Stanford University running back Christian McCaffrey announced on Wednesday that he will forego his remaining eligibility and enter the 2017 NFL Draft. McCaffrey joins a running back class that is looking fairly stacked. LSU’s Leonard Fournette declared for the draft earlier this week, and the draft class could include at least one or two more first round picks. McCaffrey does not seem to be a lock to go in the first 32 picks, but there is enough need that it would not be a surprise if he did.
McCaffrey did not become a starter until 2015, and managed to shatter college football’s single season all-purpose yards record that season. He rushed for 2,019 yards, caught 645 yards, and added in 1,085 return yards. This season, he has 1,596 rushing yards, 317 receiving yards, and 328 return yards. His rushing total is down, but he is averaging 0.3 yards more per carry (6.3 vs. 6.0).
MMQB writer Emily Kaplan is doing a weekly segment in which she asks a current NFL player why his former college teammate is destined for success in the NFL. Coincidentally enough, Joshua Garnett answered Kaplan’s question this week, discussing McCaffrey. Here’s a chunk of what he had to say.
“He’s a freak athlete ... the pro abilities he displays in college are something that take guys in the league years to develop. The vision he has, the way he’s able to set up blocks; he’s an elite player that does stuff NFL running backs do, and in the college game. A lot of times that’s unheard of. He was able to set up linebackers for us ... In the Rose Bowl against Iowa, we ran an outside zone play to the left, and a linebacker came and I just literally put a fingertip on the guy, there was no way I was going to get him. But Christian set him up so well, bounced outside and ran for like 80 yards. A lot of running backs would have tried to hit downhill there, but for him to set it up like that, it’s just ridiculous.”
The 49ers have a need for more depth at running back, but I would be pretty surprised if they spent a first or second round pick on the position. They should look at the best options overall, but with so many holes up and down the roster, I would not be surprised if they wait until day three to potentially add some depth. Of course, until we know who will be general manager for those picks, it is mostly just speculation for now.