Christian McCaffrey, the best all-purpose player in the NFL Draft, went eighth overall to Carolina on Thursday. The Stanford running back/receiver/returner will join Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin and Jonathan Stewart in what should be one of the NFC’s best offenses.
“I think it’s a great pick,” CBSSports.com NFL insider Will Brinson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “The only thing that makes me sad about it is I wanted to see McCaffrey go No. 7 to the Chargers: a) because I mocked it and I’d be right about it, but b), because I love the idea of him being one billion times better than Danny Woodhead or Darren Sproles.”
Woodhead and Sproles were often overlooked, and it’s easy to overlook McCaffrey. At 5-11 and 202 pounds, he’s not the biggest of backs. He’s not someone who can run it 20 times a game between the tackles, but he’s also not a receiver.
But make no mistake: He is dangerous. Very dangerous.
“I think the Panthers (should) take what McCaffrey does and apply it to their offense,” Brinson said. “Look, if you run him straight forward into the line 10 times a game, then you’re doing it wrong. If you line him up all over the place and let him run his routes and get open and give him an opportunity to increase Cam Newton’s completion percentage with these easier throws and limit the number of hits that Cam Newton is taking – and then you also utilize him on fourth down when he can flip the field for you – I love the pick. I think he’s a modern NFL player, and I don’t think there’s anyone who’s as big of a home-run threat or as big of a game-changer later in the draft.”
Aside from McCaffrey, the most versatile player in the draft is Jabrill Peppers, who went 25th overall to Cleveland. Peppers, a Heisman finalist, played offense, defense, and special teams at Michigan.
Brinson liked the pick, but Peppers’ impact might be less transparent than McCaffrey’s.
“I think it’s a little bit tougher defensively,” Brinson said. “I think the Browns got a play-maker, but the very nature of offense versus defense is on offense you are controlling the situation. You are dictating the terms. Therefore, you get to decide what McCaffrey is going to do and where he’s going to be when he makes an impact with the ball. On defense, you’re being dictated to to some degree. Now you can be an attacking defense and you can go after offensive players, but you’re relying on Jabrill Peppers to use his instincts to make plays. I like the pick. I think he’s a guy who, when you put him into a defense that you’re slowly building up – they’ve got play-makers there. We got to see it come together, but you’ve got Myles Garrett, Jamie Collins, Jabrill Peppers, Joe Haden – it’s a defense that’s got a little oomph to it. The Browns are at least interesting, right?”