The NFL Draft is no stranger to hot takes. You see them en masse this time of year. Fans, analysts, show hosts, your neighbor, your local barista or bartender. In my case, add my mother-in-law too. You get the drift.
Before you celebrate or castigate your team’s pick, keep in mind, draft picks are more like fine wines or scotches. You don’t judge them as soon as they enter the casks. You take time.
That brings me to the Panthers pick at number eight in this year’s draft. Carolina selected Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
Although, he might not need a lot of time to ferment.
The all-purpose back can run the ball. He catch it out of the backfield or split wide. He can also return punts. According to Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, McCaffrey also has a great set of hands as well. “He’s got suction cups at the end of those wrists” opined the GM.
He is the son of former Giants, 49ers and Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, also a Stanford man. The elder McCaffrey was with the Broncos in 1997 while Gettleman was a scout.
The younger McCaffrey grew up in NFL locker rooms and Gettleman believes that experience helped shape the player Christian has become. “His Dad was a pro and the acorn didn’t fall far from the tree.”
McCaffrey put up prolific numbers in college. At Stanford, racked up 6,987 career all-purpose yards equating to 183.8 all purpose yards per game, most of any active player.
The question Panthers fans will be asking is how will he be used. When Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was asked that very question. His response? “It’s going to be about position flexibility more than anything else.”
Rivera sees McCaffrey doing a lot of the things he did in Palo Alto. All you have to do is watch some Cardinal game tape. “You see him line up. Sometimes, he’s in the backfield as a running back. Sometimes, he’s the quarterback in their wildcat offense. Sometimes, they motion him out, put him out in the slot. Sometimes, they motion him out and put him wide.”
In a word, he offers flexibility. Add a second word and it’s options. One such option is to be used as a punt returner. A fact that excites the head coach. “He’s very dynamic. If you can pick up 10, 12-yards on a punt return obviously that’s one less first down you’ve got to worry about as an offense. So, I think his ability to return is going to be big for us”.
Perhaps the best selling point for Rivera came from Lance Taylor. The Panthers wide receivers coach was the running backs coach at Stanford while McCaffrey was there and was assistant wide receivers coach at Carolina in 2013.
According to Rivera, Taylor could not have given a better endorsement of McCaffrey, “He’s got Luke’s (Kuechly) kind of DNA”.
That’s not a hot take, but it is a ringing endorsement.