There is no doubt that Christian McCaffrey was a very productive runner for the Stanford Cardinals, rushing for nearly 4,000 yards, and adding another 1,200 through the air from 2014 to 2016. As a sophomore, he broke Barry Sanders’ all-purpose yardage record at the collegiate level with 3,864 yards (Sanders’ record was 3,250).
Despite the amazing production for Stanford, and the pedigree of being the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, Christian seems to face the unwritten stereotype of being a “white” running back. Some have argued that his Heisman trophy chances were negatively affected by this factor - but will his NFL draft stock be impacted, too? Let’s take a look at some video clips and see for ourselves how McCaffrey figures to translate to the pro level.
On this play he does everything you want your running back to do - follow his blocks, hit the open hole, and bounce off the tackler to make him miss.
McCaffrey shows his ability to make people miss with his choppy, ever moving feet changing direction and looking to bounce past defenders.
You can tell why McCaffrey led his team in receptions in each of the past two seasons. On this pass, he keeps in stride, adjusting to an under thrown ball while keeping his momentum going forward to take it for a touchdown.
This clip is near the goal line on a short yardage, power running formation. At only 200 pounds, he’s not exactly going to move a pile. On the very next play he gets stonewalled again.
This is not what you want to see from your running back - holding the ball away from his body as he enters traffic. He fumbled, but it apparently didn’t faze him, as he ran with the same inviting-a-fumble technique on his very next carry.
What to like:
McCaffrey is a patient runner who waits for his blockers and runs behind them, always looking for the hole. If you give him a decent crease, he will find his way through it, rarely taking a bad running lane. He always keeps his feet moving, bouncing back and forth looking for extra yardage. He also has good hands and is an asset in the passing game.
While he isn’t somebody who seems able to make something out of nothing, he is a solid running back who gives you yardage and doesn’t give up on plays.
What needs improvement:
McCaffrey comes with a heavy college workload on his smaller frame with 672 total touches over just the last two seasons. Only 202 pounds, he seems destined to be more of a rotational player than a workhorse in the NFL.
He sat out from Stanford’s bowl game hoping to avoid a potential injury, which could have impacted his draft status. Seeing what happened with Jaylon Smith last year, it’s a reasonable concern.
Does he make sense for the Bengals?
McCaffrey’s patience seems to make him an ideal committee running back on a team with a zone blocking scheme. He also does well behind pulling linemen, but isn’t going to make his living between the tackles. If the Bengals were to draft him, he would be essentially a younger, cheaper, healthier version of Giovani Bernard. He has the smaller frame, and the shiftiness and receiving skills that tend to be Bernard’s best assets. With the Bengals more likely to want to move on from Jeremy Hill than Bernard (who the team extended last year), the selection of McCaffrey wouldn’t make a lot of sense, unless the Bengals were looking to move on from both of their current running backs.
He is also somebody who could provide a Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead type of role with heavy usage in a short passing game. The Bengals did something similar with Bernard in his rookie season with 56 receptions - but that was two offensive coordinators ago.
McCaffrey is expected to be drafted late in the first round and isn’t worthy of the No. 9 overall pick, so it seems unlikely at this point that McCaffrey will land with the Bengals.