Joe Burrow, after his Heisman and champion-winning run with LSU, had emerged as the favorite favorite to win the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. But the Bengals quarterback should now lose that status to a very talented former Bayou Bengals teammate.
From Burrow at number 1 in general, 14 players were removed from LSU in April. Five others joined Burrow as picks in the first round, and another four were passed overall number 83.
That’s an insanely talented pool of NFL newcomers competing for the offensive rookie of the year or the defensive rookie of the year. However, one is clearly in a more favorable position to maximize his direct impact skills more than the other.
Congratulate the OROY to be 2020 – Chiefs walking back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
MORE: Why Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the NFL’s next pocket star
Of course, Burrow can be a solid starter for the Bengal right away to help them get much better. Yes, K’Lavon Chaisson (Jaguars), Patrick Queen (Saints), Grant Delpit (Browns) will make a lot of big plays from the last seven of their new defense. And maybe Justin Jefferson will pick up where Stefon Diggs left off for the Vikings.
But only Edwards-Helaire looks at a guaranteed lead role and gets many touches from Patrick Mahomes to the reigning Super Bowl champions. With former starter Damien Williams opting out of the 2020 season, the only reason not to unleash Edwards-Helaire is gone.
Edwards-Helaire earned his first round draft pick with an explosive exceptional junior season flanking Burrow. Edwards-Helaire was very impressive running the ball, rushing for 1,414 yards and 16 TDs with an average of 14 carriers per game. But what set him apart as a future pro back were his 55 catches for 455 yards.
That was great enough for coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach to give him a surprising ride. They had plans for Williams to start Edwards-Helaire after all and split the work. It should be good to blow up those plans and see how special Edwards-Helaire can be with over 20 touches per game.
It is difficult to believe two previous developments. First, with his offensive insight and all the talent he had on that side of the ball, Reid has never had an offensive rookie of the year in his previous 21 years of NFL head coaching. Second, the Chiefs have never had an attacking rookie of the year AP (since 1967) or a Sporting News of the year (since 1955) rookie.
Three seasons ago, Kareem Hunt was worthy of that honor, but he was surrounded by another backsliding, the Saints’ Alvin Kamara. It is appropriate that Edwards-Helaire, in Hunt’s team and with Kamara’s dynamic skills, is positioned to walk away with those prizes and much more.
Reid’s offense has tended to put one back and he got the most out of those who excel as recipients. From Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia to Jamaal Charles and Hunt in Kansas City, his backs just produce as a versatile, bulky dual threat.
Before and after Hunt’s field work, Reid and his offensive staff had to switch slightly to an approach to the situational committee because of injuries and lacking a comprehensive response. Williams, a free agent in 2021, was the ultimate super sub throughout his Super Bowl 54. His 21 touches for 133 yards and 2 TDs were critical in defeating the 49ers.
The trademark of Reid’s upper backs is speed and speed in the open field. McCoy cut a penny and Charles was smoothly elusive. Westbrook and Hunt were naturally gifted as recipients.
Edwards-Helaire has the same qualities with 5-7,207 pounds. He is also underestimated as a compact power runner on early downs with a keen sense of completing rides in the red zone.
Hunt had a league high of 1,327 yards with 53 catches for 455 yards in ’17. But in the fact of a Chiefs who have since become pass-happier with Mahomes, Edwards-Helaire’s rookie season is more like Kamara’s (rushing 728 yards, receiving 826 yards). If Mahomes was the prized QB specimen Reid has long been looking for, Edwards-Helaire represents his rare, ultimate backfield catch.
The Chiefs have another monstrous offensive season at Mahomes and are big favorites to win both the AFC and the Super Bowl again. When an important rookie produces at a high level in a combat team, he usually wins Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, Burrow is unlikely to receive enough winning support from the Bengal for his cause.
Edwards-Helaire came out of the perfect offense from college for him and ended up in the ideal NFL offense for him. Barring injury, he will be to the point that Burrow – and no other NFL rookie – will surpass him in 2020.