Shawn’s Staturday: What should the RB depth chart really look like?

Halfway through the season, the Kansas City Chiefs have wildly underachieved, but there have been glimpses of greatness from the running back room. So, who has secured a higher spot on the depth chart and who could be expendable?

Last week’s narrow 13-7 victory over a severely hobbled and Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team did not leave members of Chiefs Kingdom feeling very confident in their back-to-back AFC champion Chiefs.

With that being said, there were some moments of clarity where Patrick Mahomes showed some of his old musters by taking deep shots to his two fastest receivers, albeit they did not connect on any occasion.

The good news? Tommy Townsend had his best game as a professional punter due to the Chiefs asking him to tie his record for most punts in a game (six) which racked up a career-high 341 yards–blowing away his previous record of 244 (Week 5, 2020 vs Las Vegas).

Week nine’s matchup against Green Bay was the fourth straight game that first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire missed after suffering an MCL sprain against the Buffalo Bills in week five.

Since Edwards-Helaire has been gone the Chiefs have used a running back-by-committee approach with a seasoned Darrel Williams, a declining Jerick McKinnon, and a hungry Derrick Gore.

In those four games together as a unit, the three backs have accumulated 273 rushing yards on 76 carries. That’s 3.6 yards per carry while the Chiefs have averaged less than 20 attempts per game.

That’s not uncommon for pass-happy head coach Andy Reid, or his protégé Eric Bieniemy (a former NFL running back), but in the last three games without Edwards-Helaire Kansas City has averaged 21.7 rush attempts per game, 7th-lowest in the league.

How has the trio faired? It all depends on how you look at their statistics:

Darrel Williams

In three of his first four starts, Williams rushed 13 or more times, including his career-high 21 attempts in week six against Washington where he tied his previous high of 62 yards on the ground.

He’s only reached the endzone twice and both came in that same matchup against the Washington Football Team but it’s easy to see the promise when he reaches the edge and can show off his speed

So far this season the Chiefs have rushed the ball a total of 219 times (16th in NFL), and Williams has been the ball carrier 84 of those times (38.3%), this is the most on the team but he still has fewer yards than Edwards-Helaire (304) on the season.

If anything that shows just how efficient the 30th overall pick of last season’s draft was starting to become before injuring his leg. Since then though Williams has averaged 3.6 yards/attempt and has been on the field for an average of 63.5% of the snaps per game.

Where Williams really shines is in the receiving game where he’s slowly been dominating the short screens and middle-of-the-field catches. Williams has 170 receiving yards–the fifth-most on the team above Demarcus Robinson (153)–on 22 receptions which means he yields an average of 7.7 yards every time Mahomes throws his way.

That’s really good for an RB but, for context, Edwards-Helaire was averaging 7.6 yds/rec before his injury (8 rec/61 yds) and he hauled in two TDs through the air as well (25% TD rate).

At the moment it looks like Williams is destined to be a receiving back more than anything and it’s obvious when Edwards-Helaire returns Williams will go back to his RB2 position.

Jerick McKinnon

The former Viking had high hopes of galvanizing his career and getting back to the RB1 spot but so far this season he has been anything but that.

This season McKinnon has only rushed the ball four times for a measly 12 yards (3 yds/att) but he has caught nine of the 14 balls thrown his way. That’s a 64.3% catch rate which ranks dead last among the three backs that have caught 8+ receptions.

Those nine receptions have yielded just 75 yards (8.3 yds/rec) and through these nine games, McKinnon has yet to find the end zone on the ground or through the air.

He’s not the player he once was, that is for sure, but in his defense, he has torn his ACL and his LCL which caused him to miss two entire seasons (’18 & ’19). Even in his lone year in San Francisco, he was not needed much and it would appear he is not needed much in Kansas City either.

Derrick Gore

The biggest standout from the preseason was a toss-up between Marcus Kemp and Derrick Gore. Both had an impressive touchdown but Gore’s 56-yard TD reception (below) in garbage time really showed what the 26-year old could do if he gets his hands on the ball.

The former Lousiana-Monroe star shined when Shane Buechele threw him the ball behind a line of blockers on the way to his first TD as a Chief

Gore is slightly taller than Edwards-Helaire and he runs with the power that many thought Edwards-Helaire would bring when he finished his final season at LSU with 70 broken tackles and 782 yards after contact.

The biggest difference between the two backs is the way in which they approach the line with the ball. Both backs can make a play with little to nothing to work with but Gore stands behind his blockers waiting for a hole to appear whereas Edwards-Helaire will make his own hole by barreling through the line and trying his best to drag defenders with him.

Both backs are deadly when given open field to the outside and both can learn a thing or two from watching each other’s film during the off days.

On top of having more rushing yards (61) than McKinnon (12) he also has already recorded a touchdown when he ran in a three-yard score untouched by the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.

Derrick Gore’s first (regular season) touchdown against the Giants during the Chiefs 20-17 victory over the Giants on MNF

Gore has serious upside and it comes at a perfect time as McKinnon has seriously struggled for the first half of the season. If Gore can keep providing sparks and great plays whenever the opportunities present themselves then he could honestly be moved up in the depth chart to RB3 soon and possibly even RB2 in the not-to-distant future.

So based on the statistics from the first half of the season, there is definitive proof that the depth chart could (and should) be amended:

Game one depth chart:

RB1 – Clyde Edwards-Helaire
RB2 – Darrel Williams
RB3 – Jerick McKinnon
RB4 – Derrick Gore
RB5 – Elijah McGuire

Projected playoff depth chart:

RB1 – Clyde Edwards-Helaire
RB2 – Darrel Williams
RB3 – Derrick Gore
RB4 – Jerick McKinnon
RB5 – Elijah McGuire

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comment section below or through Twitter (@SportsGuyShawnO) and be sure to check out more Shawn’s Staturdays and other daily, free articles on ArrowheadLive!