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 [email protected]#!” 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:

Saquon Barkley 2018 385.8
Eric Dickerson 1983 379.2
Edgerrin James 1999 369.9
Billy Sims 1980 327.4
Ezekiel Elliot 2016 325.4
Alvin Kamara 2017 320.4
Clinton Portis 2002 316.2
Herschel Walker 1986 312.4
Doug Martin 2012 311.6
Fred Taylor 1998 306.4
Matt Forte 2008 304.5
Curt Warner 1983 297.4
Kareem Hunt 2017 295.2
Marshall Faulk 1994 294.4
Gale Sayers 1965 293.5
Curtis Martin 1995 290.8
Cookie Gilchrist 1962 286.5
Ottis Anderson 1979 282.3
Maurice Jones-Drew 2006 277.7
Barry Sanders 1989 273.2
Mike Anderson 2000 272.6
Steve Slaton 2008 271.9
LaDainian Tomlinson 2001 269.3
Joe Cribbs 1980 268.5
Reggie Bush 2006 266.7
Abner Haynes 1960 263.1
Charley Taylor 1964 263.1
George Rogers 1981 261
Earl Cooper 1980 257.7
Trent Richardson 2012 254.7
Alfred Morris 2012 252
Adrian Peterson 2007 251.9
Chris Johnson 2008 249.8
Robert Edwards 1998 249.6
Ricky Watters 1992 248.8
Eddie Lacy 2013 242.5
Terrell Davis 1995 241.4
Don Woods 1974 236.2
Terry Kirby 1993 232.4
Jerome Bettis 1993 231.3
Earl Campbell 1978 230.8
Leonard Fournette 2017 230.2
Jordan Howard 2016 230.1
Ickey Woods 1988 229.5
Tony Dorsett 1977 229.4
Roger Craig 1983 229.2
Marcus Allen 1982 228.7
Christian McCaffrey 2017 228.6
Doak Walker 1950 228.2
Domanick Williams 2003 227.2
Jamal Lewis 2000 227
Joseph Addai 2006 226.6
Corey Dillon 1997 225.8
Willis McGahee 2004 225.7
Kevin Mack 1985 225.1
Matt Snell 1964 224.1
Giovani Bernard 2013 222.9
Phillip Lindsay 2018 222.8
Sid Blanks 1964 222.6
Eddie George 1996 222

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:

DIV 12 47 2 6 2 21 1
CONF 17 45 1 6 5 44 0
SB 17 104 1 8 4 29 1

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. 

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Aaron Pags
2 years ago

About time Cookie Gilchrist got some respek on his name!

2 years ago
Reply to  Aaron Pags

Lol. Nom nom nom

2 years ago
Reply to  Son

Lol. Nom nom nom