Dynasty Rookie Spotlight: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford University
Height: 5’ 11 1/4”
Weight: 202 lbs
Wing: 67 ⅜”
40 yard dash: 4.48 (official)
NFL Comparison: Bilal Powell, Danny Woodhead
– good first move
– long speed
– long stride
– used on the goal line to jump the pile
– isn’t afraid to go over the middle for catch
– avoids contact
– good vision
– shifty change-of-direction
– catches the ball in stride
– bad yards after contact
Scouting Notes: There are few more polarizing skill players in this year’s draft than the uber talented McCaffrey, son of former Giant, 49er and – most famously – Bronco, receiver Ed McCaffrey. There’s no question that Christian is among the greats at Stanford and the NCAA from a historical standpoint. His 2015 season will go down as one of the best of all time with 2,664 yards from scrimmage, an NCAA record 3,864 all-purpose yards and 15 TDs on the ground – not including two more return TDs and an additional two TD receptions. This absurd sophomore season output didn’t go unnoticed, as it garnered McCaffrey AP Offensive player of the year, All-American honors and runner-up for that season’s Heisman trophy. 2016 wasn’t quite the same watershed moment in his career that 2015 was, only coming in second in yards from scrimmage, but McCaffrey did well enough to leave for the draft as a top RB candidate. John Lynch, Jack Del Rio, and David Caldwell went out of their way, at the Combine, to articulate their affection for McCaffrey- and squash the notion he’s a gadget player who will require complex scheming in order to produce at the next level.
At almost 6’ but only 200 lbs, McCaffrey has to make people miss, as he doesn’t break tackles with aplomb, but being elusive is his forte. McCaffrey can change direction at an elite level – he is often referred to as a human “joystick”, and he does so without sacrificing much speed whatsoever. His cuts are precise whether he’s juking a linebacker on the first level or evading a safety down the field. Those missed tackles help to mitigate McCaffrey’s inability to pick up many yards after initial contact, and he’s often allowed to make big gains out of broken plays. With McCaffrey’s jitterbug running style, he’s a constant threat to score, and not just from the RB position. McCaffrey can be lined up as a receiver on the perimeter and not feel out of place. He’s a natural receiver who catches the ball in stride over his shoulder or out in front of his body. He’s also electric in the return game, as he’s got excellent downfield vision, and he accelerates to top speed with a quickness.
The biggest concern with MCaffrey’s game is that he’s gotten so much action over the past few years, and he could be starting to wear down. He was slowed down by nagging injuries in 2016, which isn’t surprising as he’s had 745 combined touches over the last two years. He’s also a liability as a blocker. He’s tenacious, but he’s not the strongest guy and he maintains a high center of gravity. This is also a factor in his running style, and you know how we a RosterWatch feel about those upright runners…
Fantasy Outlook: Some teams may see McCaffrey as a three down back, while many will categorize him as a gadget player, which is why it’s hard to pinpoint where he will go in the draft. I’d be hardpressed to wager him dropping past the second round though. McCaffrey is a triple threat who can be utilized in multiple phases of the game, but it’s going to take a creative mind to really make him the kind of weapon he has the potential to be. If he goes somewhere like New England or New Orleans, then watch out. If he goes somewhere less adventurous in their play-calling, or just not sure what to make of him, he might end up on the shelf. This is why I’m not quite as bullish on the kid as some of the other top tier backs in the draft. He does have major potential as a future PPR star though, so I’d make sure to nab him in those formats — if I can get good enough value — in the hopes that whoever gets him can find a way to keep him on the field early and often.
QUOTABLE FROM THE COMBINE
What are you hoping to show here?
Just as much I can do. I don’t think there’s anyone else that can do all the things I can as far as running between the tackles, outside pass protect,
play X, Z, slot and do a lot of things in the return game as well. I think that’s what sets me apart.
How you would feel about following your dad and playing in Denver?
That would be awesome. That would be great. I would love to play there. But it’s kind of hard to be a fan of anywhere anymore cause you start to wind
down things and you don’t know where you’re going to end up. I’ll be happy to play for anybody.
Decision not to play in bowl game and reactions from teammates?
My teammates, I have the best teammates in the whole world at Stanford, and coaches, honestly. Every single one of them supported me, had my back. I was very fortunate to have that.
Yes sir. They gave me a little ovation and I got a lot of love from my teammates. That was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I was just real lucky to have a bunch of guys who have my back during it.
Pattern develop when you talk to scouts about where they think you’ll fit best in NFL?
It differs a little bit but most of it is pretty similar. It’s basically the same stuff I’ve been doing at Stanford as far as everything.
See yourself as a specialist or every down back?
I definitely believe I can be an every down back and a specialist, do them both at the same time.
In interviews, have you been asked about not going to bowl game?
Were they concerned about decision and what did you tell them?
I just tell them how it is when they ask. I’mm extremely honest with them and then we move on to now and playing football.
Give your college production, why do you think people are questioning how you’ll transition to NFL?
I wish I knew. I have no idea. I just answer the questions I’m ask.
Relationship with Jack Del Rio, what’s it been like crossing paths with him here?
It’s so surreal. Growing up, his son Luke was my quarterback in high school. I remember he was in the stands, with the Broncos, and we would hang out and have dinner with their family. Looking at the Raiders side, looking at the Broncos side, just knowing that there are so many people here that I’ve grown up knowing, it’s pretty surreal that I’m here now as a player.
Did sitting out bowl game give you an advantage here?
I have no idea. We’ll see. I just know I made that decision. It was a career decision, it was a man decision to try to protect my dream of playing and succeeding in the NFL. Whether it gave me an advantage or not, I stuck with it. I’m here now moving on, that’s probably all I’ll talk about that anymore. I’m moving on to NFL football now.
On his position flexibility
Something I really pride myself on is not just being a running back that can catch the ball but if I move out to the slot, I become a receiver. If I move out to X or Z, I become a receiver and not just a running back. I really try to pride myself on route running, catching and being able to be a mismatch anywhere on the field.
Are you a RB or WR?
Wherever they put me. I’ll do anything a team needs me to do.
Will you run routes here?
I won’t run routes here. I’ll do a lot of that stuff at my pro day. I’ll do all the running back stuff, everything single drill here.
What’s best advice you’ve received about process?
Enjoy it. Its a once in a lifetime process. Everybody that I’ve talked to has told me to enjoy the process. Smile. Be happy. It’s so true. You can easily get very tense and tight in situations like this, but this is such an amazing process, it’s such a dream come true to even be here and just blessed and fortunate I get to go out here and compete.
Advice from dad?
He’s told me the same thing. To smile, breath, the work’s been put in, now it’s just time to go.
Stanford teammates’ advice?
I’ve talked to some of them. A lot of them are busy and they know I’m busy. But it’s all the same thing. It’s another day of playing football and working out. That’s what I’ve been doing since I was seven years old, so there’s no secret to this process other than just go out and be you and enjoy it.
Inaudible question, about Josh?
I miss him. He’s a heck of a player. Him being close was nice. He would come to a couple of our games when they had home games. Just seeing him there, knowing that he’s a guy that’s done it, that was really cool.
Familiarity with Rick Dennison through your dad?
I’m definitely pretty familiar with it. I was so little when my dad played. He graduated [means retired] I was four or five, I was real little. But familiar with all of the offenses now.
How strange is it talking to guys you’ve known your whole life like John Lynch, Jack Del Rio on this side of the table?
It is a little bit weird at first. You know how to act, but a lot of times he wouold come over the to the house. I remember hanging out with coach Lynch’s son at Velocity in Colorado way back in the day. we’d run around. I saw him at Stanford practice one day, before all this happened. Now i’m here, it really is surreal.
Are you disrespected in this running back class?
I play with a chip on my shoulder always. I feel like a lot of people don’t give me credit for my skills and talents. That’s just the way it is. But I also don’t really care too much. I don’t feel like I’m crazy disrespected. I have a chip on my shoulder at all times. That’s been my whole life.
More on growing up in Denver
Growing up I wanted to be an nfl football player. that’s what you dream about when you’re playing pee wee, when you’re a freshman in high school to a senior in high school, then you get to college and it starts becoming a litlte more real. sometimes you have to sit back and appreciate where you’re at and kind of reflect on all the times you’ve had in the game of football. just being here has been real special.
40 time important for where you’ll get drafted 1st vs 2nd round?
I don’t know. I’m not a decision maker. I have no idea. My tape is out there and that’s the majority of the work that i’ve put in.
Goal 40 time?
We’ll find out Friday.
Relationship with brother Max?
Max is my best friend in the whole world. Growing up we were very competitive with each other, we were constantly playing one on one basketball, or playing football, tearing up the yard. Doing everything together. All his best friends were my best friends. Even still today go at it a bit. He’s been such an amazing influence in my life and I’m extremely happy that I can call him my older brother.
Self taught on the harmonica?
Yeah, self taught.
What got you into that?
Sophomore year during camp at Stanford. Camp is, it’s not rough, but you get a little bit lonely, so I ordered a harmonica on Amazon about $15 and just started messing around with it.
Do you play the piano as well?
How good are you?
I’m average. I’m not elite. But I like to play.
I’ve got a couple. Me and my neighbor Michael Mann used to always play the piano together.
Is there anything you can’t do?
There’s a lot I can’t do. Don’t let me fool you up here, there’s a lot I can’t do. I can’t sing.
Impact of high school ball at Valor Christian?
We had a lot of NFL coaches. I was extremely blessed to be a part of that. Brian Dawkins was my DB coach in high school. Travis Kirskey, who played with the Steelers forever. We had coaches who had been around nfl guys all the time and so having people who have been through it and mentored me throughout the way has definitely been a huge advantage.
Relationship with Le’Veon Bell?
Social media is so crazy now a days you can really get in touch with anybody. One time he kind of hit me up on Twitter. I started picking his brain on some plays, sent him some clips cause he’s a heck of a running back, somebody I like to model part of my game after. He’s been very helpful.
Not met in person?
Never met in person, just based off the phone.
What was Bell’s best advice?
You watch him run and see how patient he is and that’s really where I pull a lot of that from. Watching him sit behind the line of scrimmage and kind of dissect the defense, and as soon as he sees the hole he’s exploding through it.
Have you thought about what it would be like to play in Denver as a visitor?
No I haven’t thought about that. Whatever team picks me up, I’d be extremely happy to go there.
What can you take from what Ezekiel Elliott did as a rookie in 2016?
It shows that anybody can step up and be an immediate force on the football field, even as a rookie
Ty Montgomery changing positions in GB?
Ty could do it all. He’s a heck of an athlete. I was lucky to be with him for a year at Stanford. I wasn’t shocked, I could see that coming. he’s a heck of a player, he can play receiver, he can play running back, he can do it all. When that happened i was excited for him.
Inaudible [about former Stanford teammate?]
I got to spend a year with him, a whole offseason with him. Those are the guys that kind of mentored me when I was coming in as a little freshman kid that doesn’t know anything, so they mentored me. Those are the guys that paved the path.
Just by working. All the leaders on that team. I was real lucky to play with a lot of them. Just showed me the way through example. They don’t have to say a lot, they just go out and take care of business and that’s all I need.
How has Loren Landow helped you?
Everywhere. Loren is a heck of a trainer. Quickness, agility, explosion, size, everything.
Advantage to training in Colorado?
It’s helped the process just being with [Landow]. Being in altitude helps a lot. I come here and feel like I can really breath. That’s a big plus.
Training with Brandon Stokley?
He’s a heck of a mentor. Just piicking his brain on a lot of slot stuff, a lot of release work. Stuff like that has really helped me.
Do you have the most athletic family in history?
Yes. I’ll put us against anybody.
What’s it like facing Solomon Thomas in practice?
It was not fun. Not fun. Solomon is a heck of a player. That’s my best friend, one of my roommates. Just going up against him is such a blessing because you get to compete with one of the best players in the nation every single day and just see how he goes about his business. We would push each other all the time. Really lucky to have a teammate like that, but also a friend.
Do you remember dad’s first Super Bowl celebration?
I don’t remember it, but there’s a big picture in my house. I think it was in Sports Illustrated, where I had a little blond afro and was running on the field in my dad’s jersey, it looked like a dress while all of that [confetti] was falling down. I remember the picture but I was too little to remember that.
What injury did you have last season?
I just had a hip bruise. It wasn’t anything bad at all. I felt like I could have played but we had some great trainers and they were very cautious about it.
Why all the secrecy about it?
That’s just the way [Shaw] is. We’re very good about a lot of that stuff. Coach Shaw is really good at protecting his players and really thankful for him.
What appeals to you about the return game?
There’s just a lot of big plays open in the return game. You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. A lot of times it gets taken for granted. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous and that’s really why I love the return game. There’s so much space in front of you and there’s just another opportunity to make a play.
Why will you run routes at pro day?
I thikn it’s important just to show everything I can do. It’s something I pride myself on, being extremely versatile and I feel like I can do that stuff. To show coaches I can play running back, I can play receiver. I can do all the return game stuff, that’s important to me.