With the most receptions on the team, McCaffrey can become more productive in the slot.
For the eighth pick of the first round, the Carolina Panthers select running back Christian McCaffrey from Stanford. Those were some very exciting words to be heard back in April for Panthers fans. In his three years at Stanford, he was Offensive Player of the Year (2015), voted to the All-America team (2015), winner of the Johnny Rodgers and Paul Hornung awards. He also set the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards, which was previously held by Hall of Famer Barry Sanders.
“I love his patience. He’s not Le’Veon Bell, but his patience is like that. He’s a four-down player. I love LeSean McCoy and this guy’s every bit as athletic.”
– Mike Mayock, NFL Draft Expert
When you look at McCaffrey’s draft profile on NFL.com, he is rated as a multidimensional runner with flex appeal for teams looking for a 20 rush, 10 catch back. His size is small comparably making him slightly less desired. They said he doesn’t have the “NFL-caliber power to break tackles and create yardage for himself.”
They also called him smooth, with a controlled stride length with choppy feet for quick cuts and change of direction. That he is able to make defenders miss on all three levels. They said that he has excellent hands out of the backfield and can be used from slot.
This season, Christian McCaffrey has 38 rushing attempts for 104 yards. That is an average of 2.7 yards per attempt. It is clear that his run game is struggling. You can put partial blame on the Panthers offensive line, but he’s the one who has to have backfield vision, and see the holes.
On a more positive note, McCaffrey has caught 37 passes for 293 yards, which is a 7.9 yards per catch average which is much better than 2.7. He has two receiving touchdowns and no rushing scores. Jonathan Stewart has 247 rushing yards on 85 attempts, averaging 2.9 yards per attempt.
Clearly, Christian McCaffrey’s running struggles is not a lack of ability is Jonathan Stewart is averaging 2.9, Whittaker is averaging 2.5 yards per rush and as stated previously, McCaffrey is averaging 2.7.
The receiving stats for the Carolina Panthers are quite surprising. Devin Funchess has 27 receptions, 305 yards and three touchdowns. Christian McCaffrey has 10 more receptions than Funchess, 11 more than Benjamin and 22 receptions more than Dickson.
Christian McCaffrey has caught more than 25% of Cam Newton’s completions so far this season. The NFL record for receptions in a rookie season is 101, set by Anquan Boldin in 2003. McCaffrey is currently on pace to hit 99.
From what we’ve seen of Christian McCaffrey this season, he needs to be utilized in the slot more often than the backfield. His production would increase as he is getting more yards on receptions versus rushing attempts. He has the side-to-side chop step to be agile, and has a quick pace to beat zone coverage over the middle and those third or fourth set defensive backs. He ran a 4.48 40-yard dash, just in front of Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette’s 4.51. His vertical was higher, and he had one of the best three-cone drills ever marked at a 6.57. It was the second fastest by a RB since 2003.
NFL Sportscaster Charley Casserly tweeted about him saying that when they tested him at WR in the combine, “he looked like a 1st round pick there too.”
If the Panthers place him in the slot as a number four WR or occasionally number three, he will produce more, and become a better player.