2020 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Fantasy Football)
To date, the Fantasy Footballers writing staff has been pumping out some awesome rookie profile articles to get you ready for the NFL Draft and your dynasty rookie draft. The train keeps rolling here with another very talented running back out of LSU, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, and Jonathan Taylor are considered the cream of the crop in this 2020 rookie RB class but don’t sleep on the former LSU Tiger. Let’s dive into his college production profile, his NFL Combine numbers, and his college tape.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH) is today’s NFL running back: an elite pass-catcher who can stay on the field on all three downs. He is versatile and can line up in the backfield or in the slot and is a matchup nightmare against linebackers and safeties. Currently going in the back half of Round 1 of rookie drafts in dynasty leagues according to the latest ADP, Edwards-Helaire is a player who could skyrocket up rookie rankings if he lands in the right spot with a creative offensive coordinator or head coach who knows how to get his weapons in space.
Editor’s Note: For more on the 2020 rookie class, check out all of our 2020 NFL Draft content and stay tuned to the Fantasy Footballers podcast for April’s Rookie Preview show where the Ballers breakdown each position heading into the draft
College Production Profile[lptw_table id=”162974″ style=”default”]
On the surface, Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s college production doesn’t really pop off the page given that it was a relatively slow start for him in his first couple of seasons in college. Let’s not forget when he stepped on campus in Baton Rouge as a freshman, but he was playing behind future NFL Draft 2nd round pick, Derrius Guice. In 2018, Edwards-Helaire was able to take a step forward and start producing for the Tigers but this was still in a role player as the RB2 on the depth chart behind the starter, Nick Brossette, who ran for over 1,000 yards and 14 TD in 2018 as a senior. Worth noting, CEH did lead the Tigers in all-purpose yards in 2018, so despite the fact that he doesn’t have gaudy numbers, he was effective in all facets of the game – rushing, receiving, and returning kicks.
But, in 2019, it was finally Clyde’s time to shine, and he certainly did not disappoint when given the opportunity, helping the Tigers win the 2019 National Championship while earning first-team All-SEC honors. Edwards-Helaire led the SEC in rushing TD in 2019 and ranked second in the conference in rushing yards. Moreover, he was tied for 11th in the entire country in rushing TD and finished 15th in rushing yards at the running back position.
This LSU Tiger running back didn’t just show impressive production on the ground. As I eluded to earlier, he has shown an impressive ability to catch the football out of the backfield, and as you’ll notice in the table above, that passing catching production came to fruition in Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s junior season. What changed? The LSU Tigers brought in former New Orleans Saints offensive assistant, Joe Brady, to the be the team’s passing game coordinator. Saints RB Alvin Kamara caught 81 footballs in 2017 and in 2018. Among all other NFL running backs, Kamara ranked second and fourth in receptions in those two seasons, respectively.
Joe Brady and the offensive scheme really opened things up for the pass catchers in the offense, including Clyde Edwards-Helaire. CEH caught 55 passes in his junior season with Brady helping to make the Tigers’ offense one of most explosive in college football. Edwards-Helaire’s junior season is a glimpse into what type of running back he can become at the next level if a team utilizes his pass-catching ability.
Side note – Joe Brady is now the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. As if you needed any more reason to draft Christian McCaffrey, it looks like he’s going to catch a lot of footballs in 2020.
NFL Scouting Combine Measurements[lptw_table id=”162977″ style=”default”]
Based on his NFL Combine testing, Clyde Edwards-Helaire doesn’t really profile as the most athletic back in this class, but he showed enough at the Combine. CEH ranked inside the top-10 at the RB position in the vertical and the broad jump, showing some explosiveness in his game, which does show up on tape (we’ll get to that next). His 4.60 40-yard dash does leave a bit to be desired, especially for a running back of his compact size at 5′,7″. When you compare his time to other top backs in this class, he’s certainly not considered the fastest back in the class, but for the way he plays the game, he’s fast enough. He may lack the top-end speed to break off a 70-yard TD run, but there’s enough on tape to suggest that Edwards-Helaire’s playing style doesn’t rely on top-end speed to be successful. Let’s break it down.
What’s On Tape
When I evaluate a running back prospect on film, I do my best to try to evaluate the player independently of the guys around him. For example, it doesn’t help us if a player plays behind an elite offensive line and doesn’t get touched for six yards. For a running back, it’s important to evaluate footwork, vision, pass protection, pass-catching ability, agility, and quickness, among other attributes.
Games viewed: Utah State (2019), Texas (2019), Auburn (2019), Alabama (2019), Clemson (2019), Vanderbilt (2019), Florida (2018)
1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is probably the best pass-catching running back in the 2020 class.
There’s a reason I’ve mentioned CEH’s pass-catching ability multiple times already in this article. It’s easily his best attribute, and it shows up on film time and time again. He catches the ball naturally with his hands and knows what to do when he has the ball in his hands in space. Edwards-Helaire is also a very good route runner, especially for a running back. If he gets matched up in space 1 on 1 with a linebacker, his route running is good enough to create space, creating a reliable check down option for the quarterback.
2. Ball security is clearly not an issue.
Despite carrying the football 214 times and catching 55 passes, Clyde Edwards-Helaire only put the ball on the ground twice all season. It’s an impressive stat, especially for a rookie running back at the next level where we’ve seen NFL coaching staffs “punish” backs for fumbling issues. CEH carries the ball high and tight and knows how to protect the football for his team. In theory, this should help him stay on the field in the NFL.
3. Clyde Edwards-Helaire can make defenders miss in a phone booth.
This analogy is used a lot when talking about a prospect’s “make you miss” ability, but it fits Edwards-Helaire perfectly. CEH has a spin move and a jump cut that makes defenders miss with consistency. He’s also got excellent ability to regain his footing after making contact with a defender to continue to churn out extra yards.
1. Outside runs to the perimeter are not the strength of Edwards-Helaire’s game.
As stated above, long speed is not a strength for CEH. On tape, he struggles to get to the edge and at times, linebackers or safeties beat him to the spot. This could limit his upside as a home run hitter, so to speak.
2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is likely to concede carries in short-yardage situations or at the goal line.
Let me be clear, CEH can win at the goal line, but at 5’7″ he doesn’t profile as a short-yardage back or a goal-line back at the NFL. There were multiple times on film where he was stuffed at the line in these types of situations. Again, I’m not saying he can’t do it, but power isn’t necessarily a major strength for Edwards-Helaire.
2020 Fantasy Outlook
Clyde Edwards-Helaire should have the opportunity to contribute right away to an NFL roster in his rookie season in 2020 given his pass-catching ability. At worst, he profiles as a third-down back, but I think he can be much more than that. As previously, stated, he is today’s NFL running back – quick, elusive, and an excellent pass catcher out of the backfield. He can line up all over the field and can be a PPR monster. He profiles as a back who will touch the ball 15-18 times per game but is likely to carry the rock 10-12 times and catch five or so passes per game, and in today’s NFL, it works.
Look for CEH to be a “sleeper” pick in redraft leagues, especially if he lands on a roster with an incumbent starter already in place. In dynasty formats, he’s a player who should be a lock in the first round of your rookie drafts, especially if he gets the draft capital in next month’s NFL Draft. Early mocks have CEH being taken in the 2nd round, suggesting that an NFL offense should give him every opportunity to develop as a featured back in his first couple of seasons in the league. If he lands with a creative offense that knows how to get the running back the ball in space, CEH is going to be a PPR monster for years to come.