NFL draft profile: No. 9 — Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey, a do-it-all, thrill-a-minute weapon

Stanford RB-WR-RS Christian McCaffrey
5-foot-11, 202 pounds

Key stat: In his three-year career, McCaffrey ran 632 times for 3,922 yards (6.2-yard average) with 21 TDs and averaged more than 6.0 per carry in each season; caught 99 passes for 1,210 yards (12.2 average) with 10 TDs; returned 56 kickoffs for 1,479 yards (26.4 average) and 1 TD and 34 punts for 380 yards (11.2 average) with one TD; and completed 2 of 3 passes for 39 yards and two TDs. Had seven career games with 192 yards rushing or more. Had three games with 105 yards receiving or more. Had at least one reception in every college game in which he played and 18 or more touches in each of his final 25 college games.

Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey put on a show at his pro day and should be a high first-rounder. (AP)
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey put on a show at his pro day and should be a high first-rounder. (AP)

The skinny: Comes from one of the most athletic gene pools imaginable. Grandfather, David Sime, won a silver medal in the 100-meter dash at the 1960 Olympic Games and ranked as one of the fastest humans of all time; father, Ed, was a 13-year wide receiver in the NFL for the New York Giants and Denver Broncos; mother, Lisa, was a soccer player at Stanford; older brother, Max, is a wide receiver on the Green Bay Packers’ roster; younger brothers, Dylan and Luke, are highly touted prep QBs (Dylan is a Michigan signee for the fall); plus several other relatives who were athletically blessed.

Christian was a standout at Valor Christian in Colorado as a prep and held several state records in football, along with being one leg of a 4 x 100 state championship relay team. Committed to Stanford and contributed right away as a freshman runner and receiver. Switched from uniform No. 27 to No. 5, a nod to one of his favorite players, Reggie Bush. Broke single-season NCAA record for yards from scrimmage in 2015 with 3,864, set school rushing mark, won scores of national awards and was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Capped that brilliant season with 461 total yards and game MVP honors in Rose Bowl victory.

Came back strong in 2016 despite being the focus of every defense he faced and led the nation in yards per game (211.6) and led Pac-12 in rushing. Sat out Notre Dame game with injury. Opted to sit out Sun Bowl vs. Notre Dame after declaring early for the 2017 NFL draft. Turned in second-best marks among running backs at NFL scouting combine in 3-cone drill (6.57 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.03). Chose to turn down all private workout requests from NFL teams following the combine.

McCaffrey will turn 21 in June.

Best-suited destination: The NFL. But seriously, there isn’t a team in the league that couldn’t use his skills in some way. Want to use him as a change-of-pace running back who catches passes? McCaffrey can do that. A lead runner with a power complement? Check. Heck, you want to flex him out and make him the next Golden Tate or Julian Edelman? That would work. Need a boost to return units? Checks that box too. It’s hard to pin down which teams will favor McCaffrey more than others because he’s one of the most versatile prospects to come out in years, even with some slight size concerns if you want to nitpick.

Upside: Jack of all trades, master of many. Rare quickness and shiftiness. Body control, balance and agility are tremendous. Outstanding field vision — always looking for that cutback lane or crease before it opens. Shakes defenders in open field with fast feet and subtle jukes and head fakes. A missed tackle waiting to happen. One-cut-and-go runner who puts his foot in the ground, sees the lane, makes a defender miss and is gone. Case in point, against Kansas State:

Christian McCaffrey can plant and go, as he did here vs. Kansas State. (Draftbreakdown.com)
Christian McCaffrey can plant and go, as he did here vs. Kansas State. (Draftbreakdown.com)

Underrated endurance. Routinely played 60-70 snaps and never seemed to tire. Battled through midseason hip bruise and broke out of mini-slump after it. Faced and produced against more loaded boxes than almost anyone in college football. Likes seeing safeties in the box because that’s one fewer deep defender between him and the end zone. Can run through traffic and churn through contact better than his size suggests, like this tough run down 30 points late against a great Washington defense:

Watch Christian McCaffrey break tackles in tight quarters … only the back judge can stop him. (Draftbreakdown.com)
Watch Christian McCaffrey break tackles in tight quarters … only the back judge can stop him. (Draftbreakdown.com)

Operated in pro-style system under David Shaw. Ran power, inside and outside zone, you name it. Asked to pass protect in NFL-level system. Lined up everywhere — as halfback, in I-formations, in split-back formations, as wildcat QB; also motioned out of and into backfield, and lined up split wide and in slot as receiver. Also was home-run threat returning kickoffs and punts and even threw passes. Ran slant-and-go routes at his pro day better than most wide receivers in this class ever will. Sinks hips and has quality footwork with sharp cuts. Catches the ball naturally and cleanly.

Only lost four fumbles on 824 career touches. Highly committed to the game. Elite competitor and driven in quest to prove what few naysayers there might still be left. Carries a chip on his shoulder and surprised NFL evaluators with how edgy and confident he could be in his interviews. Trains like an Olympian, takes care of his body and eats up game tape. A coach’s dream.

Downside: Short arms and small hands. Smallish frame that might not hold up to decade’s worth of heavy use. Had 635 touches in his past 25 college games (25.4 average). Seven 30-carry games and two 40-touch games, which some teams will view as a negative — believe it or not — for a college running back at about 200 pounds. Doesn’t have a frame that can carry much more weight without sacrificing speed or agility. Injuries caught up to him a bit around midseason last year. Upper-body strength (10 bench press reps) a worry. Too many dropped passes. Will get stunted and slowed down against press coverage at times.

Not a refined pass protector yet, even if effort is good. Needs better technique to take on bigger NFL rushers. Even missed a few times blocking smaller DBs on the edge, though it’s hardly a weak point in his game. Not a tremendous runner who will thrive in a power system between the tackles consistently. Ran behind big, NFL-caliber offensive line at Stanford that often used heavy sets (extra tight ends, unbalanced lines, etc.). Will get greedy on cutback runs or try to hit doubles and triples when it’s not there. Can be almost too patient on zone-stretch runs and give defense time to flow. Cocky — started catching punts with a ball in his hands at his pro day (this also could be in the “upside” category, depending on how teams look at it).

Scouting hot take: “Super impressive in his [combine] interview. … Knew he was smart, but he had an edge to him. A good edge. I’m a believer.” — AFC scouting director

Player comp: Similar to Reggie Bush for his versatility. Similar to Tiki Barber and Jamaal Charles as runners/receivers, minus the fumbling concern, or Charlie Garner. Could be Edelman or Tate as a receiver, but why would you limit him?

Expected draft range: Top-15 pick

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley
No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu
No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson
No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell
No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker
No. 34: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon
No. 33: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
No. 32: Florida CB Quincy Wilson
No. 31: Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
No. 30: Michigan DB-RS Jabrill Peppers
No. 29: Alabama OT Cam Robinson
No. 28: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
No. 27: LSU CB Tre’Davious White
No. 26: Missouri DE Charles Harris
No. 25: UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley
No. 24: Michigan DE Taco Charlton
No. 23: Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
No. 22: Utah OT Garett Bolles
No. 21: Western Kentucky OG-C Forrest Lamp
No. 20: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
No. 19: Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku
No. 18: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
No. 17: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
No. 16: North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky
No. 15: Washington WR John Ross
No. 14: Clemson WR Mike Williams
No. 13: Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
No. 12: Temple LB Haason Reddick
No. 11: Ohio State CB Gareon Conley
No. 10: Alabama TE O.J. Howard

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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