How Damien Williams’ Opt Out Impacts Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s Fantasy Ranking, More
Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Damien Williams was the first notable fantasy football player to opt out of the 2020 NFL season.
Our trio of fantasy football rankers are here to analyze what Williams’ opt out means for Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s outlook, updated their rankings for CEH, and identify the best late-round fliers who benefit from Williams’ decision.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s Fantasy Outlook Without Damien Williams
Sean is Action’s Director of Predictive Analytics and was FantasyPros‘ No. 1 fantasy football draft ranker of 2019.
I’ve been high on CEH ever since the Chiefs drafted him at the end of the first round. He’s the perfect fit in the NFL’s most explosive offense. I was less worried about Damien Williams’ presence than most, and felt he was worth being selected as a top-15 RB this season. However, with Damien out of the picture, it shoots CEH up my board even more.
I now have him projected as the RB9 and part of Tier 4 along with Nick Chubb and Joe Mixon.
Still, we shouldn’t get ahead of our skis too much here. The Chiefs may end up signing a free agent like Devonta Freeman to replace Damien Williams, in which case we’ll need to adjust accordingly. Either way, I think the Chiefs view CEH as the workhorse back heading into the season, which means he has legitimate top-five upside.
Whoever ends up being the No. 2 in this backfield will have significant value as a high-upside bench stash to start the season. Unfortunately, we have a three-way race between Darwin Thompson, Darrell Williams and DeAndre Washington.
If CEH were to miss any time, I would treat Darrell Williams as the potential short-yardage, goal-line back while Washington would chip in on third downs. That means Thompson would be the favorite to be the true CEH replacement. He had a bit of an up-and-down rookie season but has the potential to break out in Year 2 if given a chance. He’s worth a late-round flier right now in the RB55-60 range.
I’ve already been advocating that Freeman is worth drafting at his current ADP of RB51, but that window may close soon if he does end up signing with the Chiefs. Either way, he’s in a position to land on a team on which his stock will rise. Players still have until Aug. 3 to opt out of the 2020 season, so there’s a non-zero chance we’ll see another prominent RB choose to sit the season out.
Freeman is worth the flier at RB51 before it’s too late.
Matthew is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs and was the sixth-most accurate FantasyPros ranker in 2017.
Before he opted out of the 2020 season, Damien Williams led the Chiefs in rushing production in my projections: Even with the selection of Edwards-Helaire in Round 1, I expected the Kansas City backfield to be a timeshare with the rushing edge going to Williams and the receiving edge going to CEH.
Now, CEH looks slated to get it all.
The Chiefs could always sign a veteran, but when Spencer Ware suffered a season-ending injury in 2017, Andy Reid simply went with a next-man-up approach even though the backup was a third-round rookie in Kareem Hunt.
You probably don’t need me to remind you of this, but I’ll do it anyway: Hunt led the league in rushing and had a robust 1,782 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage on 272 carries, 63 targets and 53 receptions that season — in an offense quarterbacked by Alex Smith.
If Hunt could do that as a rookie in a Smith-led system, imagine what Edwards-Helaire could do in a high-octane offense powered by Patrick Mahomes.
Reid is not averse to giving one back the supermajority of the work, even if that back is a rookie. And given that the Chiefs just invested the No. 32 overall pick in CEH, who is probably already a top-six receiving back, I’m now expecting him to get all the work he can handle.
Is it embarrassing for me to say that I now have Edwards-Helaire projected as the No. 3 overall fantasy running back in all formats? Yeah, a little. But that embarrassment will surely be overcome months from now by the joy I feel when he wins Offensive Rookie of the Year at the 25-1 odds I got on draft night.
With Williams out, Washington has gotten a slight bump in his projections and a major bump in his latent potential. He’s now the presumptive No. 2 back in the offense, he has strong receiving abilities, and I think he actually has three-down lead-back upside: In his two final collegiate seasons, he had 2,595 yards rushing, 713 yards receiving and 20 total touchdowns in 25 games playing alongside a young underclassman quarterback named … checking my notes … Patrick Mahomes.
Washington is worth a late-round selection.
Chris was the fourth-most accurate FantasyPros ranker in 2019. He’s watched every NFL snap since 2010.
With Damien Williams out of the picture, Edwards-Helaire becomes a first-round fantasy pick.
This situation is reminiscent of 2017, when the plan was to split carries between veteran holdover Spencer Ware and rookie Kareem Hunt. Then when Ware went down for the year in the preseason, the plan shifted: Hunt saw 325 touches, and no other back on the roster saw more than 45.
CEH proved he can handle a large workload down the stretch for LSU last season, with touch counts of 33, 29, 27, 22, 22 and 21 over his six of his final eight games. He also ranked eighth of 187 qualifiers with 0.33 missed tackles forced per attempt, according to Pro Football Focus, and it should be even easier to evade tackles against defenses also worried about Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins.
I would draft CEH as high as the RB7, over Joe Mixon.