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Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire short in stature, big on confidence; does he fit Lions?

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire stepped to the podium for his media session at the NFL combine and fidgeted with the microphone, trying to lower it several inches from the offensive lineman who had been up there before him. 

Edwards-Helaire is probably used to it. After all, he's one of the shorter players at the combine, measuring in at 5-foot-7. But don't, for a second, think his size will prevent him from being successful at the next level. 

LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire posted 1,867 yards from scrimmage, averaged 6.6 yards per carry and caught 55 passes last season.

"Ultimately, I feel like every question was answered this year," Edwards-Helaire said. "Every week it was always something, ‘Does he have breakaway speed?’ And then I bust an 80-yard touchdown. ‘Can he make a guy miss?’ Made plenty of guys miss. ‘Is he going to show up 'Bama game?’ Ultimately, all the questions were answered, so I feel like my resume is all checked out."

Typically listed in the top group of running back talent in this class — along with Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, Georgia's D'Andre Swift and Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins — the ultra-confident Edwards-Helaire is expected to come off the board in the first three rounds, with some potential to have his name called in the first. 

Quarterback Joe Burrow, the projected No. 1 pick in this draft, recently called Edwards-Helaire the best athlete on LSU's national championship squad. When the running back was asked what teams would be getting if they drafted him, he boldly proclaimed he's an exclusive talent. 

"That’s the adjective that I’m going with," Edwards-Helaire said. "I feel like everything I do is something that can’t be matched."

It's a borderline cocky self-evaluation, but the film backs its up. In his one year as a starter, he put up monster numbers as a rusher, pass-catcher, while continuing to return kicks. He posted 1,867 yards from scrimmage, averaged 6.6 yards per carry and caught 55 passes. 

Sure, he's 5-foot-7, but so was Maurice Jones-Drew, who made three Pro Bowls in nine seasons. Edwards-Helaire currently tips the scales at 207 pounds, after playing between 210-215 last season. That's a frame plenty sturdy to absorb the punishment required of a featured runner. And with half the touches of Dobbins and Taylor on his resume, Edwards-Helaire's tread is a selling point, given the shelf life of the position is shorter than most. 

"If you’re a car guy, I'm like a Pirelli P Zero tire, fresh off the market," Edwards-Helaire said. "That’s my thing, I feel like my lifespan right now is pretty long. Zero surgeries. I had the hamstring, tweaked hamstring before Oklahoma. Did an MRI, (it) wasn’t even a Grade 1 strain. It was just tightness. So right now I feel like I’m one of the healthiest guys and most valuable."

Could Edwards-Helaire fit into the Detroit Lions' plans? It's not out of the question. The team doesn't have a glaring need at running back, with the tandem of Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough set to lead the rotation in 2020, but that doesn't mean the Lions wouldn't consider an upgrade if the value was right. 

If Edwards-Helaire, or one of the other top running back options were still on the board at the top of the third round, the Lions could conceivably pull the trigger, bolstering the ground game the team has failed to establish for years. 

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers