Big news out of Kansas City as the Chiefs announced that Damien Williams will opt out of the 2020 season.
Anyone can let you know what happened. But with Williams out of the picture this season, what does that actually mean for the rest of the Kansas City backfield?
We asked our staff to offer their thoughts on how to best answer that question.
The news of Damien Williams opting out of the 2020 season has sent shockwaves across the fantasy community which automatically elevates rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire into a mid-late first-round selection. Kansas City may decide to pursue a veteran back to join the club but this is now Edwards-Helaire's backfield which could result in double-digit touchdowns for the rookie in a prominent role on a leading offense, not to mention 30-50 receptions. Ultimately, Edwards-Helaire becomes a hot target for a top 10 fantasy back in 2020. His redraft status now moves up to a mid-first round selection after Derrick Henry or Dalvin Cook depending on how you rank them. For me, it would be after Derrick Henry. Pick 1.06 seems to be the early sweet spot for when he could be drafted. As for Williams, he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2020, so this may mean he has played his last game with the Chiefs. Devonta Freeman or Lamar Miller are possible veteran targets, but also on the depth chart are Darrel Williams, DeAndre Washington, and last year's hype-darling, Darwin Thompson.
I was very bullish on Edwards-Helaire longer-term for dynasty leagues and wrote in February about how he had the best big-game performance of any player in college football last year. However, I was a bit worried that the lack of an offseason and presence of Damien Williams could lead him to get off to a slow start in his rookie season and have not been targeting him in the 2nd round in redraft leagues. With Williams out of the way now, there is no reason to expect a committee approach from the Chiefs. They drafted Edwards-Helaire in the first round to be the guy.
It is easy to get excited about his fantasy upside in this offense. Chiefs running back have scored 42 touchdowns over the last two seasons and put up huge numbers in each of the last two postseasons, as well. Kansas City has so much speed at wide receiver, it makes life easy for the running backs. Edwards-Helaire is going to face a lot of nickel and dime defenses and should have room to run. His upside is especially exciting in PPR leagues. Edwards-Helaire smashed the receiving record for SEC running backs last season and is a major mismatch out of the backfield.
In PPR, I would rank Edwards-Helaire all the way up at RB5, just ahead of Dalvin Cook (minor holdout risk). He is going to catch a lot of passes in this offense. In standard scoring, I still like Edwards-Helaire as a first-rounder but rank him as RB8 behind guys like Henry, Cook, and Mixon who probably will rack up more yards on the ground.
I do not believe Edwards-Helaire will get more than 250 touches so it will mean savvy fantasy players must identify the upside back on the depth chart. I am going with veteran DeAndre Washington. His style is a great fit for the Chiefs.
If throwing a dart late in your fantasy draft, Washington has big-time upside in a very prolific offense.
I am upping my projected production for Edwards-Helaire but I am not convinced that this development makes him worth his ADP. The Chiefs have three experienced backs who could still keep Edwards-Helaire in a committee role, albeit a potentially larger share for him.
Darrel Williams brings a power element that Edwards-Helaire lacks. Darwin Thompson earned praise from the coaches after the draft for his consistent growth as a rookie. Thompson has superior contact balance, power, and speed to Edwards-Helaire. He’s also a more promising pass protector. Thompson has a chance to benefit significantly from the opt-out.
There’s also DeAndre Washington, who played well down the stretch for the Raiders. He’s the most experienced back but probably the least impressive runner.
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