Leading up to the NFL Draft April 27, Liz Loza and Brad Evans will examine the field and exploit weaknesses as they address questions regarding this year’s most talked-about talents. Today’s “Three-Point Stance” focus: Standford RB Christian McCaffrey.
Progeny of Broncos’ legend “Easy Ed,” Christian McCaffrey has some ample sized cleats to fill. Closing out 2015 as a Heisman Trophy Finalist and crushing the Combine last month, the 20-year-old running back seems well on his way. What are your thoughts on the Stanford product? Are the platitudes warranted, or media hype?
Liz – Forget hyperbole, McCaffrey is legit. Like a new model Yamaha, this multi-hyphenate talent weaves in and out of traffic, displaying supreme vision and confidence. Able to instantly change direction and shimmy past flustered defenders, the Stanford product extends plays and earns extra yardage. Soft hands and football smarts make him a threat in the passing game, causing some draftniks to list him among the best WRs in this year’s class. Being compared to everyone from Reggie Bush to Julian Edelman to Tiki Barber, McCaffrey has ALL the skills and is my third ranked RB in the draft.
Brad – McCaffrey comparisons to Danny Woodhead are misplaced, lazy and downright insulting. His exterior appearance may match, but his remarkable versatility has more in common with a David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell. People who feel he’s a one-dimensional, hands-only RB are depriving some village of its idiot or are willingly flying United.
The 2015 Heisman runner-up is ghostlike to would-be tacklers, a player with unparalleled elusiveness. His recorded 6.57 seconds in the 3-cone was the second-best finish by a RB since 2003. More than just an “in-space” contributor, he also posted a 3.3 YAC last year with Stanford. Throw in his patience, vision, fly-trap hands and exceptional return game dashes, and he’s more complete than most let on.
Is there anything about the former Cardinal that gives you pause? Or is he truly the NFL’s next golden boy?
Liz – Superstardom at the next level is certainly within McCaffrey’s reach. However, at 5-foot-11 inches and 202 pounds, he’s too small to last as an every down back. Plus he’s not particularly powerful, as evidenced by his bench press score of just 10 reps. There’s also some concern about the number of miles he’s logged, having accrued over 300 touches in both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. If he can pound the Muscle Milk and stay agile though, there’ll be no stopping the rookie.
Brad – People will point to his svelte 5-foot-11, 202-pound frame and scream “Pump the brakes!” To be fair, McCaffrey isn’t exactly power-run material. Combine that with the 745 touches he accumulated his last two years at Stanford and he isn’t someone to lean on exclusively week after week. He’s not entirely a complementary back, but pairing him with a bulky interior runner is most ideal.
There are rumblings that McCaffrey could sneak into the top-ten. Where would you like to see the buzzy RB end up at the month’s end? What sort of production should fantasy enthusiasts expect from him?
Liz – Unless the Panthers select McCaffrey at the eight spot, I’m not sure he’ll be a top-ten pick. It doesn’t matter though. Given the youngster’s anticipation, shimmy, and burst, he figures to succeed in any offense running a zone scheme.
To start, I’d project the rookie carrying the rock upwards of 12 times per contest and, on average, hauling in three balls per game. Assuming a 16 game season, McCaffrey could easily produce 1,100 total yards (750 via the ground, 350 through the air).
Brad – McCaffrey has the look of a Marshall Faulk, Thurman Thomas or Charlie Garner, a player who’s very capable of piling up yards on roughly 14-16 touches per game. If thrust into a zone scheme, he could post stunning out-of-the-gate production. His acceleration, sharp cuts and open-field shiftiness suggest he could eventually flirt with 1,000s in rushing and receiving yards. Initially, he’ll likely be deployed as a 12-14 touch per game Swiss Army knife, potentially with Carolina, Philadelphia or, most deliciously, New Orleans.
Overall, anticipate a profitable inaugural season from McCaffrey (Early ADP: 57.1, RB17). On roughly 200-210 touches, it’s conceivable he tallies a line around 550-75-600-6. Achieve that and the PPR masses will raise many celebratory toasts in his honor.