While the trading of wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins doesn’t necessarily signal major philosophical changes to the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense, the team is poised to have a different look in 2022.
The signing of larger wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster at least positions them to employ a more physical ground game. Of course, when you have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and arguably the NFL’s top tight end in Travis Kelce — not to mention historically pass-happy head coach Andy Reid — one still figures handing off will be Plan B.
Kansas City’s receiver overhaul garnered most of the offseason attention, but they didn’t play a pat hand in the backfield, either. Gone is Darrel Williams, last season’s leading rusher signed with the Arizona Cardinals in May, replaced by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II, who fell behind Leonard Fournette last season. The team also re-signed Jerick McKinnon and drafted Rutgers’ Isaih Pacheco in the seventh round.
With a lot of changes happening in Kansas City, let’s look at the team’s running back room to see how Reid might divvy up the touches in 2022.
When the Chiefs selected Edwards-Helaire in the first round of the 2020 draft, the expectation seemed to be that he’d be a one-to-one replacement for Kareem Hunt, who averaged 1,492 total yards and 12.5 TDs in two years with KC before an off-field incident forced his release. That hasn’t happened. Part of that is due to injury as Edwards-Helaire has missed 10 games in two seasons, but even when he’s been available Reid has balked at putting the ball in his hands too much — Edwards-Helaire logged 20 or more touches in a game just once since Oct. 19, 2020, and never last year.
With limited usage comes limited production, and to that end CEH averaged 64.6 yards per game in 2021, and he topped 100 yards only twice in his 10 games. Given his issues staying healthy under those conditions, an increased role for the upcoming campaign seems dubious.
We have more than a quarter-century track record of creating fantasy football champs. Sign up for The Huddle today to gain an award-winning edge on the competition!
Ronald Jones II
Jones put together a couple of solid years in Tampa Bay, but those were bookended by a pair of very lackluster ones. After working as the No. 1 back for most of the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl season of 2020, Jones was moved to a secondary role behind Fournette, whose strong play during that postseason run helped elevated him into the top job for 2021.
Upon hitting free agency for the first time, the Chiefs signed RoJo to a one-year deal where he’ll try to reset his market for next offseason. On paper, Jones should be a more capable pairing for Edwards-Helaire than the departed Williams.
Jerick McKinnon and Isaih Pacheco
Knee injuries kept McKinnon off the field in both 2019 and 2020, and in the process effectively derailed a once-promising career — he had been signed by the San Francisco 49ers to be their lead back before the ’19 season. McKinnon was highly effectively in the playoffs last year, leading the team in yards from scrimmage with 315.
If CEH or RoJo miss time, McKinnon could surprise. A seventh-round draft choice in April, Pacheco has plus speed and could have a future as a pass catcher, but he’s a very long shot to contribute much this season.
Fantasy football outlook
Based on talent, Edwards-Helaire would seem the likely No. 1 option. His struggles to stay healthy, and KC’s subsequent reluctance to rely on him, suggest a timeshare between CEH and Jones is more likely.
Both players are in that RB3/flex area with Edwards-Helaire offering a higher ceiling along with more value in PPR, and Jones arguably having the higher floor as well as added worth in TD-heavy scoring. If injuries thin the ranks, McKinnon becomes a priority addition based on his strong work in the postseason.