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Kansas City Chiefs 2023 Preview – Running Backs

The running backs baby!

Isiah Pacheco #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates against the Jacksonville Jaguars at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on January 21, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by: Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

This is all part of a multi-part series covering several areas of the Kansas City Chiefs going into 2023; predictions on each units, The Secondary, Linebackers, Edge and Interior of the Defensive Line, Offensive tackles , interior, and tight ends covering different aspects in general. This will be a series covering several areas of running back play in 2023.

The quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes are the stars of the NFL, but there are a whole slew of great running backs and teams with terrific rotations of runners returning for 2023.

Who has the No. 2 and 3 backs to keep the main man fresh? Who has the guys to take the pressure off the quarterback so he doesn’t have to take a slew of big hits?

In this article, I will go into the group of backs led by Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco and their outlook for the 2023 season.

Jerick McKinnon:

McKinnon will return to the Chiefs for a third season and is projected to be their top pass-catching back. He was fourth on the team in targets last year with 71, but his nine receiving touchdowns trailed only Travis Kelce.

Considering that McKinnon only scored seven touchdowns on his first 257 career targets, you should expect some pretty significant regression in the touchdown department. That likely regression, paired with the fact that he will be sharing the load of carries with Pacheco, meaning he will serve as a leader among the men in the running back room, and as the main blocker on special teams.

Isiah Pacheco:

Isiah Pacheco was one of the biggest breakout stars of the 2022 season. The former seventh-round rookie ascended into the ranks and established himself as the Chiefs’ best runner during their run to the Super Bowl, Pacheco is currently the top running back on the best offense in football. 

Appearing in all 17 games while making 11 starts, the Rutgers product finished his rookie season with 170 carries for 830 yards and 5 touchdowns to go along with 13 receptions (14 targets) for 130 yards. Pacheco is still recovering from both a torn labrum and broken bone and is unlikely to be ready for the beginning of training camp. Pacheco is expected to remain a significant contributor and should be ready for the preseason.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire:

Edwards-Helaire is looking to bounce back from an injury-shortened season in 2022 as the former first-round pick enters his fourth season in the NFL. CEH got off to a strong start last year, putting up 325 scrimmage yards and 5 total touchdowns through Week 4, but an ankle sprain in late November effectively ended his season. 

The 24-year-old must show that he’s back to 100 percent after battling a high-ankle sprain and after missing those seven games last year. He’ll also have to show that he’s clearly a better No. 3 option than undrafted free agent Deneric Prince. If he can’t do that, he could be dealt. 

Deneric Prince:

This is my guy that I have a really good feeling about. The six-foot-tall, 216-pound Deneric Prince – who was ranked as the No. 18 running back in this year’s class by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler – was a projected fifth or sixth-round pick after a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. In fact, Prince logged a 4.41-second 40-yard dash (fourth among all running backs) and a 10-foot-five-inch broad jump (fifth among all running backs). 

Prince signed with the Chiefs as a rookie free agent after the 2023 NFL Draft, and while the University of Tulsa product didn’t hear his name called over the course of draft weekend, he still has a shot to make the Chiefs roster. For his career at Tulsa, he appeared in 26 games with 12 starts and rushed for 1,723 yards on 314 carries (5.48 avg.) and 14 touchdowns. He isn’t used much in the passing game, with 17 receptions for 162 yards and a score in his three seasons.

Still, he ran for more than five yards per carry in each of his three seasons at Tulsa, which shows great consistency. He has already taken advantage of his reps with McKinnon and Pacheco missing time during OTAs. It’s beneficial for his chances of solidifying his spot on the roster.

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