Fantasy Football: The Case For Christian McCaffrey

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This article is part of The Fantasy Court series, be sure to check out The Case Against Christian McCaffrey by Nate Hamilton (@DomiNateFF).

Check out where Andy, Mike, and Jason have Christian McCaffrey projected in the Ultimate Draft Kit.

Opening Statement

When drafting your fantasy team, especially in the early rounds, your goal should be minimizing risk. Drafting an RB who finished his rookie year as the RB11, with 7 TDs and over 100 targets, in the 2nd round of your fantasy draft seems pretty safe to me. But because Christian McCaffrey doesn’t fit the stereotypical “workhorse” role, you’re being told to exercise caution when drafting him. DO NOT LISTEN. McCaffrey’s role in the passing game is far more valuable than the carries he’ll lose to the newly acquired C.J. Anderson and, if history has anything to say about it, should keep him into the RB1 ranks in 2018.

2017 Season

The most common argument you’ll hear against my client is that “He won’t carry the ball enough“. But if you’re getting fantasy points, who cares where they are coming from? In 2017, McCaffrey only saw 33% of the carries in the Carolina backfield giving him 117 carries for 435 yards and 2 TDs…BUT he finished with 113 targets, most among all RBs, that he turned into an 80-651-5 receiving season, all top 5 among RBs. In fact, if you took just McCaffrey’s receiving numbers he would have been the WR24 overall in 0.5 PPR scoring. As it stood, those totals were good enough for an RB1 season during CMC’s rookie campaign. While he had 5 RB1 weeks, he had 8 weeks as an RB1/2  and did so despite only registering double-digit carries 3 times. He was both an RB1 and a WR2 last season and has already proven that he can produce without seeing all, or even most, of the running game work.

A Brief History of Pass-Catching RBs

Over the last 5 seasons, only 8 RBs have recorded 100+ targets in a season. Not one of them has failed to crack the RB1 ranks in 0.5 PPR scoring. To reiterate, running backs that are targeted in the passing game 100 or more times have a 100% return on investment as an RB1. And you’re trying to be convinced that a guy with an RB12 ADP, the last RB1, is too risky in the 2nd round? McCaffrey’s lead competition for targets is an aging Greg Olsen, who’s returning from injury, a rookie WR, and Devin Funchess. Tell me why he won’t see 100 targets again in 2018?

Expectations for 2018

We are in the prime “coach-speak” time of year so you have to take everything you hear with a grain of salt, but the Panthers are talking McCaffrey usage and you have to like what you’re hearing. In the same week, we heard that he should see 200 carries and that 25-30 touches per game would be “ideal”. I don’t want to get your hopes up but that would translate to 200 carries…AND 200 CATCHES for Christian McCaffrey, which would firmly claim the NFL record for catches in a season. Clearly, that is not going to happen but it’s also clear that the addition of C.J. Anderson will not put McCaffrey in the corner…nobody puts CMC in a corner.

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The biggest addition the Panthers made this offseason wasn’t even Anderson. It was Norv Turner and his history with pass-catching backs is way more important than the work Anderson might take. Over the last 10 seasons, with 3 different teams, Turner RBs have been in the top 12 for RB targets 7 times and have been top 20 in targets 90% of the time. Norv Turner offenses throw the running back the ball and that means guaranteed work for McCaffrey, not Anderson. This says to me that there is no reason to expect any real decline in his passing game work. And if he were to see almost double the carries he saw in 2017, why would you predict a decline in his production? If McCaffrey would have gotten 200 carries last year, he likely would have finished as the RB8 based on his averages. Jonathan Stewart saw 200 carries last season and CJ Anderson is not so immensely talented that he will demand more work than that. All signs point to more running game work for Christian and another top of the league year in targets.

Andy, Mike, and Jason put it best: “Christian McCaffrey is Game Script Proof.” If they are winning, he can carry the ball and kill the clock. If they are losing, he won’t leave the field as their best pass catcher. If C.J. Anderson gets hurt…HE MAY SEE 200 CARRIES AND 200 CATCHES! While I don’t share Ron Rivera‘s lofty expectations, I think 1500 total yards and 10+ TDs are well within the realm of possibility for CMC and when you combine that with the 70+ catches he is likely to reel in…you get an RB1. Plain and simple.

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Closing Argument

Before you tell me Christian McCaffrey is going to lose work just answer these three questions:

  1. Who is Carolina’s best RB?
  2. Who is Carolina’s best slot WR?
  3. Who is the most explosive player in the entire Panther offense?

The answer is Christian McCaffrey. And a player who fills these most important roles for his offense, who is primed to see an uptick in work, even if it’s slight, is just about a lock to finish as an RB1. So, while you’re paying full price for him at his current ADP, he is likely to pay you back in full. For a 2nd round RB, what more do you want? Draft Christian McCaffrey, win a #FootClanTitle and have the time of your fantasy football lives in 2018.

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