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Christian McCaffrey is a Wildcard in the First Round of the Draft

Christian McCaffrey

Christian McCaffrey, a running back from Stanford, has many of the tools to become a good player in the NFL. He has speed, athleticism, and agility, but he also has some weaknesses that really hurt his potential as a running back. Many mock drafts have McCaffrey going to the Carolina Panthers at pick eight, with there being a small chance that he falls to the teens in the draft.

*the following stats come from www.sports-reference.com

In his three years at Stanford, the running back was a stat-stuffing machine. All throughout his college career, he totaled almost four thousand yards rushing. He could also put up stats as a pass catcher out of the backfield, totaling over a thousand yards receiving in his three year college career.

2014: 12 games, 42 attempts, 300 yards, 7.1 AVG, 17 catches, 251 yards, 14.8 AVG, 2 receiving TD

2015: 14 games, 337 attempts, 2019 yards, 6.0 AVG, 8 rushing TD, 45 catches, 645 yards, 14.3 AVG, 5 receiving TD

2016: 11 games, 253 attempts, 1603 yards, 6.3 AVG, 13 rushing TD, 37 catches, 310 yards, 8.4 AVG, 3 receiving TD

As a runner, he has some strengths and weaknesses to his game. He excels at zone and outside runs, or runs where he can use his speed, agility, and vision to his advantage. He also, similarly to Dalvin Cook, has an extra gear that he can go into when needed. In addition, McCaffrey has experience in a pro-style offense at Stanford, meaning that he should be able to easily make the mental leap from college to the NFL. However, McCaffrey has some weaknesses to his running game as well.

At only 5’11 and 202 lbs., he has a small stature for a running back. This leads to many questions about his ability and usage in the NFL. Some say that he will only be a complimentary back, others say that he can be a three-down back. It seems to many that McCaffrey is too small to be able to take the pounding and hits that come in the NFL. The college game, something that McCaffrey excelled in, is very different and a lot less physical and rigorous than the NFL game. Also, McCaffrey ran the ball a lot at Stanford (a combined 632 times in three years, according to www.sports-reference.com), leading to some concerns on his durability and questions as to if McCaffrey is already beginning to wear down. There are many questions and concerns surrounding McCaffrey’s ability to run the football and keep up with the grind of the NFL.

In addition to questions about McCaffrey’s durability and usage in the NFL, there are also some concerns about whether or not he can be a power runner or is he going to be just a finesse runner. He has shown in his time at Stanford that he is willing to try to get dirty and get the needed yards in a short yardage situation, but he just doesn’t have that ability. McCaffrey is not a power runner, and he needs to use his speed and quickness in the NFL if he is going to survive.

McCaffrey also brings something else to the table as a running back, he can catch the football out of the backfield at an elite rate for his position. McCaffrey proved in college that he can excel as a duel weapon, both as a runner and receiver. Many NFL teams will love that McCaffrey has this ability and they will be able to use him as a receiver at some points in the game as well.

There are some teams that will love McCaffrey, and there are others that will not. The Carolina Panthers, sitting at the eighth pick in the draft, have been heavily rumored to be taking McCaffrey with their pick. McCaffrey would be the perfect fit in Carolina, running alongside a power runner like Jonathan Stewart. McCaffrey and Stewart would make for a good one, two punch that would be difficult for NFL defenses to handle. If McCaffrey makes it past Carolina’s pick, then there are a couple other teams that have been rumored to be interested in McCaffrey.

The Philadelphia Eagles, at pick 14, are in need of a running back that has speed and can do it all. While McCaffrey has the speed and agility that the Eagles want, he doesn’t have that do-it-all style of running ability. However, head coach Doug Pederson would love McCaffrey’s ability to catch out of the backfield, and Philadelphia would find it hard to pass up on McCaffrey if he is still there.

The Indianapolis Colts, at pick 15, have been rumored to be interested in McCaffrey. The Colts are in desperate need for a running back, or really any kind of weapon that would help quarterback Andrew Luck. McCaffrey would be that kind of weapon, and due to his versatility as a pass catcher, would fit very well in the Colts offense. However, it is not likely that McCaffrey is still there at their pick, meaning that if Indianapolis wants to get McCaffrey, it would involve trading up.

Overall, McCaffrey has some tools to be a good weapon in the NFL, he can run outside and stretch runs while also being able to be a weapon out of the backfield. He has versatility that many teams in the NFL would covet, but he also has a lot of weaknesses as a runner that would scare some teams away. In the end, NFL front offices will have to weigh his versatility against his weaknesses as a running back.

Draft projection: Top 15 picks in the first round

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