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My pops wasn’t a man of many words, but when he spoke, he morphed into the Korean E. F. Hutton. Of course, I was a knucklehead for most of my life, so the words didn’t register with me until much later. I’m a stupid, stupid man. Regardless, one phrase that did always stick with me was, “Potential don’t mean s@#!” He wasn’t saying that it was worthless, only that hard work and actual productivity trumped it. I think about that phrase often when it comes to fantasy football, especially when it comes to incoming rookies. We get so hyped, by either the physical gifts or situation, that we prematurely ejaculate all over ourselves. Clyde Edwards-Helaire being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round could be the next sticky situation with Damien Williams being the value we should be targeting. Let’s dig in and see what we can uncover.

CEH was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, so the draft capital portends for plenty of fantasy goodness. He also profiles very similarly to Brian Westbrook, who was a star for Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Finally, the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs were second in the NFL last season, scoring 29.9 points per game. Unless Mahomes gets injured, the Chiefs should have one of the most explosive offenses in the league. So, the talent, draft capital, and situation are all great for CEH entering the 2020 fantasy football season. 

But, but, but…..

In NFFC drafts from 5/1 to 7/5, CEH is being drafted as the 21st overall player and 14th running back off the board. How much profit can be mined at this price and how safe is he?

Last season, Todd Gurley finished as the 14th running back and scored 221.40 points in PPR leagues. Since the beginning of NFL time, there have been 60 rookie running backs who have scored at least 220 fantasy points. If that sounds like a lot, know that there have been 4,986 running backs drafted in the history of the league. So, only 1% of running backs in the forever ever of the NFL have scored at least 220 PPR fantasy points. Out of the 60 rookie running backs, 36 were first-round selection. In the history of the NFL, there have been 456 running backs selected in the first round, so 7% of first-round running backs have achieved the feat. Here’s the 60:

NAMEYEARPPR
Saquon Barkley2018385.8
Eric Dickerson1983379.2
Edgerrin James1999369.9
Billy Sims1980327.4
Ezekiel Elliot2016325.4
Alvin Kamara2017320.4
Clinton Portis2002316.2
Herschel Walker1986312.4
Doug Martin2012311.6
Fred Taylor1998306.4
Matt Forte2008304.5
Curt Warner1983297.4
Kareem Hunt2017295.2
Marshall Faulk1994294.4
Gale Sayers1965293.5
Curtis Martin1995290.8
Cookie Gilchrist1962286.5
Ottis Anderson1979282.3
Maurice Jones-Drew2006277.7
Barry Sanders1989273.2
Mike Anderson2000272.6
Steve Slaton2008271.9
LaDainian Tomlinson2001269.3
Joe Cribbs1980268.5
Reggie Bush2006266.7
Abner Haynes1960263.1
Charley Taylor1964263.1
George Rogers1981261
Earl Cooper1980257.7
Trent Richardson2012254.7
Alfred Morris2012252
Adrian Peterson2007251.9
Chris Johnson2008249.8
Robert Edwards1998249.6
Ricky Watters1992248.8
Eddie Lacy2013242.5
Terrell Davis1995241.4
Don Woods1974236.2
Terry Kirby1993232.4
Jerome Bettis1993231.3
Earl Campbell1978230.8
Leonard Fournette2017230.2
Jordan Howard2016230.1
Ickey Woods1988229.5
Tony Dorsett1977229.4
Roger Craig1983229.2
Marcus Allen1982228.7
Christian McCaffrey2017228.6
Doak Walker1950228.2
Domanick Williams2003227.2
Jamal Lewis2000227
Joseph Addai2006226.6
Corey Dillon1997225.8
Willis McGahee2004225.7
Kevin Mack1985225.1
Matt Snell1964224.1
Giovani Bernard2013222.9
Phillip Lindsay2018222.8
Sid Blanks1964222.6
Eddie George1996222

Shout out to Steve Slaton! Out of the above list, 45 could be considered bell cow running backs, as they received at least 200 carries. According to FantasyPros, CEH is projected for 163 carries and I doubt he’s a bell cow back, as Damien Williams will still be involved. If I sort the above list by carries, the best comps for CEH would be Giovani Bernard, Maurice Jones-Drew, Reggie Bush, Alvin Kamara, and Christian McCaffrey, as all were in time shares their rookie year. Bernard had BenJarvus Green-Ellis, MJD had Fred Taylor, Bush had Deuce McAllister, Kamara had Mark Ingram, and CMC had Jonathan Stewart

The ceiling outcomes for CEH would be MJD, Bush, Kamara, and CMC. MJD scored 13 touchdowns on the ground that season, so it’s unlikely CEH replicates. Could it happen? Sure, but the Chiefs had 17 carries within the five yard line last season. Damien Williams had three, Travis Kelce had one, Darwin Thompson had one, Darrel Williams had five, and LeSean McCoy had seven. MJD had a red-zone carry percentage in the 60-70% his rookie year. I doubt that happens for CEH in Kansas City.

As for the comps to Bush, Kamara, and CMC, I just don’t see the necessary targets for CEH to compete. All three of Bush, Kamara, and CMC received over 100 targets those years. If I dig a little deeper, Sean Payton-led teams have always targeted the running backs heavily. In 13 years as a coach, his teams have averaged 146.15 targets to the halfback position, with four seasons in which one back garnered at least 100 targets. In 21 years, Andy Reid-led teams have averaged 104.86 targets to the halfback position, with only two seasons in which a back received at least 100 targets. 

The Gio Bernard rookie season of 170 carries for 695 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns with 56 receptions, 514 yards, and 3 touchdowns seems the most likely outcome for CEH’s season. That’s not a bad season, and would be in-line with where he is being drafted. With that said, most drafters seem to be expecting the Kamara-esque season. I just don’t see it.

The natural pivot would be to draft Damien Williams, who is being selected as the 31st running back and 69th overall player. He plays in the same explosive offense as CEH and has already proven that he can produce. He had two games rushing for over 100 yards during the regular season and received at least 5 targets in four games. During the playoffs, he went:

 RUSH ATTRUSH YDSRUSH TDSTGTRECREC YDSREC TDS
DIV1247262211
CONF1745165440
SB17104184291

Rudy has CEH projected as the 26th running back with Williams at 45. I think the Williams projection is too low, but whatever. The main point is that there’s upside where he’s being drafted, while everything would have to break right for CEH.