Christian McCaffrey – Fantasy Boom or Bust for 2018?

Ahh, August is upon us which means it’s officially okay to start talking fantasy football. First up on the docket – Christian McCaffrey.

The sophomore running back for the Carolina Panthers has a year of experience under his belt and had a solid first season in the NFL. One aspect of his game that became clear very quickly was his effectiveness in the passing game, and the subsequent reluctance for Ron Rivera to use him as a bell-cow, four down back.

The fantasy rankings and stats back this up; McCaffrey offered a lot to Rivera’s offence just not as a typical four-down back.

2017 Yahoo Rankings and Stats (PPR League):

  • Ranked 13th in fantasy points for running backs
  • Ranked 48th overall for offensive production
  • 3rd in RB receptions (80)
  • 5th in RB receiving yards (651)
  • 3rd in receiving touchdowns for RBs
  • 2 rushing touchdowns
  • 39th in rushing attempts (117)
  • 42nd in rushing yards (435)
  • Scored 2 rushing touchdowns

Despite there being a large disparage between rushing and passing success for McCaffrey only this should matter – top 50 in offensive production. This includes QBs, WRs, and TEs, so not bad! Undoubtedly PPR adds a lot to this value, but that shouldn’t take away from McCaffrey’s attractiveness on fantasy market.

With durability not being an issue – only missed one game in college (2016) – the biggest hindrance to his success will be newly recruited running back CJ Anderson. Anderson was brought in to fill the veteran RB spot left by Jonathan Stewart who departed to the New York Giants this off season.

Anderson was 9th overall in rushing yard, breaking the 1000 yard threshold (1007), adding 224 receiving yards and a combined four touchdowns. The rushing yards are a concern as Anderson is tried and true as a tackle breaking back. He’s carried the mail for Denver over the last few seasons and has thrived on a team that has had a massive void at QB since Peyton Manning retired.

I think McCaffrey will be able to weather the storm that Anderson will bring simply because of the unpredictability of the Carolina offence. Cam Newton offers a lot as a QB, and while he does suck up some rushing yard situations, his elusiveness does open up short pass opportunities in the flats. Sure, if Carolina want to bash the ball up the middle of the field we could see more of Anderson, but Newton and Rivera’s dynamic offence should provide better opportunities for the versatile McCaffrey over Anderson.

Another hiderance in McCaffrey’s 2018 game may be the reemergence of Greg Olsen. Olsen only played in seven games last season after dealing with foot issues for the majority of the season. He’ll be back and motivated to play as he is in a contract year.

The connection to McCaffrey is obvious – Olsen will scoop up a lot of short yardage throws that McCaffrey benefitted from last season with the big TE out. He is the #1 receiving option in front of Funchess, Smith, and rookie DJ Moore, and should see the majority of the targets for 2018. McCaffrey might have to up his rushing game skills to see more time as an early down back this season simply to keep up with Olsen and the receivers on this roster.

Prediction time! So, where will McCaffrey slot in on a fantasy team and where should you draft him? He was top 50 last season sharing time with Stewart who knows Rivera and his offence well, so while Anderson does offer competition for carries it should be McCaffrey’s job to lose. If he can slot in as an RB-3 that you can pick up passed the second round you are set on good PPR value, without overpaying for back with competition. Not extremely reliable and certainly in a week-to-week battle, McCaffrey has something to prove this season in Carolina and could cement himself as the four-down back Carolina want.

Boom or bust? Neither. McCaffrey slots in right in the middle; appreciate the versatility and pick him up if you’re in a PPR league to see some big receiving yard return on the investment…. just maybe try and get Anderson too as a back up.


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