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Clyde Edwards-Helaire is Michael Fabiano's 2020 Breakout Player of the Year

Senior expert Michael Fabiano is driving the Clyde Edwards-Helaire breakout bandwagon after ranking him sixth overall and naming his 2020 breakout player of the year


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The ability to predict breakout players in the world of fantasy football can often be the difference between a championship-caliber team and one that fights to stay out of the basement. One of those 2020 breakout players is Chiefs rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

When Kansas City took Edwards-Helaire at the end of the first round of the NFL Draft, it opened eyes in the fantasy football world. After all, most draft analysts and scouts had D’Andre Swift and Jonathan Taylor as the top two running backs in the rookie class.

The first-year runner had major competition in the Chiefs backfield in the form of veteran Damien Williams. In fact, most fantasy analysts were looking at Williams as the Week 1 starter in what promised to be a backfield committee (at least to start the year).

But then, something happened on the way to fantasy football heaven: Williams opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. That left Edwards-Helaire looking at a featured role in head coach Andy Reid's offense smack dab in the face. No longer did fantasy fans have to concern themselves with a dreaded committee scenario. Nope, the rookie appears to have the top spot on the depth chart, and a true featured role, all but locked up in an explosive Chiefs offense.

The words "true featured role" are important in that statement because backs who have earned that right under Reid have often thrived. To find out more, let's jump in the DeLorean, push that baby up to 88 miles an hour and go to Philadelphia, 1999. That was Reid's first season as an NFL head coach, and the first season Duce Staley saw a featured role under the guidance of his new leader. The results were, well, electric.

Staley started 16 games, finishing with 41 catches, a career-high 1,273 rushing yards, and over 1,500 scrimmage yards. In all, he would finish as the RB10 in PPR formats. In 2002, the Eagles would land Brian Westbrook in the third round of the NFL Draft. He shared the workload with Staley, Dorsey Levens, and Correll Buckhalter in 2002-2003 before taking over as the lead runner in 2004. Westbrook went off that year, starting 12 games while posting what were career highs across the board. In all, the Villanova product would produce over 1,500 scrimmage yards and finish as the RB7.

Westbrook would shine as the Eagles top runner, leading the backfield in touches until 2008. That’s the season before the Birds drafted LeSean McCoy in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft. The Shady One had just 155 carries as a rookie, but he took over the top spot the following year (2010) and produced 1,672 scrimmage yards and finished as the RB2 in his first season as the featured back under Reid.

Now, let's kick the DeLorean ahead a few years to 2013. That was Reid's first season as the new head coach in Kansas City. It was also the first season Jamaal Charles was under the watchful eye of the big man with the push-broom mustache. He absolutely thrived in the system, posting career highs in catches, receiving yards, scrimmage yards, and total touchdowns. Charles also finished as the top running back in fantasy football.

See a trend here?

A few seasons later, in 2017, the Chiefs drafted Kareem Hunt in the third round of the draft. He ended up seeing a featured role to start the season after an injury to Spencer Ware, and much like his predecessors, Hunt went off in the stat sheets. The rookie started 16 games, produced nearly 1,800 scrimmage yards, and finished as the RB4.

To review, every single running back has finished as the RB10 or better in his first year as the featured runner under Reid. Every. Single. One. Even Williams, who was never a true “featured” back, had his best fantasy totals in Kansas City playing under Reid.

This trend bodes well for Edwards-Helaire, who is a perfect fit for the Chiefs offense. His versatile skill set makes him a threat to post Hunt-level numbers as a rookie, which is a big reason I have the Glyde ranked sixth among fantasy running backs ahead of 2020.

For those folks worried about taking a rookie that high in drafts, let me remind you that 18 rookie backs have posted 208 or more fantasy points over the last decade. That list includes guys like Hunt, Doug Martin, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, and Saquon Barkley, who all posted 295 points or more in their respective rookie campaigns since 2012.

The trend here is pretty clear, folks. Featured backs have thrived under Reid in their first season in that role. That's exactly what I'm projecting for Edwards-Helaire. That's why he's my top breakout player, just ahead of Eagles RB Miles Sanders, for 2020.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for the latest fantasy football news and analysis!