Fantasy Football Slack and Forth: Clyde Edwards-Helaire Versus Jonathan Taylor
Man, the draft can change a lot.
Before last week's NFL Draft, the debate in dynasty football circles for the rookie RB1 was between Jonathan Taylor or D'Andre Swift. It was those two all offseason. Taylor versus Swift. We talked about it. Everyone talked about it.
Then Clyde Edwards-Helaire went to the Chiefs and everything done changed.
CEH landing in the dreamiest of dream spots coupled with Swift being taken by the Lions has changed the rookie RB1 argument to Taylor or Edwards-Helaire.
I chatted (on Slack) with fellow numberFire editor and writer Elisha Twerski to see where he stood on the CEH vs. Taylor debate -- generously giving him a chance to stop thinking about the draft his beloved Packers just had.
Here's what we had to say.
Austan Kas: Edwards-Helaire and Taylor have vaulted to the top of the rookie running back rankings in dynasty, going 1-2, respectively, at the position (second and third overall, behind Joe Burrow) in a recent staff superflex rookie mock. Both have a lot of appeal, obviously. Which one gets the edge for you and why?
Elisha Twerski: Let me start off by saying that I really like both players. They were both highly productive and had fantastic measurables to back it up. That said, CEH is an easy pick for me. I thought he was the most complete back going into the draft, and he couldn't have landed in a more perfect spot. A back that's tied to Patrick Mahomes for the foreseeable future is one that makes me salivate.
He's a compact guy, so I'm not worried about the hits taking a toll more than I'd be worried with any other back -- in fact, his BMI (body mass index) was in the 89th percentile, according to PlayerProfiler. He also had 529 fewer touches at the collegiate level than Taylor did, which is huge from a dynasty perspective.
I could go on and on about CEH, but instead of rambling, I'll let you get a word in now. Which player do you fancy?
Austan Kas: I agree with you -- both guys should be studs. But I'm siding with Taylor. I loved him as a prospect, and while the landing spot with the Colts might not be great for 2020 since Marlon Mack is still around, I think Taylor has a chance to have a stellar career as a three-down monster behind Indy's stout offensive line.
As a prospect, he had a super well-rounded profile and was the most complete running back prospect in the class for me. Taylor's final-year total touchdown share (46.43%) and total yards per team play (2.36) were both elite marks. According to PlayerProfiler, he had a college dominator rating -- the percentage of yards and touchdowns he accounted for in his team's offense -- of 41.8%, a mark which ranks in the 93rd percentile. Taylor's speed score (121.7), something that factors in his size, is in the 99th percentile, and his 40 time (4.39) is in the 98th percentile. Again, he's got very well-rounded profile.
Playerprofiler and our JJ Zachariason both comp him to Ezekiel Elliott. I know that's high, high praise. But Taylor checks a ton of boxes, and as long as he's not a dud in the passing game, which he shouldn't be given his solid 10.6% reception share in 2019, he has all the makings of a yearly RB1 for a few seasons, starting in 2021, assuming Mack still gets a fair share of volume in 2020.
I know landing spot matters -- it's super important -- but are you worried at all that CEH's appeal and rise to the top of the class is too dependent on being with KC? Or is this a case where the landing spot is just so perfect that it's worth it?
Elisha Twerski: I'm not at all worried about his appeal being too dependent on his landing spot -- we're talking about a guy who I had ranked as one of the 25 best overall players in the draft.
I see some similarities to when Kareem Hunt came into this offense. Similar size. Neither had uber impressive Speed Scores, but their Burst Scores -- which is a more important indicator at the position, in my opinion -- were more than compelling. In Clyde's case, he was in the 89th percentile. Both players have exceptional agility, and they can jump-cut with the best of them. CEH is more compact and powerful, has a bigger repertoire of moves, and is a much more polished receiver than Hunt was coming out.
Now would be a good time to mention that Hunt posted 2,984 total yards and 25 scores in his 27 games with Kansas City. That production can easily be Edwards-Helaire's once he surpasses Damien Williams on the depth chart.
Are you concerned at all about Taylor's wear and tear and fumbling issues at Wisconsin? He had 968 touches and 18 fumbles in three seasons -- compared to just 439 and 2 for CEH.
Austan Kas: I can see both sides of Taylor's big college volume. The positive is we know he can handle a massive workload. The negative, of course, is that he handled said massive workload. Will that hurt him when he's on his second contract down the road? Maybe. But when picking a running back in dynasty, I'm hyper-focused on those first four years and getting some elite production in that window, which I think Taylor can and will provide.
The fumbles are no doubt a concern, and that's a quick way to find the pine. With that said, I'd think Indy might be more inclined to cut Taylor some slack (couldn't avoid the pun), because it seems like they really like him. General manager Chris Ballard has been pretty conservative in most of his moves with the Colts, but he traded up to go get Taylor, which means something to me.
I want to reiterate that I like both of these guys. I think Edwards-Helaire is a much better version of Williams, and we've seen what Williams can d when he's been given steady volume these last two postseasons. CEH should be a fantasy baller, especially in PPR and half-PPR.
What concerns, if any, do you have with CEH?
Elisha Twerski: our puns are slacking off -- I probably should just retire on that note, but I'll keep going.
I see your point that Taylor's workload can be a positive sign for the first few years of his career. I do think we'll see elite production from him, especially behind that line.
My biggest concern with CEH is that all of his production came in one of the most dominant offenses we've ever seen in college football. How would he do if defensive coordinators had the ability to zero in on him? I think he'd be just fine. I'm a big believer in his talent. And there's a chance we won't have to find out anytime soon, given the offense he's about to join.
Another minor concern is his catch radius. His 29-inch arms could hinder him a bit as a receiver. That said, Christian McCaffrey has a similar radius, and he seems to be doing okay.
CEH is a 4.6 guy, so on paper, his breakaway speed isn't remarkable. But the game's not played on paper. I'll be okay with him getting caught from behind on a long run where he's made multiple people miss, and I'm sure the Chiefs would be too.
Overall, none of his concerns are very concerning.
Are you worried at all about Indy's uncertainty at quarterback playing a role in the future for Taylor?
Austan Kas: Quarterback is a concern, for sure. But I have a lot of faith in Ballard and Frank Reich to keep the offense competitive even if Philip Rivers ends up being washed. The Colts have now spent Round 2 picks on wideouts in consecutive years, and T.Y. Hilton still has gas left in the tank. If Rivers does well this year, I'd expect Indy to do everything they can to resign him for 2021 (and maybe beyond). If Rivers stinks, then maybe they turn back to Jacoby Brissett (though he's a free agent at season's end), hand the keys to Jacob Eason or draft a quarterback early in 2021.
I most worry about both Mack and Nyheim Hines eating away at Taylor's touches in 2020. It could be a situation this fall -- and I'm just guessing here -- where Taylor gets, like, 60% of the touches, compared to Mack at 25% and Hines at 15%. While there aren't many true three-down workhorses anymore, Taylor would need to be efficient with that volume to return high-end RB2 numbers in 2020. But there's also a chance Taylor makes Mack irrelevant from Day 1.
Starting in 2021, Mack will likely be gone (2020 is the final year of his deal), so it should be Taylor's show then, with Hines possibly spelling him in some passing situations. I do like Hines as a player, so maybe he'll get more work than I'm accounting for once Mack walks.
While I like Taylor better for dynasty, in redraft, I'd lean CEH unless all preseason signs point to Taylor being a clear lead back from the jump.
So we've pretty much made our cases here. Before we bounce, is there any other back in this class who you'd put up with these two? Or are Taylor and CEH (notice the order lol) a tier above the pack?
Elisha Twerski: I might actually prefer Taylor in standard redraft leagues. I'd certainly go with CEH in any PPR formats.
I have Dobbins in his own tier right below CEH and Taylor (peep the order). After those three, it's a big drop-off for me.
Austan Kas: I agree with ya there. I think Dobbins is the clear RB3 in the class right now, and if the Baltimore Ravens shed Mark Ingram after this coming season, Dobbins could feast in 2021 and beyond. I'm not sure he's very close to either CEH or Taylor, though. And I'm still trying to figure out what in the heck to do with Swift in Detroit!
Elisha Twerski: Detroit is already misusing one talented running back, why not make it two?