The Kansas City Chiefs selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft thinking he would be the ideal running back to plug into their offense because of his versatile skills.
"He's just a unique talent," general manager Brett Veach said. "The guy is explosive, he has the ability to kind of make things out of nothing and that's kind of the one thing you look at with these running backs. I mean, this guy can consistently make plays when there really is nothing there to be made, so again, throwing him in now with Tyreek [Hill] and Sammy [Watkins] and Travis [Kelce] and Mecole [Hardman] on the outside, we think it's going to be really exciting."
Veach and the Chiefs will find out whether they were right sooner than they thought. Their plans to have Edwards-Helaire share the featured back spot as a rookie with Damien Williams are scrapped after Williams told the Chiefs he plans to opt out of the season because of COVID-19 concerns.
Williams led the Chiefs in rushing last season and scored the team's final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of their comeback Super Bowl LIV win against the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs have other backs, including Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson from last season's team and free-agent addition DeAndre Washington. But after losing Williams and LeSean McCoy, whom Kansas City did not re-sign as a free agent, the Chiefs are without their two top rushers from 2019 and will now have to lean heavily on Edwards-Helaire.
In an indication of just how much the season outlook for Edwards-Helaire has changed in light of Williams' decision, look at how Caesars Sportsbook has adjusted its odds for the rookie. Edwards-Helaire has gone from 250-1 to 75-1 to win NFL MVP, from 75-1 to 20-1 to win the league rushing title and from 11-2 to 4-1 to win offensive player of the year.
"I think the kid is just a special kid," offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. "You've seen some of the things he's done on tape as far as running the ball, having the ability to get outside in the open field and make some plays as a receiver. You can create [favorable] matchups with him. He's one of those ideal kids that fits in what we do."
Edwards-Helaire said the night he was drafted he thought he was a good fit in the Chiefs' offensive system. Coach Andy Reid usually demands his backs be skilled in catching the ball out of the backfield.
Edwards-Helaire said recently, after getting a taste of what the Chiefs have in store for him, that his opinion hasn't changed.
"I completely stand on what I said draft night as far as Kansas City being a perfect fit," he said. "I was able to see things at the combine as far as me understanding what they do as an offense. Coach Reid and Coach [Bieniemy] literally explained, 'This is what we run.'
"Everything is pretty much exactly what I was told it would be. They didn't lie about anything. They hit the nail on the head."
Edwards-Helaire will have to show the Chiefs he has mastered their playbook, though he said that wouldn't be a problem.
"The playbook, as far as not having to do school, I feel like it's easy," he said. "I've had offensive coordinators, multiple offenses I had to learn year in and year out so this is nothing new.
"This is my happy place. I've only been on Earth 21 years and I've been playing football since I was 5 so this is what I do."
He will also have to prove to the Chiefs he can be a reliable pass-blocker. Running backs don't play much for Reid until they show they can.
"He does have the willingness to block," Bieniemy said. "He understands that's a huge asset that's going to help him moving forward to get him on the field and contributing to what we do on our side of the ball. He does have the attitude and mindset to get it done. I'm not concerned with that."