Edwards-Helaire or Hunt: Who would produce more for 2020 Chiefs?

August 6, 2020

Who would produce more on the 2020 Chiefs?

Ever since running back Kareem Hunt was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs in November of 2018 the fantasy community has wanted, nay, begged for the team to heavily invest in the position, whether that was through a rumored Le’Veon Bell deal or through the draft. We finally got that wish granted in 2020 when the Chiefs selected LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH) with the 32nd pick of the NFL Draft, yet it wasn’t until incumbent starting running back Damien Williams opted-out did the fantasy community get excited.

It’s interesting to say the least. If D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor or J.K. Dobbins went to Kansas City in the draft, the community would’ve paid an arm and a leg to get shares of that desirable Chiefs running back. But the team took CEH, who was universally ranked pre-draft as the fourth best running back in the class, sometimes lower. He was a talented pass-catcher who could break tackles, albeit without breakaway speed, and a player star quarterback Patrick Mahomes specifically asked the Chiefs to draft.

With Williams out of the way, CEH seems set for a top 10 fantasy year at the minimum with top five upside in that high-powered offense. But a hypothetical question popped into my Twitter feed — Where would we be drafting Kareem Hunt if he were in CEH’s position?

While there’s just one week’s worth of data since the Williams news, CEH is currently about the eighth player off the board (7.83 ADP), going as high as the 1.02 and as low as the 1.10, according to the National Fantasy Football Championship ADP. Hunt, entering the 2018 season, was being drafted about the same. According to Fantasy Football Calculator he was the 11th overall player off the board, going as high as the 1.05 and as low as the 2.07.

Hunt thrived in Kansas City, finishing as the RB4 in 2017 and the RB11 in 2018 despite only playing 11 games.

It’s a bit shocking to see. Hunt was coming off of a breakout 2017 campaign in which he rushed for over 1,300 yards on 272 attempts. Perhaps more importantly Hunt had 53 receptions for 455 yards and scored 11 all-purpose touchdowns. He finished as the RB4 and was a fantasy darling to many who scooped him up as a mid-to-late round asset following an injury to projected starter Spencer Ware. Yet after that Pro Bowl season he was being drafted about the same as CEH is, who has yet to see the NFL field.

Perhaps it was due to the possibility of a suspension following Hunt’s incident at a hotel with a woman in February of 2018. Hunt still opened Week 1 suspension free and performed as the RB4 again until his release from the Chiefs, an eight-game suspension, and a trip to Cleveland where he is still today.

None of this was brought up to reminisce about the fantasy value Hunt had but rather to provide reasoning to why CEH is going so high. We saw Hunt, who was a third-round investment and not a first-round pick like CEH was, be a top five running back with and without Mahomes. Sure, CEH may not be an explosive athlete but he can catch over 60 passes a year at least while potentially scoring double-digit touchdowns. Even if CEH doesn’t see the whopping 272 attempts Hunt saw in 2017 or even the 263-carry pace we saw in 2018, I’d expect CEH to be an even better pass-catcher than Hunt and he carries a far greater team investment. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t the consensus No. 1 running back pre-draft by draft experts, because he was clearly the No. 1 running back on Andy Reid’s board.

Hunt paved the way for CEH’s rich draft price. This isn’t some speculation about what committing to a running back can do in the Chiefs system — we saw it already.

Experts frequently compared Edwards-Helaire to Brian Westbrook, who thrived in Reid’s system from 2006-2008 in Philadelphia

It’s funny how the cons for some of these top college running backs played out. I worried about Taylor’s ability to succeed in the NFL without a talented Wisconsin scheme and offensive line and sure enough, he landed in Indianapolis with an innovative coach in Frank Reich and one of the best offensive lines in football. Some worried about Dobbins ability to function outside of the RPO system constantly run by Ohio State — then he was drafted by the Ravens who used 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson’s legs to open up lanes in the rushing attack. One of CEH’s concerns was his ability to succeed outside of a prolific, all-time great LSU offense led by 2019 Heisman winner Joe Burrow, who likely had the best single-season for a quarterback in college football history. Then CEH was drafted by the Chiefs, who can make the same comparison about Mahomes, only on the NFL level.

Expecting the Chiefs offense to find 2018 form is likely unfair given the sheer ridiculousness of 2018 MVP Mahomes (5,097 passing yards, 50 passing touchdowns). But Reid’s Chiefs have been a top 10 scoring team in four of the last five seasons, and it would be foolish to expect anything outside of that. CEH is well worth a first-round pick in drafts with the floor he provides and the top five upside he clearly brings in that scheme.

So, where would I be drafting Kareem Hunt if he were in CEH’s position? The exact same spot. As a top 12 overall player.

All context is relative to Half-PPR, 12-team formats.