If you’ve seen my top 50 board, then you probably already know how I feel about Christian McCaffrey. He was on my top 50 board and rated as a first round pick, so I definitely think he’s a good player. Top 50 players are all good players, not that people always realize that. In a vacuum I want all of these players. The problem is that teams don’t operate in a vacuum. Would I like Leonard Fournette on my team? Of course I would. Would I like DeShone Kizer on my team? Well, yeah. The problem is that teams have a finite amount of resources and each draft selection and free agent move has an impact on future decisions.
Anyway, here are 5 reasons why I don’t think the Panthers should draft McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick.
1. He’s a running back. Never mind the talent. I wouldn’t want to take Zeke Elliott in the top 10, and I thought Zeke was a much better prospect than McCaffrey. The Cowboys passed on Jalen Ramsey to take Zeke last year and they took an injured LB in the second round over Derrick Henry. The Cowboys biggest need this offseason is arguably CB and they passed on one of the best young corners in the game. Most people would say this move worked out for them (they won 13 games!), but Aaron Rodgers threw for 355 yards against the Cowboys in a close playoff loss in a game where their secondary was (and still is) a problem.
2. Running back performance is largely dictated by the offensive line. I think there are maybe two running backs in the NFL who can transcend their offensive line: Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson. In 2015 for the Cowboys, Darren McFadden ran the ball 239 times for 1,089 yards, at 4.6 yards per attempt. In 2016, with largely the same offensive line, Ezekiel Elliott ran the ball 322 times for 1,631 yards, at 5.1 yards per attempt. Darren McFadden was a cheap free agent signing, while Elliott was the fourth overall pick in the draft. Did they really have to spend the fourth overall pick to improve their yards per carry by half a yard?
3. He’s not an elite athlete. If I’m taking a running back in the top 10, I need him to be an elite athlete. Sure, he had a great 3 cone time, but for someone weighing at just 202 lbs, he only ran a 4.48 forty. That’s not a bad time, but it shows his lack of breakaway speed that will surely be more of a problem in the NFL than it was at Stanford. He put up just 10 reps on the bench press, which tested in the 1st percentile of all NFL running backs. This suggests to me that he isn’t a workout warrior, and brings up general strength concerns.
4. It’s financially irresponsible. The eighth pick in the draft is due about 16 million in guaranteed money. That would put him third out of all running backs, behind Zeke Elliott and Shady McCoy. The total value of his contract would be eighth out of all running backs. At running back, you need him to produce like a top 5 or so player immediately to justify that contract. That’s asking a lot. In terms of guaranteed money, that’s edge 19 money, CB 14 money, or OT 18 money. As far as optimizing your roster goes, it’s smarter to target positions that cost lots of money in free agency (duh).
5. Versatility is overrated. Christian McCaffrey is the ultimate jack of all trades, master of none player. He can run the ball, return kicks and punts, and line up at receiver. If you want a punt returner, just find one in free agency or on day two or three of the draft. You don’t have to spend a top 10 pick on one. If you want someone who can win from the slot, draft a slot receiver. There are plenty of them in this draft. How much did we hear about Shaq Thompson’s versatility leading up to the draft in 2015? We’re doing the same this year with guys like Jabrill Peppers, Adoree Jackson, and a few others. That versatility label quickly goes out the window once they’re drafted and you need actual production.
As my top 50 board showed, I do think he’s a good prospect. I get the appeal. He’s a versatile player who is a great fit for the modern NFL. He’s one of the safest prospects in this entire draft and that definitely has value. Knowing what you’re getting has value. If you ask me, taking a safe pick in the top 10 is for cowards. Swing for the fences and hope you land a franchise-changing player.
Fans want him to be the Panthers version of
Super Bowl MVP James White, Tevin Coleman, or Ty Montgomery. The problem is those guys were all mid round picks. He’s a similar prospect to CJ Prosise who went in the third round last year to Seattle. There’s a clear history of teams selecting similar prospects in the middle rounds. Christian McCaffrey will likely be a good player—maybe even great—but the eighth pick is too high to select him. There’s an incredible amount of smoke around McCaffrey to Carolina, but I’m hoping it’s exactly that.
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