NFL

Le'Veon Bell to Kansas City: Projecting the Chiefs' Offense

What's the fantasy football impact of Bell's signing with the Chiefs?

It felt like it took a while for running back Le'Veon Bell to decide where he'd sign after the New York Jets released him, but on Thursday, he found a new home: the Kansas City Chiefs.

The former fantasy football superstar throws a wrench into the Chiefs' backfield after the team drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

How exactly may Bell impact the team, and how does numberFire project the backfield to look the rest of the way?

Does Bell Still Have It?

The positive impact of jumping from the Jets to the Chiefs is impossible to overstate. The Chiefs are the Super Bowl favorites at +430, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The Jets? Dead last at +100000. The Chiefs are second in our power rankings and Super Bowl odds at 14.8%. The Jets? Last again.

In fact, the Chiefs (8.06 nERD) are about 20 points better per game than the Jets (-12.08 nERD) based on our advanced metrics. That's wild.

The Jets entered Week 6 with the worst offense in football based on numberFire's Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) per play metric. They lose, on average -0.04 expected points per play once adjusted for opponent. The Chiefs are second. They add 0.23 points above expectation per play. It'll be a bit easier to run in that offense, no doubt.

Bell has only 19 carries in 2020 and is averaging -0.27 Rushing NEP per carry. That's terrible. The NFL average is 0.04 for running backs. The Jets' backs other than Bell are at -0.13. However, from a Rushing Success Rate standpoint (the percentage of carries that boost NEP), Bell is at 42.1%, just shy of the NFL average of 42.8% but above the Jets' average of 36.5%.

Last year, over 245 carries, Bell's numbers were -0.12 Rushing NEP per carry and a 35.9% Rushing Success Rate. The other Jets backs put up -0.14 and 31.3%, respectively. So, it's probably safe to say that Bell didn't really outperform expectations too much in the Jets' offense, but he also has been a more consistent rusher than teammates in the same offense. With how hard it is to contextualize running back play due to offensive line and situation, this is certainly a plus for Bell.

As a receiver in 2019, Bell ranked 22nd among 34 running backs with 40-plus targets in Reception NEP per target. That's a little more problematic, and as far as pass-blocking goes, Bell ranked 37th among 62 qualified running backs in ProFootballFocus' pass block grade. That could be key.

What's the Deal With Clyde Edwards-Helaire?

Edwards-Helaire has been a liability in two specific areas: pass-blocking and short-yardage situations.

Edwards-Helaire has a pass block grade of 17.1 via ProFootballFocus, which is 80th out of 81 backs with at least 10 pass-blocking snaps (CEH has 13). Small sample caveat, of course, but there's a reason he's not getting a lot of pass game work.

Of 14 backs with at least 20 carries on 5-yards-or-shorter-to-go downs, just three have posted negative Rushing NEP, and CEH is one of them (-0.14). He's also tied for last in Rushing Success Rate in that sample. Of 13 backs with at least 15 red zone carries, four have negative Rushing NEP. Edwards-Helaire is one of them, and he's last in Rushing Success Rate among them.

On 13 carries with at least 8 defenders in the box, Edwards-Helaire has lost -5.34 Rushing NEP, working out to -0.41 Rushing NEP per carry, the worst mark of all backs with at least that many carries against stacked boxes.

Again, we're dealing with minuscule samples, but that can still matter if it leads to lost snaps.

Edwards-Helaire clearly looks likely to be phased out in such circumstances and is a clear risk to get a diminished workload. Is Edwards-Helaire likely better than this small-sample return? Probably, yeah. Will it matter how good he is if he's the minority back in a committee? Not that much for fantasy football; he'd be in the flex conversation.

Projecting the Chiefs

Despite the slow start in the touchdown department, Edwards-Helaire rated out well the rest of the season due to the offense, his yardage, and the role he had.

ROS Projection
Before Bell Signing
Rush Yards TD Rec Tar Yards TD Half-PPR
Rank
Clyde Edwards-
Helaire
183.0 802.8 5.8 39.7 54.0 308.7 2.7RB9


But the results after are more damning.

ROS Projection
After Bell Signing
Rush Yards TD Rec Tar Yards TD Half-PPR
Rank
Le'Veon Bell112.5497.74.630.740.3252.42.1RB25
Clyde Edwards-
Helaire
113.5497.93.326.435.6209.21.6RB30


With Bell unable to play in Week 6, CEH gets an extra game in this data, so keep that in mind. But we're initially projecting a bit of a timeshare that favors Bell and allows him to carve out a better weekly workload moving forward from Week 7. The touchdowns should also funnel to Bell, given Edwards-Helaire's short-yardage issues.

This is clearly going to be a good enough offense where they each may have some value in season-long leagues, but for daily fantasy rosters, we'll want whomever is the lead back. Based on Edwards-Helaire's early data, it's looking likely that Bell carves out that majority role and is the back to take the lead here. Just how quickly -- or if -- he diminishes Edwards-Helaire's role entirely remains to be seen, but the arrow is way down on CEH and way up on Bell.