Elusiveness, fluidity and endurance are attributes that typically serve gamers nicely in school soccer and the NFL alike. Former Stanford working again Christian McCaffrey has all of those qualities, which is why I anticipate him to make a easy transition to the professional recreation. It’s additionally why he places me strongly in thoughts of the Atlanta Falcons’ Devonta Freeman.
Freeman, who’s earned consecutive Professional Bowl honors through the previous two seasons, was a fourth-round draft select of Florida State in 2014. That was largely as a result of he lacked dimension at 5 toes eight inches and 206 kilos, and since he ran an uninspiring 4.58 40 at the combine. McCaffrey is listed at 6 toes even and 197 kilos, which can not assist his draft inventory however gained’t harm it a lot both.
Whereas I anticipated a robust efficiency on the mix from McCaffrey, it turned out to be nothing in need of brilliance. McCaffrey clocked a 4.48 40. Simply as spectacular had been his 37 1/2 vertical bounce, four.22 20-yard shuttle, 6.57 second Three-cone drill and 11.03 60-yard shuttle, all tops for working backs in Indianapolis.
What actually separates McCaffrey from different prospects, and what heightens the parallels with Freeman, is his unimaginable versatility as a runner and pass-catcher. Name him a Swiss military knife, should you like.
In accordance with ESPN The Journal, McCaffrey ― who turns 21 in June ― ranked second within the nation amongst Energy 5 working backs on speeding performs directed exterior the tackles through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Moreover, he was slotted fifth in catch share and third in yards after catch.
And being a succesful pass-catching again isn’t simply in regards to the display recreation. The following step is the slot ― after which on wheel routes ― the place few guys have the quickness and the palms wanted. Marshawn Lynch was nice at this, David Johnson can do it, and Le’Veon Bell excels.
Freeman, to his credit score, can also be deft in such a task for the Falcons. When your working again isn’t merely a three-down man, but in addition somebody who can actually catch the ball, offenses open up and turn out to be that rather more harmful. McCaffrey, for his half, possesses the mandatory elusiveness and willingness to make “visitors” catches, which bodes nicely.
There’s additionally McCaffrey’s dynamic punt and kick return potential. In 2015, he broke the all-time single-season NCAA document with Three,864 all-purpose yards. This previous 12 months, regardless of woeful quarterback play, he nonetheless managed to hurry for over 1,600 yards and a whopping 16 complete touchdowns. As a comparability, Freeman additionally scored 16 touchdowns as a junior, albeit on 1,000 yards and a 5.9 rush common (McCaffrey’s was 6.Three).
When it comes right down to the draft, it doesn’t actually matter whether or not McCaffrey is the second, third or sixth working again off the board. I’d even argue that as a professional, his recreation interprets higher than it did as a collegian.
Versatility within the NFL is rewarded in spades ― roles are carved out to actually maximize expertise. (Assume Danny Woodhead, Darren Sproles and Tyreek Hill.) To make sure, defenses are a lot better ― sooner and extra complicated ― however whereas everybody game-planned for McCaffrey because the Cardinal’s first, second and even third choice, that gained’t be the case within the league. Higher but, imaginative and prescient ― undoubtedly considered one of his greatest abilities ― additionally makes for a better transition than, say, simply being an influence again. (Ask Tyrone Wheatley, Ron Dayne or Trent Richardson about that.)
This isn’t to say McCaffrey is one other Le’Veon Bell, however that’s the place the comparability to the Steelers’ megastar working again is sensible. Dictating to the protection as a substitute of letting the protection dictate to you ― that’s how each of those guys favor to run the soccer. It is vitally, very laborious to do, and it doesn’t essentially imply McCaffrey, a former Heisman finalist, will mechanically turn out to be an important participant. But it surely positively helps.
All in all, McCaffrey and his dynamic versatility remind me of nobody a lot as Devonta Freeman. I think he’ll quickly be one of many league’s best working backs, and maybe simply as importantly, a three-down again as nicely.