While most veteran NFL players slowly work their way back into action during OTAs, San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey hit the ground running earlier this week with the Niners, according to ESPN’s Nick Wagoner. “For those watching McCaffrey, it was difficult to tell whether it was a May 23 OTA or a late-season NFC West matchup,” Wagoner wrote. “He was engaged in every step of the practice, ripping off runs at full speed and eagerly attacking every drill.”
The 49ers acquired McCaffrey in a trade with the Carolina Panthers last season for a second, third, fourth, and fifth-round pick. Joining the Niners in Week 7, McCaffrey was playing in games well before he had a full understanding of the playbook. That didn’t stop him from being a difference-maker. In the end, 2022 was McCaffrey’s best season since 2019, racking up 1,880 yards from scrimmage for 13 total touchdowns between the 49ers and Panthers. Still, he’s hoping to do even better after an offseason to acclimate to the Niners system.
“I’m just trying to learn as much as possible,” McCaffrey told reporters earlier this week. “It’s nice to be able to start from square one and getting right with coach Turner and making sure it’s not just learning the plays but learning every single detail of the positions.”
Many analysts argued the 49ers surrendered far too much draft capital for a running back in their trade for McCaffrey. However, he transformed the Niners offense almost immediately upon his arrival last season. Moreover, under contract for the next three seasons at a reasonable cap number, McCaffrey looks like a foundational piece of the 49ers offense going forward. That combined with his off-field value seems to confirm that he was well worth the price.