Thursday night, about an hour before the 2020 NFL Draft, Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach sent a text to Patrick Mahomes. Head coach Andy Reid was also in the group chat. Veach asked the Super Bowl MVP, "Hey, if you had to name a skill player, go ahead." Veach and Reid were having some fun and, at the same time, have always been enamored with Mahomes' incredible instincts. They were curious what kind of feel he had for who they were interested in and the type of player they were looking to add with the 32nd overall pick.
Within a few seconds, Mahomes' response lit up on both their phones.
There may not be a stronger relationship between GM, head coach and quarterback in the NFL right now. That's why Veach and Reid couldn't stop laughing after reading Mahomes' reply. Whatever name their star quarterback wrote wouldn't have had any bearing on who they would pick with the final selection of the first round. What the MVP's response did do was reassure them there is a unified vision for how the defending Super Bowl champs want to be constructed around the best player in football.
Veach selected Edwards-Helaire with the 32nd overall pick and it wasn't because of Mahomes. His mind was made up long before a text exchange on draft day. Just as he did after watching a young quarterback from Texas Tech, the 41-year-old GM had been lobbying his head coach to watch the film on LSU's running back. During the scouting process with Mahomes, Veach made the bold statement, "He's the best player I've ever seen." This time around with Edwards-Hilaire, it would be Reid who would make the headline-grabbing comment.
When Reid was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, he would catch games at Villanova University from time to time. The school was near his house outside of the city. There he watched running back Brian Westbrook set record after record at the I-AA university and picked him in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft. Under Reid, Westbrook would go to two Pro Bowls, be named an All-Pro and was the Swiss Army Knife that lead the Eagles to two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance. He's currently in the EaglesHall of Fame.
Veach was an intern and coaching assistant for Reid in Philly during Westbrook's career and played against the running back in college. Both men know firsthand the running back's talent and saw his unique skillset on a daily basis. After Veach went over Edwards-Helaire's film himself, he told Reid that he'd see Brian Westbrook when turning on the tape. Reid watched. His response according to Veach:
"He's better than Brian."
Westbrook's final season was in 2010, when Edwards-Helaire was just 10 years old. So I asked him on Friday, the day after he was draft, if he'd gone back and watched old film of Westbrook to get an understanding of the high praise he's receiving.
"Didn't have to look at anything on him," Edwards-Helaire said with a laugh during an interview on Zoom. "He was my guy on Madden. I used to play with Philly and I used to have Westbrook just absolutely running the numbers up on Madden.
"Being able to be compared to him, for a guy like me he's a great and in the same category, as far as my skill set, Barry Sanders, Brian Westbrook, Kevin Faulk, Marshall Faulk. He's in that category for me. So, I was just ecstatic when I heard the comparison. I'm going to have to go in and show them my work."
As the Chiefs' pick was coming in last Thursday night, Mahomes tweeted out a popular GIF that displays Shaquille O'Neal lifting his eyebrows with a sneaky excited look on his face. And why not? It will be an MVP throwing to All-Pros Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, Pro Bowler Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins and RB Damien Williams. Add in Edwards-Helaire.
"I know it's going to be special," the Baton Rouge native said of playing with Mahomes. "After I was picked, Pat tweeted out the old Shaq meme. That's self-explanatory. He's completely ready and I'm completely ready. With all the weapons we have on the outside and just this offense in total, add me and everyone is only going to complement each other. It will make the game just that much easier for us on offense."
The Chiefs are returning 20 of 22 starters from their Super Bowl winning roster. With Mahomes at the helm the last two seasons, Kansas City's offense has been one of the most explosive units the league has ever seen. In 2020, they'll return all of its top skill players, yet they still opted for more firepower and drafted Edwards-Helaire. Las Vegas Raiders GM Mike Mayock said after the draft, "They keep getting fast and more athletic and more dynamic every time you turn around."
Edwards-Helaire, who is 5-foot-7 and 207 pounds, has forged his path to the NFL with patience and persistence in the same manner in which he methodically reconstructs classic cars in his free time. He's already restored a few dating back to high school and is currently working on a 1971 Cutlass. Piece by piece, little by little. In Pee Wee football, he was placed on the developmental team. The one that didn't have the "good kids" as he put it. He created the foundation for his pass-catching ability in high school, playing slot receiver because Derrius Guice, who's now a running back for the Washington Redskins, was the team's lead back. He waited for his opportunity in high school and at LSU. Then this past fall, on the way to one of the greatest seasons in college football history, Edwards-Helaire shined as one of the most versatile players in the country.
"There are values placed on certain positions and we do the same thing," Veach said defending the pick of another skill position player on a team full of talent. "But when you have a guy you think is a Pro Bowl running back, that's a high value, too. I think if you get a chance to get a guy that's this talented that can add so much to the offense -- young guy, can run, can catch, can block, can return -- it's hard to pass up those guys for the sake of extra picks or for a guy that you think is good. We think this guy can be great."
Mahomes' text showed Veach and Reid that they all like the same player. It also, and more importantly, showed that the young quarterback sees this offense through the same lens as the architects who have assembled its pieces and how it operates. It's GM, head coach and quarterback all knowing what type of player best fits their scheme.
"This is the absolute perfect fit," Edwards-Helaire said with a smile when I asked him about playing in Reid's system. "They actually did over-the-top homework. This was the opportunity for them to get me and for them to use my skill set. Ultimately, the things I've been hearing is make the best offense ever even better, which just to think that I would make that impact is special."
The fit works in the Chiefs' mind because of the other pieces they have in place. Kansas City likes to force teams to play east to west along with an unmatched vertical threat that allows a back with the size of Edwards-Helaire to be a featured player moving forward. Veach and company believe the way they spread teams out, their new back will thrive and be able to handle the workload since he'll have the opportunity to work in space.
The writing is on the wall. The Chiefs are going to continue to try to put as many points on the board as possible. In turn, the mentality of opposing teams has gone from trying to stop them to trying to outscore them. Look what the Raiders and Denver Broncos did this offseason, adding more offensive speed and versatile players.
"I think teams certainly (have done that); they have to score some points against us," Veach said in his post-draft press conference. "I think even if you have a really good defense, it's hard to stop our offense. So, I think teams are certainly ready for a track meet when they play the Chiefs."
If you asked Edwards-Helaire, he'd prefer a drag race. If he had his pick, it would be in a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback. Gray with the black stripe.