Christian McCaffrey was drafted No. 8 overall by the Carolina Panthers. He will immediately reinvigorate a bland Panthers offense and provide a pass-catching weapon out of the backfield for Cam Newton. Although Jonathan Stewart will likely retain a portion of the early down work, his time as a fantasy-relevant back is at an end.
At the same time though, it’s impossible to overstate how much of a nightmare landing spot this is for McCaffrey. Last year Brian Malone examined the relationship between running quarterbacks and pass-catching RBs.
Only Pryor threw to RBs more than the league average, and that was for less than a full season. On the whole, running QBs threw to RBs less than 80 percent as often as all passers. And that’s just target percentage. Add in the fact that running QBs tend to throw fewer total passes, and you’re looking at some very bad news for any pass catching RB playing with a running QB.
We’ll get to more of that in a minute. But first, we take a comprehensive look at your new Carolina Panthers RB, Christian McCaffrey.
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford, 5-11, 202
The RB Prospect Lab uses age, weight, speed, agility, rushing production, TD production, and receiving numbers to give a scaled projection of a player’s NFL fantasy prospects.
Dominator Score: 0.51 (1st) Workhorse Metric: 73.1 (9th) Success Model: 0.28 (6th)
The Dominator Score provides an indication of McCaffrey’s percentage of the offense when blowouts and QB rushing numbers are excluded. He’s the top RB in the class from in that category, which dovetails with his triumph in our RB Tournament and helps to explain the No. 1 overall ranking in our staff composite ranks.
McCaffrey’s size/speed combination dings him a bit in the Prospect Lab and knocks him into the second tier in the Success Model. These concerns kept him behind Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Corey Davis, and Mike Williams in 2016 developmental dynasty drafts, and while I’m a notorious McCaffrey enthusiast, they don’t completely vanish with his blistering three-cone.
From the 2017 RB Prospect Lab:
McCaffrey didn’t hit the 4.4 flat that would have made him the clear No. 1 pick in rookie drafts, but he did everything else. The best player in college football over the last two years posted the second fastest 3-cone (6.57) for any RB in the last decade and tied for the second best vertical (37.5) in this class behind Alvin Kamara.
McCaffrey’s three closest comps using the key attributes from the RB Success Model and Prospect Lab are also the three closest in the Box Score Scout.
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.
My biggest concern for Leonard Fournette was the possibility of landing with the Panthers and having to compete with Newton for goal line carries. This is perhaps less of a concern for a pass-catching dynamo like McCaffrey, but he’s also been an underrated workhorse as the numbers above indicate. With the Panthers, he lacks the TD-scoring upside to become a Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson type of player.
Of course, Newton’s presence is also a dagger for his hybrid WR prospects. Newton has never thrown more than 517 passes and averages well under 500. The Panthers have been four percent below average in pass percentage over the last four seasons and also below average in pace. They gave only 55 targets to non-FB runners last season.
Will this development slow McCaffrey’s swift ADP rise during the draft process?
The Stanford star should continue to rise as more owners recognize him as the top back in the draft, but this landing spot introduces a ceiling slightly above this range. McCaffrey should remain in the conversation to be the 1.01 in rookie drafts, although he’s now in a pitched battle with Corey Davis and possibly even Mike Williams and Leonard Fournette.
Then again …
Find all our 2017 NFL draft reaction content here.