With an offense filled with superstars and budding talents like Trent Williams, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk, an argument can be made for any one of them as the most irreplaceable player.
Williams is the best left tackle in the game. Kittle dominated in 2018 and broke receiving records. Samuel had an unprecedented season in 2021 as he carried and willed the 49ers into the NFC Championship game. Aiyuk is on the brink of a breakout season in a contract year.
Christian McCaffrey is the answer. His impact was immediate, and regardless of the quarterback, the offense started rolling as McCaffrey became more and more comfortable. The team won every game that McCaffrey started, and even his limited role against Kansas City caused optimism.
Against the Rams, he scored a touchdown in just about every way possible. Three games over 100 rushing yards, including one in the playoffs against Seattle. McCaffrey finished with ten touchdowns as a 49er and was one behind Kittle, who played in 15 games.
Working as the ultimate check-down option, the best runner, and clutch performer helped take the 49ers’ offense to the next level. Accounting for a third of the teams’ touchdowns is hard to fathom as a mid-season acquisition.
The 49ers’ point totals in every game McCaffrey started were: 31, 22, 38, 13, 33, 35, 21, 37, 37, 38. Brock Purdy took over during the Dolphins matchup, and the offense scored 30-plus points in five of the last six games. Against Seattle on Wild Card weekend, the team scored 41 points with 500 plus total yards of offense.
The numbers are striking, but it’s the attention McCaffrey draws from defenses. In Carolina, McCaffrey drew most, if not all, the attention at times and still produced. Now, his presence helps others and gives himself space and advantageous matchups.
As long as McCaffrey is healthy, he is invaluable to the 49ers’ offense. In 2023, we could be discussing another of the 49ers’ weapons as the most irreplaceable.
For now, it’s Christian McCaffrey.
Who do you think is the most irreplaceable player on the 49ers’ offense?