With essentially the whole world in flux right now, NFL players are being forced to make a difficult decision: playing the game they love during a pandemic or opting out for whatever reasons they deemed fit. There will be absolutely no judgement here. I respect any player’s decision to opt out of what is sure to be a crazy season. I will however, analyze the fantasy football impact that these decisions have on this season and the future.
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Damien’s Role on the Chiefs
Say what you will about Damien Williams, but whenever his number is called, he produces. In 2018 Williams filled in admirably for a suspended Kareem Hunt. That year he rushed for 203 yards on 34 carries in the final 3 weeks of the season. He also added 14 catches for 119 yards during that stretch earning him a role going forward with the team.
In 2019 Williams carried the rock 111 times for 498 yards and 5 touchdowns in only 11 games. That all came while splitting time with LeSean McCoy. Williams also came up huge during the Chiefs 2019 Super Bowl run as I easily could have seen him winning Super Bowl MVP.
Williams has been extremely productive when called upon under Andy Reid, but the Chiefs conveniently selected the first running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Next Man Up
The next man up will be just that man: CEH. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, on the heels of one of the greatest college seasons of all time, will step right into the unquestioned starting role for the 2020 Kansas City Chiefs. With that role comes enormous fantasy football upside. The Chiefs have the best offense in football, and with their top two RBs from last year gone, CEH should take on a huge workload right away (i.e. Kareem Hunt in 2017 after Spencer Ware tore his ACL).
With the departures of the aforementioned McCoy and Williams, 212 carries and 71 targets went with them. With no big additions to speak of, CEH should see an extremely large percentage of those.
Only 5 teams ran the ball less than the Chiefs, who ran 375 run plays in 2019. With Williams on the roster, I had projected CEH to receive between 150 and 160 carries and 40 and 50 targets. With Williams gone, I can now see CEH receiving 225-235 carries and 70-80 targets which should have him comfortably in the top 12 by season’s end.
For redraft purposes, CEH has jumped from 21 all the way up to 10 for me. He is a late round 1-early round 2 pick for me and if I am picking anywhere after 8, I will try and snag him.
The Chiefs will more than likely add a running back somewhere, but I still believe CEH will be a workhorse in KC this year. Lamar Miller or Devonta Freeman are the easy options for the Chiefs to sign to a 1-year deal.
Expected Fantasy Production
Now, I don’t put much stock into college numbers. Especially when those college numbers came as a member of the best offense college football has ever seen. We already knew CEH’s talent would translate to the NFL, but we will find out for sure almost immediately now.
I gave my projections for volume above, but will that volume transfer to production is the real question. The short answer is yes. CEH is an explosive runner, great pass catcher, and will fit in just perfectly with this offense.
His top end speed isn’t elite, but his ability to hit a hole hard is. That means CEH, with the OL he has, should have no issues getting to the second level, but you may see him struggle to break away from the second level. He isn’t going to outrun too many DBs, but that is a tiny con in a situation with plenty of pros.
Based on the volume he will be receiving I can see CEH getting just over 1,000 yards on the ground. He will probably catch about 50-60 of those targets for somewhere around 550-600 yards. If he scores 6-8 TDs next year that puts him right in the RB6-10 range which is not outrageous given the volume he will have.
The dynasty fallout from this may be even more impactful than the immediate redraft fantasy impact. I’m sure offers are getting thrown at the CEH owners right now. In the ten minutes following the announcement I have seen 2 owners who have sold him for huge packages. Not only will CEH be changing teams quite a bit in the next few weeks, but CEH has now moved himself up to a top 10 dynasty RB for me.
At 21 years old, CEH is going to immediately take over the starting role for a team with a great OL and the best overall offense in the league. Over the next four years, there is no question who this team’s starting RB will be.
CEH is my 6th ranked running back for dynasty purposes behind only McCaffrey, Saquon, Zeke, Kamara, and Dalvin.
You sell if you have to sell, but keep in mind CEH will likely be a top 10 RB for the next couple of years at a minimum.