Christian McCaffrey has found a niche. Now, he needs to stick to it.
It is often hard to judge what a rookie’s role will be in the National Football League. Dependent on position, there are a lot of variables that go into evaluating a player’s first season. In the case of Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, his role in the league may be more clear-cut than some.
It is certainly not a stretch to say that McCaffrey is an explosive football player and talented running back. However, he is not the typical running back a team possesses. McCaffrey ranked No. 10 among all rookies in rushing yards, totaling 435 on the season. It is worth noting that he had some tough competition at his position with Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara and Leonard Fournette representing the best of the backs.
Where McCaffrey made his mark for the Panthers in 2017 was as a receiver out of the backfield. He ranked No. 5 among all rookie running backs with 651 receiving yards and five touchdowns on the year. Catching 80 passes, he averaged 8.1 yards per catch.
His best game of the season as a pass-catcher came on September 24, when he caught nine passes for 101 yards against the New Orleans Saints. Despite his efforts, the Panthers lost by a 34-14 score. Even in defeat, McCaffrey showed he could be a reliable and explosive weapon in the passing game.
Sunday’s clash between the Panthers and 49ers will offer a flurry of high-octane confrontations.
Brian Hoyer vs. Luke Kuechly; Cam Newton vs. San Francisco’s frisky front seven; and Christian McCaffrey vs. his childhood babysitter.
That’s right. Before the Panthers rookie running back was busy carving up stunned secondaries, McCaffrey might have toyed with Legos under the careful watch of 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“We go way back to when I was little,” McCaffrey said Wednesday, per the Bay Area News Group. “I think he babysat me some times.”
Shanahan seemed to recall the same, referring back to a period in the late 1990s when his father Mike coached McCaffrey’s dad, wideout Ed McCaffrey, during their time together with the Broncos.
“If I did [babysit him], I probably left my sister to do it very quickly and moved on. His dad was my hero growing up,” Shanahan said. “I was close with Ed and his wife Lisa — that’s really why I wore 87 in college. Ed was the man. I knew all his sons, they’re a lot younger when I knew them, but they’ve all turned out be pretty good athletes and real good people.”
We’d like to get a triple source here, considering neither McCaffrey or Shanahan offered rock-solid confirmation of a babysitting arrangement. Around The NFL is working the phones on this case and will update this space if and when we learn more.