The Christian McCaffrey talk really got rolling after he turned in a dominating combine performance. Nobody was really surprised by this, but he turned heads when he got some work in as a wide receiver. Now, he’s turning even more heads by working out exclusively as a receiver at Stanford’s pro day.
Take a look at his combine numbers. The percentages are compared to other skill position players that have taken part in the combine.
The most important numbers here are the jumps, 3 cone drill and shuttles. These show explosion and agility. McCaffrey’s 4.48 40 yard dash would give any team a dynamic speed threat out of the slot, but it’s his explosion and change of direction skills that really stand out.
During the 2015 season — McCaffrey’s only real, full season — he totaled 47 catches for 645 yards. All this, of course, while racking up over 2000 yards on the ground averaging 6 yards per carry.
We haven’t really seen an extended look at McCaffrey as a receiver, but below are a couple of flashes from his time at Stanford.
The first is the 2015 Rose Bowl — where the world realized they gave the Heisman trophy to the wrong guy. McCaffrey couldn’t be stopped on that day. A Big Ten team has never looked slower. Watch him here work out of the backfield and destroy a flat-footed defender. It was over from the second McCaffrey put a foot in the ground.
The next rep shows McCaffrey working out of the slot. The defender gives him a huge cushion, making it easy for him to make a play on the ball. He’s able to make a guy miss, which is the entire idea of playing him at receiver. He’s a guy you are going to get the ball to and let him work.
Another look at McCaffrey in the slot. Whoever decided to let this linebacker handle No. 5 out of the slot should be fired. This was easy money. McCaffrey looks like a natural catching the football.
Another use for McCaffrey? Passing down back. Watch him turn a pretty well defended screen into a touchdown here. He’s a tougher runner than given credit for and is an absolute nightmare in the open field.
I don’t think it’s fair to label McCaffrey as a receiver either. He’s a really talented runner that shows toughness and vision. His ability to stay patient coupled with his explosion and ability to change direction quickly make him special.
Just imagine that coming at you after several Derrick Henry carries in a row. Imagine that in the backfield with Marcus Mariota. That’s a really explosive piece of offense that the Titans haven’t had since Chris Johnson. Team speed and playmaking in general is a huge need for this team. While McCaffrey isn’t the conventional answer, I think you have to consider him against each of the top three receivers from this draft class.
I would pretty easily prefer Corey Davis over McCaffrey, but if he’s off the board would the Titans prefer him over John Ross or Mike Williams? Different styles, obviously, but with McCaffrey working as a receiver during the draft process, I don’t think you can rule it out.
With DeMarco Murray quickly approaching 30 and Derrick Henry waiting to take over, Tennessee is going to need a new RB2, possibly as soon as next year. Could McCaffrey be the swiss army knife and take over both slot duties and running back duties? I think he absolutely could.
A Derrick Henry-Christian McCaffrey backfield would be so much fun in the future. He’s instant offense right away and and would boost a return unit that could really use the help.
He doesn’t fill a “need” positionally — I get that argument. I also understand the Titans have plenty more holes to fill on the roster. McCaffrey would probably be viewed as a luxury pick by many, but I don’t know if that’s the right way to look at it. The Titans have a serious lack of guys that can make things happen offensively. No matter where you put McCaffrey, I think he makes an instant impact.
I think you have to forget positional labels with McCaffrey and just view him as a weapon. I’m sure Terry Robiskie and Mike Mularkey would have a blast drawing up some plays for him. Imagine all the exotic smashmouth looks they could create with a dynamic guy like McCaffrey — he may just be the dynamic piece of offense that the Titans are looking for.