In an ideal world, the Buccaneers will come away this weekend with one of the top four offensive tackles and one of the top five running backs in this class. Surely offensive tackle has to be the primary focus, but after that you can easily make the argument that running back is their biggest need. Right now, they have Ronald Jones II, Dare Ogunbowale, and T.J. Logan on the team.
Not. Good. Enough.
To compliment RoJo and help Tom Brady do what he does best, the Bucs need to turn their focus to a running back that isn’t just a solid runner but is also a contributor in the passing game. Tom Brady works off of a very strict internal clock, so when his targets aren’t there he looks to the running back as his safety valve to gain some positive yards. We’ve seen it numerous times throughout the years. Shane Vereen, Kevin Faulk, James White, Dion Lewis - the list goes on and on.
Cyde Edwards-Helaire? He checks off all the boxes.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s Collegiate Career
With virtually no playing time as a Freshman, Edwards-Helaire came on his Sophomore season. He would carry the ball 146 times for 658 yards - a 4.5 yards per carry average - and seven touchdowns. He also added eleven receptions for 96 yards.
In his Junior year, well, that’s when Edwards-Helaire came into his own as a dynamic running back. Edwards-Helaire would carry the ball 215 times for 1,414 yards - a 6.6 yards per carry average - and sixteen touchdowns. In the passing game, Edwards-Healire would quintuple his production going for 55 receptions and 453 yards with one touchdown. To say he was a key member to the National Championship LSU Tigers would be a massive understatement. Not only was Edwards-Helaire playing with the (projected) number one overall pick in Joe Burrow, but he was on an offense that would feature two wide receivers likely to go in the first round of their respective drafts. Add to that a soon-to-be NFL tight end and this offense was loaded.
Despite all the weapons, Edwards-Healire was not overlooked, his workload was not hindered, and he was a target in the passing game. He simply produced when given the opportunity.
In his only full season as a starter (2019), Edwards-Helaire finished ranked in the SEC: second in rushing attempts, second in rushing yards, fourth in yards per attempt, tenth in receptions, fourth in touchdowns from scrimmage, and seventh in points. Add to that he was first in the SEC in plays from scrimmage, yards from scrimmage, and rushing touchdowns.
He had no issues taking on the bigger workload from his second to his third year and, to some, that makes him intriguing from the viewpoint that he won’t be as worn down as some of the other backs in this class.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire has elite cutting ability. He has really nice jump cuts and spin moves to make defenders miss in tight areas. pic.twitter.com/n91b6UCwU1— NFL Film Review (@NFLFilmReview) April 17, 2020
His unparalleled ability to cut, dodge, and avoid defenders makes him one of the most exciting backs in this draft. Not only can he turn any run into a big gain, but he’s also elusive enough to avoid major hits. He doesn’t need a lot of space to make defenders miss, either. His compact, but sturdy, frame helps him slip through clogged running lanes and break through would be tacklers at a rapid rate.
His speed at the combine raised some eyebrows (not in a good way - but we’ll discuss that in a bit) but he has sneaky, deceptive speed. He can change his speed to lure in opposing defenders before hitting another gear in just a step or two which leads to big plays.
Unlike some of the other backs I’ve done profiles on, ball security is no problem for Edwards-Helaire. Not only is he going to protect the football while he’s carrying it, he also possesses sure hands as a receiver. His size allows him to be low to the ground, making him difficult to bring down by defenders.
His vision and football I.Q. helps him process things quicker, so there are no unnecessary movements on his part and he can rapidly read the defense and plot his path. This adds an additional level of danger to his game and is a big reason that 36% of his carries in 2019 went for first downs.
He runs with power which helps in short yardage situations, which the Buccaneers have struggled in throughout recent history. And, just as a bonus, he was a kick returner all three years at LSU.
This may be a bit shorter of a section, but there are things to talk about.
His 40-yard dash at the combine came in at a cringe worthy 4.6. Now, many - myself included - believe he plays faster than his 40-time would indicate, but it is certainly something that may raise a few concerns.
His size is also a big concern. Though he plays like a prototypical running back, coming in at 5’7”, 207 lbs some are worried that he may not be physically big enough to survive in the NFL. As I said in the Pros section, though - that compact frame has certainly played into his favor with his ability to get low to the ground and become more difficult to bring down. The question is, what will NFL scouts, coaches, and GMs think?
Finally, for as good as his hands are, he isn’t going to be making many high stretching highlight catches. His 29” arms gives him a reduced catch radius that may prove problematic at the next level.
With only one year as a starter, there isn’t the track record developed there that someone like a J.K. Dobbins has. This may cause some to think he was a one hit wonder and that other running backs with more experience are more worth the risk on draft weekend rather than someone who only did it for just one year.
Why The Buccaneers Need Clyde Edwards-Helaire
He checks off all the boxes. We’re looking for a compliment to Ronald Jones and Edwards-Helaire certainly fits that bill. Could he develop into the primary guy and overtake RoJo? Absolutely, but so could J.K. Dobbins, D’Andre Swift, or Jonathan Taylor.
What Edwards-Helaire provides in the passing game is a huge upgrade, but as a threat in the running game he isn’t a one trick pony. In fact, he’s arguably the most complete back in the draft - which is why he’s starting generate late round one buzz as we get closer and closer to the draft.
The Buccaneers haven’t had a three down back like this in the last ten years and they have the opportunity to get one of the three (in my opinion) in this draft. The shortcomings - outside of physical size - that Edwards-Helaire does have can be coached up and improved. We aren’t looking at any glaring deficiencies here that the Bucs “have to just live with.”
Should It Happen?
If it was me and Clyde Edwards-Helaire is sitting there when the Buccaneers are on the clock at pick 45, I don’t care which other running backs are available. I’m racing to the podium - er, uh, the Zoom conference - and I’m turning in my virtual card. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is my favorite back in this draft for all the reasons specified above.
That’s not to say I would be mad at one of the other running backs, but I’d be less excited for others than I would Edwards-Helaire. But enough about what I think, what do you think?
Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to vote in the poll your feelings on Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the 2020 NFL Draft and if he should be the guy for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
How Do You Feel About Clyde Edwards-Helaire For The Buccaneers In The 2020 NFL Draft?
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Draft Him No Matter What
Trade Back Candidate
I Wouldn’t Mind It
There Are Better Options