-- This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Feb. 27 Entertainment Issue. Subscribe today!
Christian McCaffrey was a triple threat -- running, receiving, returning -- at Stanford, racking up 247.6 all-purpose yards per game before turning pro. But will he continue being an elite difference-maker at the next level? We asked an NFL scout to rate McCaffrey, then had our Insiders respond.
An NFL scout says:
He possesses long-stride speed in the run and pass games and can outrun Power 5 defensive backs on angles to the pylon. 1 He'll cut back and fight for yardage along the sideline, and his vision and awareness keep him on the proper side of downfield blocks. And he doesn't shy away from contact. 2 On the other hand, he lacks top-level short-area change of direction and quickness. 3 His erect running style allows first contact on his legs, 4 and the first defender takes him down too frequently. 5 He's a disciplined route runner who hits his marks with timing and doesn't fool the quarterback. 6 He has good hands and catches the ball away from his body, smoothly transitioning it to a secure position while accelerating. 7 On the flip side, his receiving acumen isn't dynamic enough to make him a receiving specialist in the NFL. 8 He projects as a mid- to upper-tier NFL running back. 9
Our Insiders respond, point-by-point:
1. KC Joyner, ESPN Insider: McCaffrey did very well among Power 5 backs: second in rushing on plays directed outside the tackles (2,018 yards in 2015
2. Todd McShay ESPN Insider: He's not Barry Sanders. That's not his game. His run style is more
Le'Veon Bell. He's patient and has a great sense for when to hit the crease in a zone-blocking scheme.
3. Mel Kiper, ESPN Insider: I don't agree. Suddenness isn't an issue for McCaffrey, and he has quick feet and is shifty. He'll test extremely well.
4. McShay: Agree. He needs to lower his pads consistently
5. Kiper: This assessment is a bit harsh. Running backs can't evade everybody. He often makes first defenders miss.
6. Joyner: Among Power 5 backs in 2015 and '16, he was tied for third in screen-pass receptions (28), was fifth in screen-pass yards (214) and
7. McShay: Another decent comparison is
8. Joyner: McCaffrey has been one of the best pass catchers at his position. He ranked fifth in catch percentage, fourth in yards per reception, third in yards after catch per reception and sixth in drop percentage among Power 5 RBs in 2015 and '16.
9. Kiper: I would say he's an upper-tier all-around back. If all he could do was run the football, he would be knocked down a peg. He will step into the league and be one of the most versatile backs on Day 1.