By Peter Gleason
The Eagles have a big need at running back, and with the 2017 draft on the Ben Franklin Parkway just 36 days away they have their sights on:
At 6-foot, 201 pounds, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.
He fits the bill as a complimentary NFL back that could prove not only ideal in Doug Pederson’s offense but also as a component in a backfield by committee headlined by the Eagles’ 2015 fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood.
Last season, McCaffrey rushed for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 6.3 yards per carry and adding 37 caches for 310 yards and three more scores.
Here is a roundup of scouting reports on McCaffrey:
Smooth, controlled stride length with choppy feet for instant cuts and change of direction. Plus vision with above average anticipatory feel for opening creases. Hugs contours of the running lane and staggers and stutters his feet to maneuver in tight quarters. Protect football while running through traffic. Reads keys quickly on stretch plays. Sinks hips into sharp cuts. Equally adept darting inside or outside and is able to string moves together. Won’t dance on short runs — gets it downhill. Feet constantly in motion. Able to make defenders miss on all three levels. Willing to keep runs playside and alters his track seamlessly. Runs with multiple gears and is able to gear up or down instantly. Has experience in one-back, two-back and offset formations. Excellent hands out of backfield and can be used from slot. Devastating quickness out of breaks can mismatch linebackers. Experienced, capable punt and kick returner.
Lacks desired size of an every-down back. Has some tread worn off his tires. Logged 300-plus touches (including returns) in each of the last two seasons and was asked to grind the gears for short yardage carries. Benefitted from physical, downhill offensive line. Takes foot off gas into contact. Doesn’t have NFL-caliber power to break tackles and create yardage for himself through power. Can shake tacklers, but lacks a twitchy burst to accelerate away after the cut. On stretch plays, can get too cute continuing to probe towards the perimeter rather than choosing a crease and committing. Average burst may not be enough to race past NFL speed on second level. Inconsistent squaring up blitzers in pass pro and ducks his head into contact.”
From Walter Football:
“As a runner, McCaffrey is a play-maker. He is fast, sudden, and a threat to rip off a big gain on any touch. He has moves in the open field to juke defenders or weave around them with excellent cutting ability. McCaffrey has a tremendous burst to break into the open field. He also has great vision and cutting ability. While he isn’t the biggest of backs, he is tough when running between the tackles.
What really sets McCaffrey apart as a runner is his acceleration and explosiveness. He is a home-run hitter and a threat to rip off a huge gain every time he touches the ball. McCaffrey has a nice first-step and darts through the hole to get into the second level of the defense. In the open field, he has a second gear to pull away from defenders and also is very elusive. He uses his feet, vision, and agility to weave around defenders. McCaffrey isn’t a power runner who simply runs over tacklers, but he does finish his runs well and can pick up some yards after contact. McCaffrey has good balance to keep his feet, runs with an excellent body lean, and is a patient runner to set up his blocks.
The NFL is a passing-driven league, and McCaffrey fits it perfectly in that regard as he is a tremendous receiving back. As a receiver, he has soft hands and is a very good route-runner. He could end up being one of the better receiving backs in the NFL and also work as a slot receiver. McCaffrey put on a clinic as a receiver at the combine, showcasing his soft hands and elegant route-running.
In blitz protection, McCaffrey is a willing blocker and doesn’t shy away from contact. Once he gets some development with learning NFL blitz schemes, he should be a real asset in the passing game. McCaffrey is an excellent returner on special teams, but as a pro, he probably won’t be called on to do that because his team will want to protect him.”
From Pro Football Focus:
“Player comparison: Marshall Faulk
McCaffrey’s unique skill-set is reminiscent of Marshall Faulk’s versatility and ability to play wide receiver — as well as a wide receiver does — in addition to playing running back. If McCaffrey can find a Mike Martz-type of innovative offensive coordinator he could make a big impact in the NFL.
Bottom line: McCaffrey has shown the last two years that he is capable of being a lead back in addition to a receiver and punt and kick returner. McCaffrey is equally at home at running back or at slot receiver so his future in the NFL will be closely tied to his usage and the specific role his coaching staff has in mind when they draft him. McCaffrey’s combination of agility, acceleration, open-field running ability and versatility will make him an asset to any team.”