Fantasy Football Profile: Christian McCaffrey

Written by Mikey Ostrowski

Bold prediction: Christian McCaffrey, one of the NFL’s most elite pass-catching running backs, will still finish as a RB1 in PPR leagues… In my mind, this isn’t a bold prediction, but with the acquisition of C.J. Anderson in Carolina, I’m sure it is to most of you.

If you know who I am then you know I am a die-hard Carolina Panthers fan from South Jersey… I know, weird right? Naturally, with me being a Panthers fan, I firmly believe in CMC. You may be thinking to yourself, “No kidding, you’re just giving your biased opinion, I’m not trusting McCaffrey as my RB1” and that’s fine. However, I follow Carolina close enough to know that Anderson’s presence may only strengthen CMC’s stats this year. I’ll get into that later in this article though.

Let’s dive in.

2017 Review

Season stats: 16 games played, 117 rushing attempts, 435 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, 113 targets, 80 receptions, 651 receiving yards and 5 reception touchdowns. Total PPR points: 230.6

McCaffrey finished as the RB9 in PPR leagues last year due to his incredibly high involvement in the passing game. He was an absolute steal in redraft leagues last year, as he was being drafted as the RB20 or later.

Though his rushing attempts and yards per carry were a concern (3.7), he made up for it by having the third-most receptions in the entire league at the running back position. A lot of people are talking about his rookie season, saying that this is his ceiling… but I’m here to tell you that it’s actually his floor, and the sky truly is the limit for this kid.

2018 Preview

CMC’s projected stats (you heard it here first): 182 rushing attempts, 746 rushing yards, 107 targets, 76 receptions, 633 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns.

In PPR leagues, those stats would translate to 267.9 fantasy points, which would have been good enough to be the RB7 in 2017. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty stoked to be getting a mid-range RB1 at the lowly ADP of 2.07. However, as much as I believe in McCaffrey, I may avoid him in standard leagues… SIKE.

Even if you takeaway the 76 potential points from receptions, he’s still projected to finish with 191.9 points, which would have been good enough to be the RB9 in standard leagues in 2017. People neglect to see the importance of receiving yards from running backs in standard leagues. Sure, less than 750 rushing yards does not sound appealing from a guy that you may be drafting to be your RB1… but 1,379 yards from scrimmage definitely does.

So where am I getting these numbers? Why is it that with the acquisition of Anderson I am still predicting McCaffrey to see a pretty decent uptick in rushing attempts? Call me a romantic, but I think Norv Turner (the new offensive coordinator in Carolina) will be absolutely in love with CMC by the end of training camp. Not only that, but Turner has publicly admitted that McCaffrey and rookie receiver D.J. Moore are the future and he wants to literally build his system around them. Turner will ensure that McCaffrey sees similar numbers in the passing game this year, and will definitely look to use his versatility in the run game more this time around. As for Anderson stealing touches, I’m not that concerned.

Jonathan Stewart departed Carolina this offseason, which frees up about 200 touches for the running backs. To think that Anderson will pick up ALL of these touches is bizarre to me, though I do believe he will see the majority of those touches. However, I also don’t think it is ludicrous to expect CMC’s touches to increase by 55 to 65 carries… in fact, I’d be absolutely appalled if McCaffrey isn’t granted at least 25% of J-Stew’s touches.

Here’s my thought process: Anderson is not a goal-line back and will not threaten to take away touchdowns for CMC. That’s what they have Cam Newton for. I find it very likely that McCaffrey will be the “goal-line back” this year… and not because he can pound it in, but because it’ll keep defenses honest. Cam will more than likely be their pound-it-in guy, and if the line gets extra impenetrable he’ll flick it off to the side to CMC for the easy catch-and-go TD.

Anderson also is not a starting running back. Sure, he had a thousand-yard rushing season in 2017, but he also had one of the easiest schedules for a running back, with practically no competition for touches on his team. His 245 touches are something he will not come close to in Carolina, as I have previously said. I do think that Carolina didn’t bring him in to simply be a “change of pace” back, but they also didn’t bring him in to be a starter. Best case scenario for Anderson is that him and CMC split two-down work, while McCaffrey takes nearly every third down. Ironically enough, this is the worst-case scenario for McCaffrey, which would still mean a decent uptick in touches for him.

Final Advice

Though I did just completely talk down Anderson from a fantasy perspective, I’m not here to tell you to stay away from him in drafts. But, I am here to tell you to definitely grab McCaffrey if you have a chance. A late second-rounder for this guy is a bargain. Hell, I’d even reach for him in the mid-second round because I genuinely believe he will keep his RB1 status in ALL formats in 2018.

The dude is incredibly talented, and I truly believe that the Panthers just didn’t know how to use him on the ground last year. Turner is going to correct that problem, and by the end of the season people will be drooling over McCaffrey.

Maybe this is just the Panthers fan in me talking, but I genuinely think that Cam, CMC, and Moore could very well be the next Roethlisberger, Bell and AB. This is going to be an exciting team to watch over the next several years, and I think CMC’s reign of power begins now, in 2018. Stay on alert fantasy fans, this guy is going to grab the NFL by the balls this year.

 

Stay up to date with all of our Fantasy Football Player Profiles here

Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as the guys discuss our consensus ranked 1-12 quarterbacks. Also be sure to check out our overall consensus fantasy football rankings here

Mikey Ostrowski is a blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast.  Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook

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