Back in early March, after the NFL Draft Combine, now former LSU Tiger Clyde Edwards-Helaire received high praise from a Pro Bowl running back.
“I think he’s a special back,” said Mark Ingram, the former Alabama and Heisman winning tailback, who also started his pro career in New Orleans for eight years. “He’s the prototypical running back–size, balance, speed, agility. He’s able to catch the ball coming out of the backfield. He had a huge year for LSU. I admire his game.”
Now the only running back taken in the first round of this year’s NFL draft is getting attention from another star whose power and heart far outweighs his size.
“[He] can do everything,” Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey said. “The running back position is turning into–I never looked at myself as a running back. I looked at myself as a football player, somebody who I can line up in the slot, line up out wide. But I took pride in being a complete back. When I say complete back, somebody who can do it all.
McCaffrey is coming off a breakout third season with the Panthers in which he was named first team All-Pro. With his 1,387 yards rushing and 1,005 receiving, the 5’11 tailback joined Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk as the only players to top 1,000 yards in both categories in a single season. He accounted for 43 percent of Carolina’s offense, tops for an individual in the NFL.
Needless to say, McCaffery is a stud. If anyone can spot another superstar in the making, it is he. He has seen Edwards-Helaire up close and personal for weeks now since new Panther head coach Matt Rhule hired former Tiger passing game coordinator Joe Brady to run the team’s offense.
“I’ve seen a lot of LSU tape obviously with Coach Brady coming in now,” said McCaffery. “He’s a guy who’s very instinctive, he can run the ball, quick, he can make people miss. But then you look at when he runs routes, he’s like (Darren) Sproles. He’s a shorter guy. By no means small, but he is shorter.
“He’s quick as hell, and he’s able to make guys miss before the ball’s in his hands, get open, and run any route. So when you see guys like that, I like to call them football players, not just running backs.”
The Hayride predicted that Edwards-Helaire would be taken in the first round, despite the fact that none of the following 42 mock drafts did, just the day before opening day.
From March 2:
Now add this explosive performance at the NFL Combine, and a young local kid with quite a story behind him is a safe bet to be gone on day one when the draft rolls through Las Vegas in April.
We’ve gotten some things wrong in the past, of course, and we certainly did whiff on the Las Vegas thing, but everyone else did as well with COVID doing its dirty work. This is one prediction to be proud of, though, specifically because of who drafted the Paul Hornung Award finalist, which is given to the most versatile player in college football. The Kansas City Chiefs, the Super Bowl champions themselves, saw Clyde Edwards-Helaire as a worthy enough addition to an already unstoppable offense.
Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes was asked by his general manager after the draft started to send him three names he would want on the team.
And there was one familiar name at the top of that list.
Writer Jeff LeJeune has an M.A. in English, is a high school and college instructor, and is a former college athlete. In addition to his writing work for The Hayride, he is a ghostwriter, editor, and novelist.