Once the consistent 1.01 pick in every fantasy draft as a Carolina Panther, McCaffrey saw a dip in his investment cost in 2022. Many were enamored with other options at the first pick, but primarily injuries were the reason fantasy managers balked at McCaffrey’s ADP.
An in-season trade to the 49ers led to skepticism from fantasy managers. Sure, McCaffrey would be surrounded by the best cast of characters and play caller he’s worked with in the NFL, but with the way Kyle Shanahan has cycled through running backs, would McCaffrey be used sparingly?
The answer was no. McCaffrey played all 17 games, and managers were rewarded with week-winning performances. From Week 1 to 17 (when most fantasy championships take place), McCaffrey finished as the second RB in PPR formats. Only Austin Ekeler outscored CMC during championship week (32.1 to 31.3).
All in all, the good vibes were back for McCaffrey and his fantasy prospects as a 49er. Operating as the clear workhorse with goal-line opportunities, and as a check-down machine for any 49ers QB paid big dividends. From Weeks 13 to 17, McCaffrey totaled: 28.6, 29.3, 25.8, 13.8, and 31.3 PPR points down the stretch.
Best-case scenario in 2023
Probably goes without saying that a 17-game season for McCaffrey is the only thing standing in his way to live up to his ADP and draft capital. In PPR formats, as many touches as McCaffrey can handle is ideal, but there is something to the idea of keeping some off his plate so he can remain fresh and effective.
2022 saw McCaffrey’s touch total go over 320 touches for the first time in three seasons. His 244 rushing attempts were his second-highest total for his career, and 4.7 per carry is also good for his second-highest total.
The best-case scenario is health and the 49ers’ offense remaining as efficient as 2022 when McCaffrey joined.
McCaffrey missing games in 2023 is easily the worst-case scenario. Shanahan intends to lean on him and get him the ball in creative ways, as evidenced by McCaffrey’s first game as a starting 49er where he threw for, rushed, and caught touchdowns.
Even with the supporting cast for the 49ers, injuries are the only thing in his way.
The fantasy community is back all in with McCaffrey. According to Fantasy Pros, McCaffrey has a draft rank of No. 1, and his worst ranking is number nine. Managers are drafting him as No. 2 currently.
McCaffrey averaged right about 20 touches per game and a snap share of over 70 percent. Expect that to continue with the 49ers not adding anyone significant in the backfield. Shanahan isn’t shy about using McCaffrey a ton, even to close out games.
The seventh easiest schedule for running backs is what is in front of McCaffrey in 2023. Thirteen touchdowns last season seems a bit low also, so there is the potential for an increase there.
The bottom line is if McCaffrey is available, you draft him. Even with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle as viable fantasy weapons and his supporting cast. Don’t shy away.
McCaffrey’s projections are near 300 touches, over 1,000 rushing yards, 75-plus receptions, and 12 touchdowns. As aggressive as that projection is, McCaffrey has a chance to exceed those numbers with another healthy season.
Handcuff player recommendation
When it comes to the 49ers and how they utilize running backs, it might not be worth investing in Elijah Mitchell, Tyrion Davis-Price, or Jordan Mason. If push comes to shove and McCaffrey goes down with an injury, they all will contribute and be nothing more than a week-to-week replacement in plus matchups as you hope Shanahan plays your guy over the others.
Mitchell has the longest track record as a 49er, but comments from coaches and his injury past aren’t worth choosing him over another guaranteed handcuff at the end of your draft like Jaylen Warren from Pittsburgh.