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Scouting Profile: Running Back Christian McCaffrey

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Apr 6, 2017

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey has made waves in the fantasy community, but will he land in a situation that will maximize his skill-set?

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

Height: 5’11”
Weight: 202 lbs.
40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds
3-Cone drill: 6.57 seconds
Broad jump: 10’1”

One of the biggest standouts at the NFL Combine among running backs was Stanford’s McCaffrey, as he dominated the 3-Cone drill in just 6.57 seconds, beating Dalvin Cook’s number by a full seven-tenths of a second. While impressive, it wasn’t even the best thing he did that weekend, as he put on a show in the receiving drills. There wasn’t a running back who looked even close to as comfortable as he was catching the ball. But is he a true three-down running back in the NFL?

It was clear when watching McCaffrey’s tape that his receiving skills could easily translate to the NFL, but the biggest concern was always going to be his early-down work. His size is solid, though not great, as he compares to guys like Reggie Bush, C.J. Spiller, and Jamaal Charles. Not that those guys had bad NFL careers, because they definitely didn’t, but they also dealt with plenty of injury concerns.

Fortunately for McCaffrey, he is pretty elusive and didn’t take many big hits in college. He’s an in-between-the-tackles runner and almost always gets what is blocked. With that being said, his offensive line blocked extremely well for him at Stanford. The area of concern for him on the NFL level would be how well he’d stand up to the hits, especially considering how often he stays in between the tackles. There were times where he bounced backwards after being hit by a college linebacker, something that’ll only get worse at the NFL level.

Because of the reasons listed above, McCaffrey needs to land on a team with a solid offensive line if you want him in a three-down role. If he were to land on a team like the Buccaneers, it’s highly unlikely that he’d withstand the beating he’d take behind the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, if he were to land with a team like the Raiders, he’d have a lot more success. The bottom line here is that he’s not going to break a ton of tackles on the NFL level, but rather rely on his quickness/elusiveness.

The area of McCaffrey’s game that you don’t need to question is his receiving skills, because he’ll be considered one of the top pass-catching backs immediately upon entering the league. He catches passes out of the backfield, out of the slot, as well as on the outside. The subtle things he does are what make him special, like hopping as the ball comes towards him just to suspend his body in the air to make the catch easier.

Whoever drafts McCaffrey is getting an extremely shifty player who moves like a guy that’s 5’9”, only in a much bigger body. Unfortunately that bigger body doesn’t equivalate to many more broken tackles, and he won’t be pushing the pile at the goal line any time soon. It’s not to say you can’t find uses for him around the goal-line, but he’s not going to be the goal-line back.

Potential landing spot

It seems like the Eagles have been looking for someone to carry the load for them, as they’ve recently brought in Dalvin Cook for a pre-draft visit. They have a solid enough offensive line for McCaffrey to run behind and have added a lot of ammunition to their wide receiving corps that should remove the risk of stacked boxes. The issue with projecting him to go there is due to their draft spot, as 14 is likely too high, but their 11th pick in the second round may be too low. Another team to watch in the McCaffrey sweepstakes is the Raiders, who appear to be discontent with their current stable of running backs.

NFL comparison

During and after watching McCaffrey’s game tape, I’m surprised I haven’t heard the comparison to Giovani Bernard before. They are both extremely shifty running backs that can get it done in between the tackles despite their smaller stature, and both can offer you plenty in the passing game. Most associate Bernard with a third-down back, but truth be told, he hasn’t really been given the opportunity since Jeremy Hill got there. It’s very possible that McCaffrey winds up in a similar situation as Bernard, even though he may be able to do more.

To read up on some of the other high-profile NFL Draft prospects, check out the links below:

Leonard Fournette – (RB, LSU)
Joe Mixon – (RB, Oklahoma)

Ep. 73: Over & Undervalued Player Rankings

Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.


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