Clyde Edwards-Helaire flashed excellent for the Chiefs as a rookie, but running back wasn’t the right position for Kansas City to address in Round 1.
The Chiefs’ decision to draft running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire at the end of Round 1 in the 2020 draft was the very definition of a luxury pick. In the end, not selecting an offensive lineman with that pick might have cost Andy Reid and his franchise a Super Bowl title.
In fairness to Edwards-Helaire, he was productive for Kansas City as a rookie. The degree of difficulty for him inside the Chiefs’ offense was exceptionally low, but he still managed to produce 803 rushing yards on 181 carries. That grades out to a respectable average of 4.4 yards per touch on the ground.
Throw in 36 catches for 297 yards and it’s easy to understand why the team’s coaching staff was excited to add Edwards-Helaire to their offensive mix. That doesn’t change the reality that the Chiefs could have gotten similar production from a free agent running back or a rookie drafted much later. Spending their only first rounder on Edwards-Helaire came back to haunt Kansas City in the postseason.
Of course, everything was exacerbated by the franchise’s litany of injuries along the offensive line. It’s unfair to criticize Kansas City’s front office for failing to foresee that kind of disastrous luck. It is, however, reasonable to point out that every smart NFL franchise knows that adding a high quality offensive lineman at the end of Round 1 is a superior value play than spending the pick on a running back.
Just imagine how much different the Chiefs’ Super Bowl loss might have gone if they’d used the pick on an offensive lineman who could have held up against Tampa Bay’s ferocious defensive line. Kansas City would not have needed a rookie to play like a Pro Bowler in the biggest game of the season. Performing as anything resembling an average starter might have given Patrick Mahomes the time required to succeed against the Buccaneers’ secondary.
This offseason the Chiefs have correctly decided to completely rebuild their offensive line. Releasing Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz left the franchise with big holes up front. Spending big on Joe Thuney in free agency helped the group take a step forward, but they still need to work hard in the draft to find another starter or two. Kanas City’s front office would be in much better shape if they had a first rounder from the 2020 draft class ready to start at either guard or tackle. Instead, they took a big swing on Edwards-Helaire and ignored their biggest need.