The 2017 NFL Draft just got a lot more interesting – and deeper at running back – with news that Stanford star rusher Christian McCaffrey would be declaring following the 2016 college football season.
McCaffrey burst onto the scene as an explosive and versatile record-breaker as a freshman in 2015, but due to NCAA restrictions, wasn’t able to declare to go pro a year ago. After another strong college football season, McCaffrey finally made his move to the next level official, via Twitter:
After three incredible years at Stanford, I’ve decided to enter the 2017 NFL draft. #BlessedByTheBest
— Christian McCaffrey (@CMccaffrey5) December 7, 2016
McCaffrey tends to be a mixed bag in the eyes of draft scouts, as some don’t believe he has the long speed to dominate at the next level, nor the size. Instead, it’s possible many teams view him more as a versatile gadget player, return man and the ever popular “scat-back” type of runner. Of course, McCaffrey’s dominance in the Pac-12 says otherwise, as he even closed 2016 in style with 284 and 204 rushing yards in his last two regular season games.
In all, McCaffrey leaves Stanford as one of the best all-purpose players college football has ever seen, having burst onto the scene with over 2,000 rushing yards in 2015 and capping his career with over 1,600 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Just see the damage the kid has done for yourself:
As great as McCaffrey has been at the college level, there are still question marks about his ability in the NFL. That will almost certainly keep him from being a top-10 draft pick, but early NFL mock drafts have him still being taken in the first round. The big question, of course, is where should he go? Let’s take a look at five teams that could use him and just might consider spending their first round pick on him in the 2017 NFL Draft:
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay’s case for drafting Christian McCaffrey (or any running back, for that matter) is undeniable. Eddie Lacy can’t stay healthy and is hitting free agency, James Starks hasn’t proven he can carry a full load and the team twice traded for running backs in 2016 that they have yet to actually use. Needless to say, the Packers need to go back to the drawing board at running back and McCaffrey would be an excellent start.
McCaffrey gives the Packers so many things they currently lack. He can either be the every down starter they don’t have, he can help in the return game and/or he can be useful on screens or in obvious passing situations. McCaffrey absolute can be a starter at the next level, but at the very minimum, he’s a versatile weapon. For a team lacking those, the Packers should hope the Stanford star is still available when they’re up in round one.
The Colts are in okay shape at the moment, but they lack upside in their rushing attack with veteran Frank Gore leading the way. Not only does Gore break few big plays, but his days are numbered as he fights father time. All Indy has behind him right now is Robert Turbin, too. Even if Gore stays around next year, the Colts need to start getting Andrew Luck more weapons and making their offense more balanced. McCaffrey can be a useful passing game weapon, eventually take over for Gore and in the interim help on special teams.
The Eagles certainly don’t lack running back depth, but they do lack a true go-to runner. Philly has been back and forth on veteran Ryan Mathews all season, and it’s unclear if he’s going to be the guy they trust beyond this season. Even if he is, Mathews had a sketchy injury history and it’s anyone’s guess how long his health will hold up.
Beyond Mathews, the Eagles really just have Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. Sproles is still a highly versatile and explosive performer, but he’s small and getting old. McCaffrey could be a younger, bigger version of what Sproles brings to the table and the offense may not even miss a beat.
Some think McCaffrey could slip out of the first round or at least toward the bottom, and if that’s the case, the Ravens are among the top teams that could be beyond pick 20 and could use his services. Baltimore’s key issue on offense over the past two years has been running the football, and it’s gotten so bad that they released Justin Forsett and keep going back to the inconsistent Terrance West.
Baltimore plays in a very tough, smashmouth division and not being able to run the football has to be embarrassing. Drafting McCaffrey gets them back to what they love doing and even if he’s not the main rusher right away, he can impact the game in a variety of ways.
One other team that could snag McCaffrey later in round one (should they keep up their stellar play) could be the Detroit Lions. They do have some talent in their backfield, but next year could mark the third straight season where Ameer Abdullah and Zach Zenner fail to take over the starting gig. Instead of waiting around for one of their current ho-hum talents to start playing at a high level, the Lions may cover all the bases here and take one of the most versatile and explosive talents in the draft.
Christian McCaffrey is a borderline polarizing talent, but he has the goods to excel at the next level. Should he hear his name called in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, we’d bank on one of the aforementioned teams making the call. If we had to predict which one, the Packers might make the most sense. They probably would prefer to trade down and snag him in round two, but hopefully they’d realize he’s too good to slide that far.
Do you think you have a good idea of when/where Christian McCaffrey gets drafted? Tell us in the comments below!