Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was contacted shortly after he was drafted by former NFL running back Darren Sproles. The Kansas City Star‘s Herbie Teope reported on Twitter that Sproles was one of the first to reach out to Edwards-Helaire after he was drafted, and the two have since formed a friendship. Teope reported Sproles reached out to the rookie because the former LSU star is playing in his home town. Edwards-Helaire told the reporter he’s since watched film of the veteran back.
Sproles played his college ball at Kansas State. While he never played in Kansas City, the two running backs have something else in common. Both he and Edwards-Helaire are undersized when it comes to the prototypical NFL running back.
Sproles managed to put together a 14-year career in the league despite measuring just 5 foot, 6 inches tall and starting just 31 times in 183 games played. Edwards-Helaire currently stands 5 foot, 7 inches tall and was the first-round pick of Chiefs. The team hasn’t said if it expects him to be the starting running back when the 2020 season kicks off, but head coach Andy Reid called him a “franchise back” shortly after he was selected.
Several NFL analysts believe the most likely role for the rookie this year is to share time with Damien Williams. Williams took over the starting job for the Chiefs late in the 2019 season.
There’s another area where Sproles and Edwards-Helaire have something in common. Both backs are, or were, considered valuable by their respective teams because of their ability to make a play out of the backfield, through the air.
Over the course of his career, the recently retired Sproles had 553 catches. That’s fewer than 200 less catches than carries in the NFL. The back’s best season was 2011, his first with the New Orleans Saints. That year, he caught 86 passes for 710 yards and seven touchdowns. He carried the ball 87 times for 603 yards and another two TDs. He averaged an eye-popping 6.9 yards per carry.
In the next two seasons, Sproles had more catches than carries by a wide margin as he transitioned almost exclusively to being a third-down back.
Edwards-Helaire hasn’t committed to the role of a running back that only comes in on third down just yet. Last season, he was the featured back for LSU. The Chiefs’ rookie rushed 215 times for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry. He also had 55 catches for 453 yards and another touchdown.
Like Sproles, Edwards-Helaire became a receiving threat late in his career. Sproles had 32 catches for Kansas State in his senior season. The LSU back had just 11 catches in 2018.