Like audiophiles used to covet CDs, fantasy managers used to covet Andy Reid running backs. Reid produced impressive stats from some of the most underrated prospects in the game for years. Consider the rushers Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, and Kareem Hunt who, although not being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, rose to the top of the fantasy draft because of Reid’s support.
When the Chiefs selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the final pick in Round 1 in 2020, we believed he would be the following running back to do this. We were in error. In PPR points per game, Edwards-Helaire has never finished higher than 22nd, has never played more than 13 games in a season, has never had more than 1,100 total yards in a season, has never scored more than six times in a season, has six games in his career with 15 or more carries, and has five games with 100 or more total yards in his career. He has played in a total of 27 games (regular-season and playoffs).
Therefore, it should come as no surprise to anyone that rookie Isiah Pacheco quickly caught the attention of fantasy managers after making an impression during Chiefs training camp workouts. He not only acclimated to the professional game well, but also quickly moved up the depth chart, according to reports. Last Saturday’s preseason game in Chicago featured the latter, with Pacheco serving as the Chiefs’ second running back when Edwards-Helaire took the field.
At the conclusion of the Chiefs’ opening drive, Pacheco, who was playing with Tyreek Hill’s old number, had taken three consecutive snaps and was just one play away from entering the field. He played with the second-team offense for five more plays until Ronald Jones, who was officially Kansas City’s fourth running back in the contest, took his place (Jerick McKinnon played the last snap of the first drive).
Despite having average statistics, Pacheco showed quickness both as a rusher and a route runner. On his lone reception, he immediately got into the right flat, concentrated on catching Mahomes’ target before turning up field, absorbed a hit from a Bears defender as soon as he swiveled his head, and then maintained his balance and stayed on his feet to gain a few extra yards.
The effort was superior to the outcomes. But the use was really fascinating. It’s unusual for a seventh-round draft pick like Pacheco to play less snaps than Edwards-Helaire and not at all beyond the first quarter.
Make no mistake: Mahomes will be the focal point of the Chiefs’ offense. But Reid would, if he could, especially when defenses figuratively taunt him to run. An alternative who could benefit the Chiefs is Pacheco.
He should be selected as a sleeper in Round 10 because of this. Even though he might only have five touches each game as a backup, Edwards-Helaire would perform better than ever. It’s not difficult to wager against that idea.
The Commanders dilemma
On his first preseason carry, Antonio Gibson couldn’t make a defender miss and was unsteady overall. On his subsequent preseason carry, he fumbled. He lost out on first-team offensive touches as a result of that error, and Brian Robinson, a rookie, took his place. Gibson returned to the field with the second string and ran harder, but he didn’t have great success (as head coach Ron Rivera highlighted after the game), albeit some of that was due to the backup O-line he was sacked with.
A clever micro-juke to an inside rush lane and a Panthers linebacker’s brief moment of immobility allowed Robinson to score on a third-and-one situation. Robinson also did a terrific job of running through contact on a run and looked completely natural collecting the ball twice from Carson Wentz.
Robinson is gradually establishing himself as a dependable serviceable runner, although he lacks significant speed and also lacks professional experience. Gibson has two years of experience and quickness, but his fumbling is a big problem and he needs to run faster. Furthermore, neither of them is likely to get a lot of action on passing downs as long as J.D. McKissic stays healthy.
This is the thing that makes fantasy nightmares. Gibson either corrects his course and follows his coach’s instructions, or he is demoted to a backup position, which allows Robinson to emerge as a serviceable Fantasy starter. And until the season begins, I don’t think we’ll know the outcome for sure (and the answer could change mid-season).
Gibson should be avoided in drafts as a result. Even if he bounces back with a strong preseason performance, the outcome of his first fumble in a regular-season game is already written in stone. Robinson is undoubtedly a fantastic late-round selection, but if his ADP soars into Round 7 or higher, he won’t be nearly as sought-after unless Gibson is done for. It might then be too late for Round 7.
The final point is this: Gibson scored 10 goals last year despite playing through ailments, but he also fumbled six times. In five seasons and 545 carries at Alabama, Robinson fumbled twice. It might come down to that, according to Rivera and the Commanders.
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