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 and '16) and fifth in receiving on passes directed outside the numbers (270 yards).
2. Todd McShay ESPN Insider: