Christian McCaffrey Will Be a Dud (Fantasy Football)
Now that I have your undivided attention, please let me explain. Do I think Christian McCaffrey is athletic? Most certainly. Was he productive in fantasy as a rookie last year? Definitely. Is he #goodatfootball? Absolutely.
So why am I calling him a fantasy dud for 2018? It has everything to do with his current ADP. At the moment McCaffrey is in the RB1 conversation based on where he is going in redraft leagues. And this is not where you want to take him, even in PPR, and here’s why.
Big Man on Campus?
One of the biggest concerns about McCaffrey during the time he was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Rookie Draft was his diminutive size. He stands at 5’11 and weighs in at 202 pounds.
At Stanford, McCaffrey was one of the most dominant running backs in college ever. On Player Profiler, he has a 50.7% College Dominator (98th-percentile) and a 16.7% College Target Share (95th-percentile). This means he was both prolific as a runner and as a receiver. In just three years, he rushed for almost 4,000 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. As a receiver, he had 99 receptions for another 1,202 yards with a 13.4 yards per reception average.
McCaffrey was the complete back in college, especially in his final two years. Despite his dominance, he only scored 21 touchdowns during that time, which isn’t bad, but when compared to other running backs who came out of the 2017 class, it should have been a red flag. Based on the number of carries to touchdown ratio, here’s how he compares to other running backs drafted in the same year.
2017 Rookie Running Back TD/Carries Ratio in College
|PLAYER||NUMBER OF CARRIES||NUMBER OF TOUCHDOWNS||TOUCHDOWNS/CARRY RATIO|
On average, McCaffrey had one touchdown per 30.1 touches. Compared to the rest of the field, his ratio is the worst, and it isn’t even close. Sure, many other contributing factors come into play, like offensive schemes or overall offensive efficiency, but his ratio is way below the mean.
McCaffrey scored 21 out of 75 rushing touchdowns during his three years at Stanford. That is 28% compared to Dalvin Cook’s 53% and Kareem Hunt’s 42%. Only Alvin Kamara’s 25% was worse than McCaffrey’s, and he was never the feature back during his two years in Tennessee. This should have been an obvious indication to the Carolina Panthers that they were essentially drafting a satellite back as their eighth pick in the first round.
Separate the Boy From the Men
According to Football Outsiders, the Carolina Panthers had the 25th-best run blocking. They lost All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell in free agency and did not add anyone to replace him in the draft. This is a great concern because McCaffrey rushed for 3.7 yards per carry while Jonathan Stewart was worse at 3.4.
Since the Panthers did not invest anything significant in their o-line, this does not bode well for their running backs in 2018. Last year Stewart was the favorite choice for goal line carries. He was ranked fourth in the league with 12 carries. By contrast, McCaffrey had no red zone carries.
By adding C.J. Anderson to fill the void created by Stewart’s departure, it seems that red zone opportunity won’t improve for McCaffrey. Anderson was the red zone choice in Denver last year as he was ranked 15th in red zone touches and 12th in goal-line carries in the NFL. He, at 27, is four years younger than Stewart and brings more versatility. Last year, he rushed for 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, so those who think that McCaffery is going to get more carries are probably in for a big surprise.
Right now, McCaffrey is ranked 15th on FantasyPros’ current standard rankings, 13th in half PPR, and 11th in PPR. In standard rankings, McCaffrey is ahead of so many running backs that will get more carries this year. The list includes:
- Joe Mixon (16th)
- Derrick Henry (18th)
- Alex Collins (19th)
- Jay Ajayi (20th)
- Rashaad Penny (21st)
- Derrius Guice (22nd)
- Ronald Jones (26th)
- Sony Michel (27th)
- Royce Freeman (28th)
It is also perplexing that McCaffrey is considered an RB1 in PPR even if he improves on last year’s 80 catches. McCaffrey had only 117 rush attempts compared to Mixon’s 178, Henry’s 176, Collins’ 212, and Ajayi’s 208.
Mixon’s carries will exceed 200 and might reach 250 this year since he won’t spend half of the season competing with Jeremy Hill. Henry’s carries will also get a bump and exceed 200 because DeMarco Murray has departed. Collins only emerged as the first- and second-down lead back last year after Terence West became injured in the fourth game of the season. Therefore, he will reach 250 carries easily barring injury himself. Jay Ajayi should also get 250 touches this year since he shouldn’t be moving from one team to another, as it took him five games to acclimatize in Philadelphia, before receiving double-digit carries.
Although Penny, Guice, Jones, Michel, and Freeman are rookies, all five of them have been touted to be their team’s de facto number one and all should absorb 200-250 rush attempts themselves. McCaffery’s outlook looks more along the lines of 150 rush attempts as C.J. Anderson should command more than McCaffery in the run game.
Although McCaffrey will be a target monster in the receiving game again this year, everyone on the list above, except Henry and Collins, have the potential to catch 30 or more passes in addition to their production on the ground. The reality is McCaffrey is being overvalued even in PPR, while many of the players above, especially the five rookies, are conversely being undervalued concerning their ADP.
Carolina Receiving Corps Will Get Moore Targets
Although Anderson has a reputation as a downhill plodder, he offers much more than that. In three out of four years that he has been healthy, he has averaged just under 30 receptions a season. He will catch more passes than the eight Stewart caught last year.
Greg Olsen is back and, if he remains healthy, will get 100 targets. D.J. Moore was drafted in the first round this year for a reason. Many had him as their number one ranked rookie wide receiver. He will get at least 60 targets, and that is being conservative. Curtis Samuel should be healthy sometime in 2018. Torrey Smith will also catch a few balls. And don’t forget, Devin Funchess had his breakout season last year.
Cam Newton should feel pumped about his team’s upgrade in receiving weapons. However, it is easier to make the case that McCaffrey will have fewer receptions in 2018 rather than more, with this being the case.
There are Draft Kings, and Then There are Dukes
It is inconceivable that Christian McCaffery will be a low-end RB1 in PPR or a high-end RB2 in standard this year despite his ADP ranking. McCaffery should find his ADP home somewhere between Jerick McKinnon and Duke Johnson. He won’t be as used as much as McKinnon, but should carry the ball more than Duke Johnson.
All three should command roughly the same number of receptions. Right now McKinnon is ranked 14th in PPR, three spots behind McCaffrey. I believe McKinnon is overvalued and should be closer to RB 17, behind the big and versatile Mixon who has much more upside. Johnson is currently ranked 29th in PPR. McCaffrey should be ranked somewhere in between, therefore is more like a low-end RB2 rather than the low-end RB1 label he has presently.
If you are skeptical of McCaffery’s current draft position like me then most likely you will not get him on your team. Let someone else have him as his or her RB1 or RB2. There are so many more backs that provide higher ceilings ranked lower than McCaffery. Instead of drafting him where he is currently, it might be best to go in another direction like bolstering your wide receiving corps then landing one of the tantalizing rookies to help you win your league this year.