'Why Clyde Edwards-Helaire?'
The NFL values running backs that can beat you with their versatility, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH) does just that.
CEH is the most versatile receiver in this deep & talented running back class, but he is much more than your traditional pass catcher.
1 - Proficiency on Angle & Option routes
CEH has the ability to bait a leverage shift during both angle & option routes.
Watch how #24 bites on the big ‘flash’ on step three, then CEH almost simultaneously spins through the engagement post-catch.
We again see the defender baited to change leverage due to CEH’s understanding of how to vary tempo & how deceptive changing the size of joint angles can be.
Step 1: Small closed angle right
Step 2: Small closed angle left
Step 3: Large open angle right
CEH will be a mismatch for linebackers at the next level.
His ability to create quick separation in the short to intermediate areas will be a valuable weapon for his NFL offensive coordinator.
We also see one of the weaknesses of CEH's overall game show up here, his play speed.
Want to know why Alvin Kamara is considered one of the best receiving backs in NFL history?
He has mastered the option route.
This is the bread & butter of Kamara's game, and it will become the same for CEH.
Like Kamara, CEH is nearly unguardable on option routes and consistently reads the backers leverage correctly.
Also, the quick spin CEH does post catch is a move not many can make, and he does so with an even higher degree of difficulty because he uses that spin to propel him into acceleration.
2 - Skill set as a receiver
Even though pass protection may be an issue at the NFL level, an element of CEH's game that will keep him on the field on third downs is his proficiency when operating from the slot.
CEH has reliable hands and consistently makes away from frame catches despite his short stature.
The appeal of CEH as a receiver in the short to intermediate areas continues with his ability to consistently create yards after the catch.
He seamlessly transitions from receiver to runner.
3 - Manipulating 2nd level defenders
What is ‘vision?’
We hear that ‘x back has good vision’ all the time, but what are components that go into it?
Two important ones aspects are:
Watch the safety's feet. What is this the cause of?
CEH recognizes he has a two option, two on two situation.
He manipulates the safety by 'flashing' towards the inside option.
This causes a false step from the safety.
CEH creates space with his eyes, then his feet to seal the deal on a standard inside zone concept.
An underrated ability of good NFL running backs, is running to leverage not 'space,' especially in a short field.
We see his linemen #79 & #68 win their combo block on the defender, which will effectively push leverage inside, opening a gap.
CEH staying square to the defender is what makes this play successful, he doesn't panic and understands the importance of timing.
Recognize & manipulate.
CEH is square towards the sideline this time when he takes away opportunity away from the safety.
Baits the defender towards his outside hip then takes that away by dropping his angles & re-accelerating upfield.
CEH doesn’t have great long speed, but that isn’t a running back prerequisite.
Contrary to popular belief.
4 - Winning early engagements
One of CEH’s best attributes as a rusher is how he consistently wins during periods of early engagement.
Being able to do this efficiently separates him from other backs in this class.
Here he immediately identifies the unblocked defender & reacts accordingly.
CEH displays great instincts coupled with strong reactive movement skills.
Important qualities for an NFL back.
Again, we see CEH able to react accordingly to early engagement by the free defender, then efficiently enter acceleration.
Notice how he takes away outside opportunity from #15 allowing him to get upfield.
5 - Spinning through contact
Something I love about CEH is his ability to propel himself into acceleration while spinning through engagements.
However, CEH does appear to have trouble creating natural separation from backers & safeties during initial acceleration.
Usually, athletes always have a ‘go-to’ maneuver during one on one situations.
CEH and his ability to chain together his spin in a variety of situations is just that.
Flashes big - creates a ‘false step’ - then spins off of the over-pursuit.
6 - Through contact skill set
He was (probably) down.
However, this is the most impressive play of CEH’s career at LSU.
We see him solving consecutive problems then being able to contort, re-organize, then use the negative angles created here to accelerate away at plays end.
CEH is 5'7" 207lbs.
His compact stature is an aid to when it comes to absorbing direct contact.
Here CEH is able to use energy he ‘absorbs’ from contact and re-applies that as torque to swing the defender past him.
Negating contact for a back of CEH's stature is extremely important.
CEH has a broad skillset when it comes to maintaining balance through various types of contact and shows this on a game to game basis.
7 - Play speed
One of the biggest question-marks about CEH's game is his play speed.
Now, during initial acceleration he is above adequate, and proved that with an impressive 1.53s 0-10 yard split at the NFL combine.
It's during periods of re-acceleration from lateral movement, as well as top-end speed that he is below adequate for NFL standards.
Obviously, this won't show up in a 40, but watch how #10 tracks him down after he cuts back at the 35-yard-line.
#10 is Dayo Odeyingbo, who is 6'6 - 275lbs.
Speed isn't just how fast you can run, but it's how you use your capabilities during acceleration & top-end speed that will ultimately determine success.
Even though CEH isn't a dynamic threat at top-end, just like he does during changes of direction, he knows how to vary pace & tempo.
Watch how he briefly pauses the pursuit of #4 at the 25 yard line by 'peeking' inside and slightly decelerating.
This allows CEH to get the extra step on #4 that he needs to create enough space to get up the sideline.
8 - Inefficient footwork & unrefined movement skills
Reliance on spinning through engagements can get CEH into trouble & lead to unnecessary contact from defenders.
Have to know 'what is the best tool' & 'when to use it'
CEH is at a distinct disadvantage when he doesn't use his stature as leverage.
Leverage is his best friend physically and when he doesn't use it properly he is susceptible to being overpowered.
9 - Landing spot: Kansas City Chiefs
This was widely regarded as the best spot for a running back to land, and with good reason. CEH is now apart of one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history, and have will ample opportunity to showcase his receiving skill set in Andy Reid's scheme. It would not surprise me if we see multiple RB1 seasons on the horizon for CEH.
10 - 'Who is Clyde Edwards-Helaire?'
CEH is the most versatile receiving back in this 2020 class. He has the ability to be an immediate contributor as a pass catcher and has potential as a 12-15 carry rushing option as well. CEH is one of 'my guys' in this 2020 class and is someone I am trying to draft and/or acquire in all of my leagues because of his versatility and perceivably high PPR floor. His experience in running routes from a variety of alignments will be a big boost to his snap percentage at the next level. Something else to note is how he performed in big games. CEH had 21 touches for 164 yards in the 2019 National Championship game against Clemson. He also had 22 touches for 118 yards during the SEC Championship Game. His signature game of 2019 came from his performance against Alabama when he totaled 29 touches for 180 yards and 4 touchdowns. If you want to watch CEH at his best, turn on that game.
Realistically, CEH will be an Austin Ekeler type playmaker to begin his career and likely won't come with as high a rushing ceiling like some of his peers in the 2020 class. It is important to note that he does struggle in pass protection, but I am confident he can become at least adequate in this area as he continues to develop his overall game. His versatility and ability to line up in the slot can help to keep him on the field on third downs.
For fantasy purposes, a low-end RB1 is what I picture the fantasy community valuing CEH at in the near-future. I think he is among the safest floor plays in this class at the position and has the upside to be a consistent annual producer in fantasy lineups.
Versatility as a receiver