49ers' McCaffrey back at 2019 All-Pro level, speed in 2023

49ers' McCaffrey back at 2019 All-Pro level, speed in 2023 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Running back Christian McCaffrey is back to his 2019 speed, when the then-Carolina Panthers running back became the third player in NFL history to enter the 1,000-1,000 club.

While darting down the left sideline on a 51-yard run for the 49ers on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, McCaffrey reached a top speed of 20.92 mph, per the on-field tracking of Zebra Technologies.

It was the fastest speed McCaffrey has reached in four years -- since Week 8 of the 2019 season.

McCaffrey was the NFL's top running back in 2019. He rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns while catching 116 passes for 1,005 yards and four touchdowns for the Panthers.

That season, McCaffrey joined Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk as the only players in NFL history to accomplish the 1,000-1,000 feat.

Through two games this season, McCaffrey leads the NFL with 42 carries for 268 yards.

McCaffrey, 27, appeared in just 10 total games during the 2020 and '21 seasons due to injuries. But he played all 17 games last season (six with Carolina and 11 after the trade to the 49ers). Combined, he had 1,139 yards rushing and 741 yards receiving.

The 2017 No. 8 overall draft pick clearly is back to his days of being counted upon to carry the load.

McCaffrey played 100 percent of the 49ers’ snaps in the Week 2 victory over the Rams while backup running back Elijah Mitchell did not get any playing time, a usage situation coach Kyle Shanahan admitted Monday was a mistake.

“That wasn’t the plan going in,” Shanahan said on Monday. “ It just ended up that way. I got to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

McCaffrey is confident Mitchell will get his chances.

“There's going to be games too where Mitch will get four or five carries in a row on multiple drives because he's playing well and feeling him, and I'll be out,” McCaffrey said.

“So it's really such a situational thing. I don't think it's ever a plan for one of us to get all the carries or not. It's just sometimes that's how some of the games go."

Per Next Gen Stats’ model, McCaffrey gained 46 yards over expected outcome against the Rams, and has gained a league-high 200 yards after contact outside the tackles this season. That is 86 yards more than any other player in the league.

It's clear that McCaffrey is back to his All-Pro level of play through just two weeks of the 2023 season.

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