With all the talk of the Jets moving back, it gives us a chance to fantasize about who New York could grab with new picks. Especially when it comes to the mid-round, there’s a lot of depth that can be added to the Jets organization.

As popular as the Bell signing was for Jets fans, and despite general manager, Joe Douglas’ strides to build up an offensive line, the All-Pro running back’s time will come to an end in New York a lot sooner than most think. While still productive, now would be a perfect chance to start thinking about his replacements.

In a draft full of wide receiver and offensive line talent, there’s one name that comes to mind as an early mid-round draft pick that can be groomed into an explosive Jets running game.

LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

It’s easy to overlook his productivity and marvel at the glamorous passing offense the Bayou Bengals broke records with. But go run the tape back, and if you watch 22 in the purple and gold, you’ll see a clone of Bell, flying under the radar for the pickings.

Measurables

Edwards-Helaire measured in at the NFL Combine at 5’7”, 207 pounds. He is a stout, dense individual. His 40-yard dash clocked a 4.6, which is on the slower end of average. He benched 15 reps of 225 pounds, and broad jumped 123 inches. He had a 39.5 inch and a 123 inch in the vertical and broad jump, respectively. For such reasons, he’s drawing pro comparisons to the likes of Devonta Freeman. Or, as already mentioned, a Le’Veon Bell-type prospect.

Strengths

Deceptively small doesn’t even begin to cut it. Edwards-Helaire is not a Derrick Henry big bruising back. He’s not fellow Tiger Leonard Fournette human hammer. He’s not going to turn future Hall of Fame safety Earl Thomas into a lead blocker. But he will run through the tackles if you don’t wrap him up and bring him down. His ability to keep his feet running and muscle his way forward for an extra yard or two isn’t something you would expect to see of his size. The struggles of power backs are their inability to keep their feet moving, and they try to muscle through a tackle instead of running through. Ironically, most of the time this will leave the running back beat.

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In defensive film rooms, when prepping to stop the run, the goal is to get a running back to stop moving his feet. In that brief moment past the line of scrimmage, he’s left trapped, hoping for a seam to open up until he’s ultimately swallowed. (Mind you, this is different from a unique level of patience behind the line of scrimmage to let blocks develop.) Edwards-Helaire doesn’t have that problem. His feet run until he’s forced to the ground.

From surprisingly strong for his size, he’s nimble for his stature. And it is in his nimbleness and ability to read offensive lines and lets blocks develop where the Le’Veon Bell comparison is best suited. He possesses the uncanny ability to let blocks develop and make the most of them. This is hugely advantageous when trying to dial in the run game. The blocking doesn’t need to be exceptional- it just needs to be good enough long enough for him to find some break in the defense and hit it.

Similarly, he also fits well into a receiving-back deal. Edwards-Helaire possesses a decent ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. When we consider the number of screens and quick game passes to the running back the Jets offense called this season, that can’t help but raise his draft stock for the green and white.

Weaknesses

Edwards-Helaire does not possess elite breakaway speed. That doesn’t mean every run doesn’t have the potential to take it to the house. But don’t expect a Nick Chubb 91-yard run to the crib. He can, however, score a 40 or 50-something yard touchdown out of sheer will power.

His size, despite having a plus also has a negative. He physically struggles when it comes to picking up rushers on passing plays. Shorter arms don’t allow him to control a free linebacker or defensive back. He has to rely on chip blocks or cut blocks to hold his responsibility in the pocket. Shorter arms also mean passes to him out of the backfield or into the flat have to be on target at the risk of a missed pass.

Final Thoughts

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a good player. A very good player. And a very underrated player. It’s easy to fall in love with him, but he’ll only be available should the Jets decide to trade back and receive another mid-late 2nd or early 3rd round pick. Ultimately, he’s a fantastic pick for the Jets. He already possesses similar characteristics to All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, and a year behind him to learn, or at least share some snaps with before New York has to start looking long term could do them some good. For a team that struggles with depth, Edwards-Helaire is a diamond in the rough, but only if you’re willing to overlook his size.

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