By Chris Emma–
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (CBS) — There’s always a place for pure talent on a football team.
NFL talent evaluators and coaches can identify the right kinds of traits in a player and move from there, solidifying a role over time. On Thursday, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey’s fit at the next level was the topic of conversation at the NFL Combine.
An electric athlete, McCaffrey stated that he’s an every-down back. His 5-foot-11, 202-pound frame and 10 reps on bench press are a concern to that claim. McCaffrey believes there’s a disrespect to his game.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder always,” he said. “I feel like people don’t give me credit for my skills and talents. That’s just the way it is.”
An All-American and Heisman finalist in 2015, McCaffrey leaves Stanford as a decorated college standout. He broke Barry Sanders’ single-season all-purpose yards record as a sophomore standout, then produced more highlight moments in 2016 despite a hip ailment. But the NFL offers new challenges for McCaffrey, who has plenty to prove.
Teams have begun their meetings with McCaffrey by asking about what he called one of the toughest decisions he’s had to make, skipping Stanford’s appearance in the Sun Bowl to avoid the risk of injury. It has been widely accepted, a quick point amid greater concerns surrounding his future — what is McCaffrey’s place in the NFL?
McCaffrey’s 40-yard dash time on Friday could answer many questions, putting him high atop draft boards. While teams often prefer to take a proven every-down back in the first round — such as LSU’s Leonard Fournette or Florida State’s Dalvin Cook — the athleticism of McCaffrey could prevail.
McCaffrey excels outside of the tackles, with a long highlight reel at Stanford to prove it. He’s dangerous in the open field. How his undersized frame could handle the rigors of running between the tackles is uncertain.
Scouts are divided on McCaffrey’s place, skeptical on whether he can be an every-down back. The son of great receiver Ed McCaffrey, Christian could also have a future as a receiver. His steady hands and speed would fit well in the slot.
Perhaps he could even work as a hybrid running back and receiver, a threat to a defense on any play.
“I really try to pride myself on route running, especially trying to be a mismatch anywhere on the field,” McCaffrey said.
The NFL Combine brings a week of analyzing every detail of prospects, assessing every inch into professional stock. McCaffrey has been placed under the microscope and quickly became the most fascinating prospect Thursday in Indianapolis.
What seems clear is that McCaffrey will find himself going somewhere in the first round, because some team is going to take a chance.
McCaffrey is a dynamic talent whose upside is tremendous. While many scouts are skeptical, many are enamored with the potential.
What can’t McCaffrey do?
“Don’t let me fool you,” he said with a smile. “There’s a lot I can’t do. I can’t sing.”