2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is not going to get very much pub. Right or wrong, he wasn’t the engine that made LSU’s national championship offense run. That was Joe Burrow with Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. Helaire is not in the same tier of running back as Jonathan Taylor, Cam Akers or J.K Dobbins but he was so involved as pass catcher that there is good reason to believe that he has a future in the NFL.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire Scouting Report
Edwards-Helaire really only played for one and a half seasons while at LSU
We love when running back prospects are able to play early but we have seen in innumerable cases, playing behind future NFL players at RB doesn’t damn a RB prospect. In 2017, future NFL players Derrius Guice and Darrell Williams kept Edwards-Helaire at the bottom of the depth chart, though he was at least active as a true freshmen and play special teams for the tigers. Guice and Williams are now both firmly on NFL rosters so we can’t hold that against CEH.
While the 146 rushing attempts as a sophomore are not eye-popping, it is worth noting that he was able to work in the pass game just a hair (11 receptions) which was more than, for example, Derrius Guice had during his sophomore season at LSU. No one could argue with a straight face that Edwards-Helaire’s 146 carries and 11 receptions proved he was ready for the NFL and the fact that his backfield mate in 2018 (Nick Brosette) has yet to play in an NFL game is not the most encouraging signal either.
CEH (as he as affectionately known to LSU fans) put up an absolutely stunning final season at LSU. His 55 receptions were the third most on the best passing team in the country. In fact, that was the 10th most receptions in the whole of the SEC. Edwards-Helaire had more receptions than Van Jefferson (Florida WR prospect), Henry Ruggs and Quartney Davis all of whom are going to be NFL wide receivers. He also returned 12 kicks and we know that for borderline Day 2 draft picks like Edwards-Helaire, special teams ability can be something that keeps them on a roster.
The most impressive thing about Edwards-Helaire’s resume is how great he was against good opponents. You will often see with college running backs that they are able to pad their numbers against Southwestern Kansas A&M and then have more modest games against Top 25 opposition. That was not true for CEH. He recorded 100 yard+ rushing games against Clemson, Auburn, Florida, George and even Alabama! Furthermore, he also had five or more receptions against Bama, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, and Clemson. That highlights a running back who fits multiple game plans/schemes and that projects to be very useful at an NFL level.
Projecting Clyde Edwards-Helaire To The NFL
The range of outcomes for Edwards-Helaire is really going to be contingent on where he is drafted. He is the right age for a “breakout” prospect, as his best season came at the age of 20 and he will be a 21-year old rookie in the NFL. There is a marked difference for RB prospects when they start their NFL careers at 22 or older, so he has that going for him. If he is able to be drafted in the top 100 picks, then I think we can be reasonably sure that he will be a useful NFL player. For dynasty fantasy football purposes, we have to be extra intrigued because it is more likely than not that a team would draft him to be a “workhorse” style running back. He was not a pure grinder back, nor a scatback while at LSU but perfectly capable of doing most tasks asked of an NFL running back.
Travis Sikkema of The Draft Networked noted on Edwards-Helaire “When it comes to modern-day running backs in the NFL, Clyde Edwards-Helaire fits the mold. Though shorter in stature, Edwards-Helaire is tough to take down both with power and with agility. His mental processing when diagnosing incoming tacklers is very fast, and because of this he has one of the highest broken tackle/missed tackle rates in the entire country. Another positive to Edwards-Helaire’s game is his success in the passing game. Edwards-Helaire has very reliable hands, and his controlled feet along with his short-area explosiveness allow him to run a variety of different routes where he can create separation like a wide receiver without the ball.” My amateur film-watching take on Edwards-Helaire is: this guy can play. He is fast, he can break tackles and he just seems like a player who will translate.
Of course, our eyes are notoriously bad judges of talent and truth, so we turn to the numbers. I used Rotoviz’s box score scout tool to generate a table of comps for CEH, supposing he is drafted in the top 99 picks of the 2020 NFL Draft.
So, even with the draft pick set at 99, a shocking number of NFL players show up here at comps for Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Pead, Ervin, Washington, Spiller, McKnight, Smallwood, White, Hines and Best were all multi-year NFL players. What is interesting is that most scouts are not talking about CEH has a “scat back” but these comps would suggest he is best cast as a third-down back at the NFL level. From watching him play, that is not the “vibe” that you get and much of what we think about him will be molded by how well he performs at the 2020 combine.
Without knowing his results at the combine or where he is drafted, we can reasonably say that Edwards-Helaire is a solid back-end of the first round/beginning of the second-round selection in dynasty fantasy football rookie drafts.