teams have learned the true value of the position. The Chiefs have proven their wisdom many times over under coach Andy Reid and General Manager Brett Veach. ...And then they drafted Edwards-Helaire. 

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So, analytical arguments and running back conversations notwithstanding, Edwards-Helaire is a Chief, and he’s almost certainly going to thrive in Reid’s offense. Damien Williams became a household name in NFL circles over the last two seasons after being a castoff from the Miami Dolphins. He earned his role with great route-running ability, excellent pass-blocking and a strong understanding of the offense. Edwards-Helaire is being brought in to replicate those strengths as a player with more raw talent than Williams. Edwards-Helaire’s impact on the Chiefs will be predominantly measured by his role as a pass-catcher and how quarterback Patrick Mahomes can utilize him in an already-excellent offense.

Brisco did warn that the Chiefs’ offense is pretty difficult to pick up for a rookie but Edwards-Helaire does all of the things that Reid and Mahomes need to have the potent, high scoring offense that led them to a Super Bowl win earlier this year. 

Reid’s offense is notoriously difficult for rookies to pick up, and that fact opens up a slight possibility that CEH’s preseason hype may be slightly more difficult to achieve than it seems. He could, absolutely, be a rookie of the year candidate in an offense that will make him a borderline-afterthought to opposing defenses, allowing him to feast in advantageous matchups. But don’t panic if Reid brings him along slowly, sharing the load with Williams in 2020 and preparing him to be the full-time RB1 later in the season and going into 2021.  

Edwards-Helaire is a beloved member of the Chiefs organization already. Reid himself said Edwards-Helaire was the guy the team wanted to take all along.

"He is, he's a great kid and such a special football player," Reid said of Edwards-Helaire after the pick. "You saw what he did with the national champs this past year and you talk to the different people there and they tell you what a great competitor he is and what he lacks in size he's got in heart and work ethic. So we sure welcome him to the Chiefs. We're excited to put him in this offense and cut him loose."

Cut him loose they will as he should thrive in an offense like the Chiefs alongside Mahomes, Damien Williams, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce. While he may not be a workhorse out of the gate, he has the skills and potential to turn into an every down back.

"You can tell he’s a high-character guy,” Mahomes said. “He loves football.”

"This is the absolute perfect fit," Edwards-Helaire said after being picked. "They actually did over-the-top homework. This was the opportunity for them to get me and for them to use my skill set. Ultimately, the things I've been hearing is make the best offense even better, which just to think that I would make that impact is special."