NFL comparisons should always be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s still nice to hear a player’s name come up in conversation with some of the league’s legendary figures from time to time.
For Kansas City Chiefs seventh-round rookie running back, Isiah Pacheco, that occurred in a big way after Week 16. Veteran Arrowhead Pride contributor Stan Nelson made the connection, likening the youngster’s running style to Hall of Fame ball carrier Walter Payton.
Before you scoff at such a bold statement, listen to the well-thought-out explanation from Nelson.
Isiah Pacheco Reminds Chiefs Analyst of NFL Hall of Famer
“While watching the latest generation of NFL players, I am sometimes reminded of other players from a different era,” Nelson preluded, noting that such a moment took place when the Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos a few weeks ago.
“With 2:21 left on the clock, all the Chiefs had to do was pick up one more first down,” the writer narrated. “On the previous play, the Broncos had used their final timeout to stop the clock. On first down, Jerick McKinnon carried the ball for no gain, taking the game to the two-minute warning. As usual, there was a knot in my stomach.”
Nelson continued: “Then on second-and-10, Kansas City handed the ball to rookie running back Isiah Pacheco, who rushed for 11 yards to pick up the first down — and seal the Chiefs’ 14th consecutive win over the Broncos. For the first time in a while, I jumped out of my seat. It wasn’t because Pacheco had just put the game away. Instead, it was how he did it.”
He described the first-down conversion where Pacheco ran through safeties Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons before eventually going down. “He didn’t run away from the defenders,” Nelson explained. “Instead, he ran at them. Rather than take hits from defenders, he lowered his head and delivered them. It instantly reminded me of another player who ran like that: Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.”
The Arrowhead Pride analyst made sure to clarify that he’s not saying Pacheco will become Payton, a Hall of Famer with 16,726 rushing yards and 125 total touchdowns all-time. He is merely stating that both like to “initiate contact,” and that type of running back is rare in the NFL.
If Pacheco can become half the final product that Payton was, what a steal that would be for head coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach.
What Will Become of Clyde Edwards-Helaire?
The emergence of Pacheco and McKinnon has coincided with an ill-timed injury for former first-round draft pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The disappointing college talent is expected to return at some point in early 2023, but what sort of playoff role would the Chiefs really extend to “CEH” with their other two running backs thriving?
It looks more likely that Edwards-Helaire will head into the spring as a total question mark within the organization. With a cap hit of $3.443 million during the final season of his rookie contract, the Chiefs will have a decision to make.
They could hold onto CEH and stash him behind Pacheco for depth, or they could part ways. If Kansas City decides to cut Edwards-Helaire at any point next year, they would save $865,726. They could also attempt to trade him, which would save a little over $2.085 million.
It’s never bad to have depth, but one could certainly argue that paying a third-string running back three and a half million dollars is a waste of money for the typically cap-strapped Chiefs.