Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s #Chiefs Debut — YAC, YUC, or MEH?

Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio takes a deeper look into Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s NFL debut with the Kansas City Chiefs and as impressed as he is with the rookie’s vision and the immediate upside in this offense, the yards after contact metric is misleading. 

The most-touted rookie of the preseason, Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s debut lived up to the buzz if solely looking at the box score. The film also reveals a positive story that gives every indication that Edwards-Helaire should be a productive NFL starter this year in a Chiefs offense that forces opposing defenses to play light boxes inside the 20s because of the constant threat of Patrick Mahomes and his star receiving corps.

Pair a scatback of Edwards-Helaire’s skill with this offensive advantage and give him a line that can push the defense 2-3 yards off the ball, and it will lead to a lot of productive weeks. Based on this performance, those skills that the rookie carried over from LSU include setting up linebackers with creative and precise movements, excellent short-area quickness, and starter-caliber acceleration into the crease.

If this game is indicative of what we’ll see this year, then I’m standing pat with my pre-draft assessment of Edwards-Helaire as an Emmitt Smith Starter Kit—a player with Smith’s acceleration, low center of gravity, movement, and much of Smith’s decision-making savvy. However, the are differences between the Starter Kit and the Real Deal:

  • Power: Smith had it in abundance. As you’ll see below, Edwards-Helaire’s two-plus yards after contact metric from this was is a positive stat that’s clearly out of context with the film and isn’t as valuable of a talking point as it sounds.
  • Understanding of green-zone blocking schemes: Edwards-Helaire’s running back coach placed the blame squarely on the rookie for getting shut out of the end zone. You’ll see how he didn’t read his keys and follow his cutback opportunities with a lead blocker directing the way on three play.
  • Deep speed: This is not an essential trait for a productive career. Edwards-Helaire isn’t even as fast as Smith, who was capable of long runs but wasn’t a burner in his own right. It’s not a career-killing; I’m simply pointing out the differences between the two options.

The strengths of his game and his offense will put him well within the range of delivering production among the top 15-20 backs in the league. However, if Edwards-Helaire earns the buzz that he will be a top-five running back in terms of 2020 productivity, he’ll have to score touchdowns and break tackles. It’s early but so far, he has work to do or it won’t happen.

For the most in-depth analysis of offensive skill players available (QB, RB, WR, and TE), download the 2020  Rookie Scouting Portfolio for $21.95.  

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