Fantasy Football 2020: Predictions For The Kansas City Chiefs Backfield

By Alex Kurpeski

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State

The Kansas City Special

Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the only running back drafted in the first round of this year’s draft. The former LSU standout was the catalyst for the Tigers rushing attack, totaling 1,867 yards and 17 touchdowns while catching 55 passes. Edwards-Helaire averaged 6.6 YPC on 215 rushing attempts, asserting himself as a true three-down back in his first season as the featured runner in LSU’s offense. Say what you will about him being a product of the Joe Burrow/Joe Brady led offense, but from what we’ve seen on tape, Edwards-Helaire looked the part of an elite NFL running back more often than not. At 5’7, 215 lbs, the LSU product uses his lower center of gravity to his advantage as well as any back I’ve seen in the last few years. Like a candlepin bowling ball, Edwards-Helaire plows through tacklers like a hamster on steroids (shoutout Doug “The Muscle Hamster’ Martin by the way) while also displaying nimble footwork and above-average field vision. While everything about him screams “bellcow back”, it’s more likely than not that Edwards-Helaire will be a part of a committee in his first season with the reigning Super Bowl Champions. 

 

Damien Williams, who many have written off completely as a fantasy asset in the wake of Edwards-Helaire joining the team, is expected to be the team’s starting running back in Week 1. Given his familiarity with the team’s system, in conjunction with the goodwill he earned with his heroic performance in the Super Bowl, Williams may very well be the highest usage back in Kansas City’s offense for the bulk of the season. While he’s struggled with injuries and inconsistency in the past, Williams has averaged over 14 fantasy points per game since taking over as the Chiefs starter following the release of Kareem Hunt in 2018. A relatively well-rounded back with tons of speed, Williams should remain a viable fantasy asset even with the addition of Edwards-Helaire. 

Behind these two dynamic runners, there may be a little room for a third back to become fantasy relevant, even if it comes courtesy of some touchdown-dependent redzone work. There should be a fierce competition for the third and fourth spots on the depth chart, with the only question being whether those spots will be filled by 2019 sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson, free agent addition DeAndre Washington (college teammate of Patrick Mahomes), practice squad stash Elijah McGuire, or veteran holdover Darrel Williams. Judging from the investment in him as a free agency pickup, as well as his moderate success from last season (RB40 in PPR last season), I would say that Washington has the best odds to make the final roster from this group. It’s quite possible that he may even have a role as the tertiary back in this rotation, as he is fairly well-rounded and has a ton of experience playing with Mahomes. As for the fourth and final spot in this backfield, I think Thompson’s dynamic abilities as a receiving back should allow him to beat out both Williams and McGuire. With that sorted out, let’s take a look at some projections:

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

  • 909 rushing yards
  • 197 ATT
  • 7 rushing TDs
  • 52 receptions
  • 476 receiving yards
  • 3 receiving TDs
  • 250.5 fantasy points (RB6-13)

Damien Williams

  • 552 rushing yards
  • 150 ATT
  • 3 rushing TD
  • 29 receptions
  • 305 receiving yards
  • 2 receiving TDs
  • 144.7 fantasy points (RB28-38)

DeAndre Washington

  • 187 rushing yards
  • 44 ATT
  • 1 rushing TD
  • 5 receptions
  • 41 receiving yards
  • 0 receiving TD
  • 33.8 fantasy points (RB83-95)

Darwin Thompson

  • 55 rushing yards
  • 16 ATT
  • 0 rushing TD
  • 17 receptions
  • 105 receiving yards
  • 1 receiving TD
  • 39 fantasy points (RB79-92)

There should only be a couple of backs with startable upside from this committee. If everything goes according to plan, Edwards-Helaire should finish as a top-12 fantasy back while offering some touches up to Williams that will allow him to be a somewhat useful asset. 

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