The hype surrounding Christian McCaffrey is reaching heroic levels in a few days. The excitement level for the newly acquired 49ers running back is through the roof. When McCaffrey took the field during pre-game, the crowd and cameras around him said it all:
Christian McCaffrey soaking it all in pic.twitter.com/gYd2ntUGom— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) October 23, 2022
What everyone wants to know is how much we’ll see of McCaffrey on the field. During Fox Sports pre-game broadcast, Jay Glazer said the expectation is that McCaffrey would play more than 20 snaps, which could increase based on how the game goes.
McCaffrey spent the past 48 hours memorizing the playbook. And he has help. Per NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. is doing everything in his power to help get McCaffrey up to speed.
The topic surrounding McCaffrey always gets back to “why would you give up that much for a running back?” But, based on everything we’ve seen from McCaffrey during his NFL career, why do we limit his value to a running back?
Sports Info Solutions has a metric they call “points earned.” In short, you can compare it to WAR in MLB or PER in the NBA. The stat paints a picture of how many points the player adds offensively.
Only two running backs have added more points through the air than McCaffrey. For reference, McCaffrey has added the same number of points as a receiver as JuJu Smith-Schuster and several other notable names.
In Carolina, McCaffrey lined up in the slot 23 times and five times out wide. So don’t be surprised if we see him lined up in the slot often today. That’s where he presents the biggest mismatch, and Kyle Shanahan has always loved getting his running backs 1-on-1 with a linebacker.
He did it with Tevin Coleman in Atlanta, but we didn’t see it in San Francisco outside of Matt Breida a few years ago. That’ll change with McCaffrey, who is more than a jack-of-all-trades. He excels at everything.
If today is mostly a red-zone package for McCaffrey, he’ll help a team that is currently 15th in third-down percentage and 14th in red-zone scoring percentage. Of course, adding another playmaker, such as McCaffrey, will only help those numbers.