Watch Panthers-Bucs, and the incomparable Christian McCaffrey, on the Yahoo Sports app

If you had the first overall pick of your fantasy football draft, you had a tough choice to make.

While Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara are all great players, you might have made a mistake if you didn’t take Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.

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McCaffrey is the perfect modern back and a throwback at the same time. He might be the best receiver on the field whenever he plays. He also is a workhorse who almost never takes a snap off in an era of tailback committees. McCaffrey is coming off a 209-yard, two-touchdown game in Week 1, and we’ll see plenty of him as the Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports mobile app.

In an era in which the value of running backs is debated, there’s no doubt McCaffrey is a special player.

Christian McCaffrey rarely comes off the field

If you saw McCaffrey play at Stanford, you knew he was good. Still, it seemed like a curious decision for the Panthers to take him eighth overall.

McCaffrey didn’t look like a typical back you build an offense around. At the combine he was 202 pounds. He didn’t fit the old prototype of what a workhorse back should be. It looked like the Panthers might be taking a complementary player at No. 8.

But McCaffrey calls back to the days of Walter Payton or Emmitt Smith, when star backs never came off the field. In Week 1 he played all 67 of the Panthers’ offensive snaps. Le’Veon Bell was the only other NFL back to play 100 percent of his team’s offensive snaps in the opener. That’s nothing new for McCaffrey. Before a meaningless Week 17 game last season, McCaffrey played 97 percent of the Panthers’ offensive snaps.

And when you watch McCaffrey play, you understand why Carolina never takes him off the field.

McCaffrey already setting NFL records

McCaffrey had a great season opener, though it wasn’t entirely unexpected from him. He had 128 rushing yards on 19 carries for a 6.7-yard average, and 10 catches for 81 yards. That’s not exactly common, but we all know he’s capable of putting up those kinds of stat lines.

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey had a pair of touchdowns in Week 1. (AP)
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey had a pair of touchdowns in Week 1. (AP)

Last season McCaffrey had 1,965 yards from scrimmage, and set an NFL record for running backs with 107 catches. McCaffrey is a do-it-all back, capable of running between the tackles, getting out in space or catching the ball like a receiver. He needs to do it all, because he’s practically the only running back the Panthers use.

While it’s hard for non-quarterbacks to win major awards, it seems McCaffrey could be in the mix for NFL Offensive Player of the Year. The Panthers will certainly give him enough opportunities to pile up yards and touchdowns this season. He adds as much value to his team’s offense as any non-quarterback in the NFL.

Thursday night gives McCaffrey another opportunity to showcase his talents for a large audience. He’s one of the most enjoyable players to watch in the NFL, even if you don’t have him on your fantasy team.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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