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A two-year starter at Stanford, McCaffrey has been one of college football's premier ballcarriers the past two seasons, showing his versatility rushing, receiving and returning -- led the FBS in all-purpose yards per game in both 2015 (276.0) and 2016 (211.5). Like any talented running back, a good chunk of his yardage is thanks to an efficient blocking scheme, but it still takes talent to allow those blocks to develop, process all the moving parts and finish with athleticism.
A four-star running back recruit out of high school, McCaffrey won four state titles and was named the Colorado Player of the Year in 2013. He spent his true freshman season transitioning to the college game and playing on special teams, seeing more playing time late in the 2014 season and finishing with 300 yards rushing. He took over the starting role as a sophomore in 2015 and put together one of college football's finest seasons with the NCAA single-season record for all-purpose yards (3,864) and a new single-season school rushing record (2,019). McCaffrey cleaned up the awards as the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American honors, finishing runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. He battled an injury in 2016 as a junior so he fell short of his production the previous season, but he again led the FBS with 211.6 all-purpose yards per game, leading the Pac-12 with 1,603 rushing yards to earn First Team All-Pac 12 and Second Team All-America honors.
McCaffrey doesn't have an ideal frame to be a workhorse back between the tackles, but his combination of run intelligence, gifted athleticism and competitive juices are very unique and project well to the NFL -- the type of athlete where everything seems to come easy for him. McCaffrey is ideally suited for a hybrid offensive role that highlights his versatility as a rusher and receiver, lining him up in the backfield, in the slot or outside.
STRENGTHS: Athletic mover with twitchy reflexes. Sudden in space with the lower body agility to easily spring in any direction, transition his weight and shake defenders. Instinctively sorts through the trash with innate anticipation and decision-making, hitting the hole with timing and quickness. Excellent zone patience to feel run lanes. Widescreen vision to be picky, but decisive. Gets his shoulders square to the hole and stays skinny. Very smart runner, knowing when to fight for more yardage and when the fight is over. Natural receiver with above average hand-eye coordination and soft hands. Better route runner than several top receiving prospects in this class, using tempo and body fakes to shift gears and separate. Exceptional catch-and-run athlete and fearless on the football field. Impact return ability, averaging 9.7 yards on punts (39/380) and 25.9 on kick returns (57/1,479) over his Stanford career, recording two career special teams touchdowns (one punt, one kickoff). Adequate body thickness and stayed relatively healthy considering he touched the ball 748 times the past two seasons. Rarely puts the ball on the ground with only three career fumbles. Impressive bloodlines -- father (Ed) played football at Stanford (1986-91) and then for 13 seasons in the NFL, winning three Super Bowls; mother (Lisa) played soccer at Stanford (1987-90); maternal grandfather (David Sime) was a silver medalist in the 100-meter dash in the 1960 Summer Olympics. Remarkable production as the only player in Stanford history with 2,000+ all-purpose yards in consecutive seasons, leaving school No. 3 on the all-time rushing list (3,922).
WEAKNESSES: Adequate build for the position, but doesn't have ideal body armor to live between the tackles. Lacks lower-the-shoulder power and doesn't consistently drive through arm tackles -- unless diving forward, rarely pushes through contact with run strength alone. Quicker than fast and can be caught from behind. Overly patient at times, allowing defenders to reset and make stops. Undeveloped technique in pass protection, dropping his head and lunging. Elected to leave his team prior to the bowl game in order to prepare for the 2017 NFL Draft, which might be received differently by future teammates/coaches. Banged up in 2016 and wasn't himself for a four-week stretch due to injury -- how will he hold up to NFL punishment?
NFL COMPARISON: Brian Westbrook, former Philadelphia Eagles -- Although size and body armor aren't ideal, McCaffrey has the shifty athleticism and offensive versatility that makes him a nightmare for defenses to track down, similar to Westbrook during his playing days.