Can Christian McCaffrey Work in Carolina?
Here's the thing about the NFL: throwing the ball is much, much more effective than running it.
In 2014, the average drop back by a quarterback added roughly 0.10 points -- expected points -- to a team's total. That year, a rush lost 0.03 points, on average, for a team. And the same was mostly the case in 2015 and 2016, with the gap between the two numbers actually growing.
As a result, wins have correlated twice as strongly to passing efficiency than they have to rushing efficiency over the last decade. This shouldn't be shocking: the best teams in football usually are also the best passing teams in football.
And that's what makes Christian McCaffrey such a dynamic asset.
During his final year at Stanford, McCaffrey gobbled up over 15% of the team's receiving yards while catching more than 20% of the team's passes. That -- that's not normal for a running back.
And he is a running back. Though naysayers will explain that his small frame won't translate to being an in-between-the-tackles runner at the NFL level, we just don't have evidence to back that up. Because his market share numbers -- he handled 48.47% of Stanford's carries during his senior year while accumulating 59.02% of the team's rushing yards -- are in line with what we've seen from successful NFL running backs historically.
It's doubtful that we see 300- or even 250-plus carries from McCaffrey in the pros, but his receiving ability should more than make up for it. Especially in fantasy football, as a running back target in PPR formats is worth roughly three times the amount of points as a running back rush.
But is his situation with his newly drafted team, the Panthers ideal?
McCaffrey in Carolina
One thing the Panthers haven't done a lot of with Cam Newton under center is throw the ball to the running back. Last season, they targeted backs on just 13% of their passes, second-lowest in the NFL. And Jonathan Stewart's seen more than 31 targets in a single season just once during his injury-filled career.
On top of that, Newton himself is known to steal goal line looks, capping a running back's fantasy potential in the offense.
With that being said, McCaffrey is an incredibly versatile piece that fits a couple of the Panthers' needs. They needed a running back for both depth and to take over for an aging J-Stew, and the team is without a slot receiver, a position McCaffrey can play. With Ted Ginn Jr. out of the picture in Carolina, there are targets -- in general -- that are freed up. It wouldn't be shocking to see McCaffrey with a 15% target market share in the offense as soon as next year as a result.
Overall, McCaffrey could've landed in a spot that was better suited for his skillset, but given his ability to play multiple positions, the Panthers can do a lot in morphing their offense around him. That's especially true if Cam Newton begins hanging out in the pocket a little more than he has in the past after his concussion last year.