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NFL Draft

Should Chiefs Sign/Trade For A Running Back?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 3, 2020
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It goes without saying, but the COVID-19 pandemic is making for an unorthodox year in many sports. For baseball, basketball, and hockey, the pandemic sweeping the United States (and the world) caused these leagues to miss both regular season games and the playoffs—games they are trying to salvage here in the late summer.

As for football, they haven’t missed any regular season games (perhaps not yet), but they are starting to miss out on some notable names for the upcoming season.

The NFL came out with a process where players could opt out of the upcoming 2020 season, if they wanted to do so. One of the players who has already decided he won’t be playing this year, no matter what the schedule ends up being, is Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams.

Williams, now 28 years old, is coming off the best season of his career. His 498 rushing yards, 11 carries, five rushing touchdowns, and 30 receptions were all career highs from the regular season. His 104 yards rushing in the final game of the season were also a big reason why the Chiefs were able to make their comeback to win the Super Bowl.

Williams later cited family health concerns as his primary reason for not wanting to put himself at any sort of risk in the next coming months.

“I’m dealing with a family matter, my mom was just diagnosed with cancer and it’s Stage 4, so that was my decision,” Williams said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “With everything that’s going on, she was the only one there for me. I never had the opportunity to have my dad there. My mom is my rock, my everything, so during a hard time like this, I think I should be next to her every step.”

It is certainly a decision that anyone would respect—putting the health, safety, and time spent with a loved one over what would be the biggest moment of your career thus far. Chiefs general manager Brett Veach expressed the support of Williams’ decision on behalf of the organization. 

"As an organization, we certainly understand and respect Damien's choice, knowing it was made in the best interest of his family," Veach said. "He means a lot to our football team as a player and a person, and we're going to miss having him around this season."

Williams may not be playing football in 2020, but, as of right now, the Chiefs still will be. With Williams out, the two top rushers from 2019, Williams and LeSean McCoy, are no longer on the depth chart for the Chiefs’ title defense.

So that begs the question: should the Chiefs be looking to the free agent pool or even the trade market for a running back?

Let’s start by looking at who they do have on the depth chart. 

As for returning players, the Chiefs do still have their third and fourth top rushers from the year before, Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson. Darrel Williams, who rushed for 141 yards in 12 games played in 2019, is a former LSU Tiger who went undrafted in 2018 and has been with Kansas City ever since. Thompson, who rushed for 128 yards in 12 games played, is a former Utah State back who was the Chiefs’ sixth-round pick in 2019.

Even for an offense that leans much more on quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the team likely wouldn’t be comfortable going into the year with either of those two as the feature back. Thankfully, there is another player on the roster who presents a much more favorable return for the position: the team’s first-round pick from 2020, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

The Chiefs used the 32nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to select Edwards-Helaire. The former LSU Tiger is coming off a season where he rushed for 1,414 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns, with 453 receiving yards on 55 receptions as a catalyst for LSU’s national championship run.

Many draft fans and fantasy football die-hards were already predicting Edwards-Helaire to rise to the top of this depth chart anyway. Edwards-Helaire is reliable with the ball in his hands on early downs and reliable without the ball, as a route-runner, pass-catcher, and pass protector on third downs. The Chiefs drafted him to be their three-down back. This was in motion long before Williams opted out.

So, in that sense, if the Chiefs were to make a move in the free agent market or trade block, it shouldn’t be for much of a price.

One name that continues to come up when it comes to potential free agent running backs is Devonta Freeman. Freeman, when healthy, was the Falcons’ starting back since 2015. That was until they released him earlier this offseason. Freeman would make sense as a backup and rotational player to Edwards-Helaire, but only if he’s cheap. McCoy just signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for just one-year and $1 million. Freeman is likely still holding out for more than that, but there may come a time where he just wants to get on a team—getting on the team with the best odds to win the Super Bowl isn’t the worst situation, if it comes to that. 

Lamar Miller is another option. Miller was a Pro Bowl player for the Houston Texans in 2018 when he rushed for 973 yards on just 210 carries for a 4.6 yards-per-carry average. Miller tore his ACL in the third preseason game. He could be a potential dynamic option to throw into a rotation behind Edwards-Helaire, as well.

As for the trade market, any names being thrown out would be pure speculation at this point, and the Chiefs really shouldn’t be in the market of giving up anything more than a late-round pick. For those kinds of solutions, you’d have to look at over-crowded running back rooms. Baltimore is one that comes to mind with Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill all there. Perhaps Hill or Edwards could be moveable, but I doubt the Ravens would want to do the Chiefs any favors as the top two teams in the AFC. The Colts are another one, with Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins. Hines is pretty versatile in the passing game for them, but maybe they’d part ways with Wilkins now that Mack is coming off a 1,000-yard season and they drafted Taylor at the top of the second round. In Washington, Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson will make up most of the looks. Depending on how the team uses Antonio Gibson, Bryce Love could be had for a cheap price as a player who didn’t get to play a single snap his rookie season while recovering from injury.

All of those could be potential options, but the moral of the story is the Chiefs have their top guy in Edwards-Helaire. Any other addition would be rotational or fill-in, at best, to start the season.

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