Skip to main content

Chiefs to start rookie RB Isiah Pacheco over Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. 49ers

The Chiefs are shaking up their backfield today, looking to put one of their talented rookies into a bigger role.

Isiah Pacheco took the first-team reps in practice this week and is expected to be the starter at running back in Sunday's game vs. the 49ers, sources say. Pacheco will replace former first-rounder Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who will still have a key role on offense. Kansas City often rotates backs, and both are expected to see significant snaps.

This is a change from past games, however, as the seventh-rounder from Rutgers has about half the carries as Edwards-Helaire this season (59 attempts compared to Edwards-Helaire's 31). But Pacheco has averaged 4.8 yards per carry in limited time, compared to 4.3 YPC for Edwards-Helaire.

A tough, fast interior runner who runs hard, Pacheco has flashed great potential so far.

The transformation has been swift for K.C., which began the year featuring Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon with a splash of Pacheco. Now it'll likely be Pacheco and Edwards-Helaire with a splash of McKinnon.

With Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs are a pass-happy offense with total carries in the middle of the pack in the NFL through six games. So backs must be able to have pass-protection proficiency and the ability to catch out of the backfield.

Pass protection is one of the places Pacheco has stood out, thanks in part to the schooling he received at Rutgers from then-RBs coach Augie Hoffmann, who was an NFL offensive lineman and now coaches the O-line at Rutgers. K.C. can trust Pacheco in protection.

What Pacheco barely showed in college was the ability to catch out of the backfield, rarely going out on routes and catching just 13 passes during his season season at Rutgers. But he's picked it up quickly in practice and dating back to training camp, sources say. The 22-year-old is looking like a find as the 251st overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

It'll all be on display today against the 49ers.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter.