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2017 NFL Draft Prospect: Christian McCaffrey

If you haven’t heard of Christian McCaffrey then in all likelihood you don’t follow football very closely. The Stanford running back blew up last year and finished second in the Heisman voting, but has been bothered by nagging injuries this season.

McCaffrey recently decided he’ll forgo playing in the Sun Bowl against North Carolina to focus on preparation for the NFL draft. That game would never have been the defining moment of his career anyway, as he’s been one of the best collegiate running backs in recent memory.

Production

As I mentioned above, McCaffrey had a phenomenal year in 2015. He ran for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns on six yards per carry. He also had 45 receptions for 645 yards and five touchdowns, leading the team in both receptions and receiving yards. That’s a 0.20 Dominator Rating for a running back, which is pretty extraordinary. It’s on par with Kenneth Dixon from last year, but McCaffrey had a significantly higher percentage of his team’s receiving yards (22 percent for McCaffrey compared to 13 percent for Dixon).

His numbers fell slightly this year, but he missed a game and was severely limited in another. He still had 16 percent of his team’s receiving yards this season, which would’ve been tops in last year’s class. And despite his limited number of games, he increased his rushing touchdowns to 13. His yards per carry also increased from 6 to 6.3.

McCaffrey is also an outstanding kick returner. During his redshirt sophomore season in 2015, he averaged 29 yards per return and had over 1,000 return yards. Here’s the list of players with over 2,000 yards rushing, six yards per carry, 45 receptions, and 1,000 kick return yards in a single season since 2000:

  • Christian McCaffrey

That’s it. He had one of the most impressive seasons in college football history, and pretty clearly got robbed of the Heisman trophy. While his redshirt sophomore year was incomparable, this year he had some more competition:

cm2016

Larry Johnson, Reggie Bush, and Rashard Mendenhall all had long careers in the league. Bush is a player that McCaffrey commonly gets compared to.

Athleticism

McCaffrey is on the smaller side for a running back, as he’s only six feet, 200 pounds. However, he is expected to run a very fast forty time, as he was an excellent track runner in high school. Over at Tracking Football I was able to estimate how McCaffrey compared to other NFL players in terms of track times. He ran a 10.75 in the 100 meter dash (approximately 87th percentile for NFL RB), and 22.17 in the 200 meter (approximately 79th percentile for NFL RB).

This suggests McCaffrey could run anywhere from the high-4.3s to mid-4.4s in the forty-yard dash, which would give him a speed score of anywhere from 102-111. Speed score adjusts for weight with 100 being average, so finding himself in this range would suggest he possesses above average speed for the position even at his size. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him also test well in agility drills.

Overall

McCaffrey looks poised to be a useful running back and fantasy asset during his career. At the very least, he’ll be able to contribute in the passing and return game for a team, while providing a few carries a game as a change of pace back. If his time at Stanford is an indication, he could also handle a heavier workload as a runner capable of racking up yards in a hurry.

If he does run a sub-4.4 forty, McCaffrey will end up in one of the two most successful groups of running backs based on which combine drills actually matter for running backs. In one tier, 56 percent of backs produced an RB1 season within three years, while the other group has historically yielded a 78 percent success rate.

McCaffrey went fifth in our first mock draft, but if he kills the combine, he could end up as a top three prospect in the class.

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