[#FilmWithFive] Prospect Preview: RB Christian McCaffrey

Well, it happened.

It happens nearly every year, I guess. Draft #szn approaches, I sift through dozens of prospects I enjoy, many of which are names I’d like the Raiders to target. I watch tape (shouts to DB as always), talk to dozens of folks I really respect, watch more tape, and narrow things down as best I can.

Then, I fall in love.

First, there was Amari.

Then Ezekiel.

This year, my heart belongs to Christian.

I’ll spare you guys the poetry and other sweet-nothings that I’ve already strewn about my timeline and get right into things.

The “concern” with Christian McCaffrey is, of course, his size. Coming in at 202 pounds (and putting up 10 reps at 225), many wonder if he’s going to be able to make the jump to the pro game. Or rather, how effective he could possibly be? This is especially important to note for Oakland, as the fan base is convinced the answer is a big, power back only.

So how does McCaffrey fit, exactly? Is he even a running back? Do you play him exclusively at wide receiver? In the slot? He’s logged a lot of work during his time at college, is durability a concern?

There’s a lot of noise surrounding McCaffrey, as one of the more polarizing players in this year’s class. I’ll try and address as many of those concerns as I can, but the real reason you’re here (I think), is to figure out one question in particular:

Can he win at the next level?

Unequivocally, the answer is yes.

No, he doesn’t have prototypical size. For the 90% (or more) of Raiders’ fans who desire a big running back, that’s obviously not him.

But he wins, and wins quite frequently. The ways in which he wins, in my opinion, easily translate to the next level.

Let’s quickly recap and highlight some accolades from this weekend’s Combine. We already touched on the height and weight, and the lackluster bench press, but McCaffrey put all that behind him and literally dominated in every other single facet.



Ok, you get the idea.


This is the one word I found myself writing down the most when watching Christian McCaffrey. Not many runners posses this ability, let alone at the level that McCaffrey’s at. When you think of “patient runners”, Le’Veon Bell immediately comes to mind (who’s currently working on revolutionizing the game). While McCaffrey doesn’t sport the same frame as Bell, it’s easy to draw parallels based on their ability behind the line of scrimmage. It’s what makes (them both) elite.

In Christian’s case, this is a tool that allows him to be so productive; despite the size, his ability to essentially pick and choose his lanes exploited opposing defenses. Putting that type of runner behind an offensive line as enormous and talented as Oakland’s just seems like a natural fit, to me.

Being “patient” often means stopping dead in your tracks, if only for a split-second, and surveying the field. Being able to quickly diagnose and react, again, is especially notable in McCaffrey’s case where he’s not able to consistently win with size alone.

Waiting and exploiting, moving a few defenders in the process:

Footwork’s really good here, as well. His level of athlete is so apparent on tape, all those assumptions were simply confirmed in Indianapolis.

Unfortunately, ball pops out on this run:


Much like McCaffrey’s patience behind the line of scrimmage, his vision is outstanding. These two traits go hand-in-hand, and once more, quite evidently make up for size (or lack thereof). While Oakland’s offensive line is absolutely elite, notably in pass protection, the unit tends to be a bit spottier in regards to run blocking. Don’t get me wrong: this is not an excuse, as this is obviously still an effective group.

One question that is often brought up when discussing McCaffrey’s game and move to the NFL is his ability between the tackles. As we’ll see, his vision allows him to effortlessly abuse even the smallest crease. This, coupled with his capabilities in the open field (which we’ll get to in a few) tend to lead to explosive plays. All that, at less than 205 pounds.

Working through traffic:

Between the tackles, as noted:

More patience, while the vision leads to useful yards:

And of course, that #burst:

Power, Balance Through Contact

McCaffrey’s going to be linked to New England for the next several weeks, and Lord help us if he falls into The Hoodie’s lap. While many worry about his size, just as many folks see Christian McCaffrey as the ideal Patriot because he’s “gritty” and “plays bigger than he is”, while having “more heart” and “always bringing his lunch pail” — feel free to add any other stupid clichés you can think of.

I tend to agree though, you guys.

I know, it makes me sick as well. That’s why you want McCaffrey on your side.

Patience, works his way to the second level where he takes on a few defenders and moves the chains:

Testing out the shoulder…

Taking on contact between the tackles, good balance:

Tough yards:

More so his feet here, but defenders throwing themselves at his lower body, little more balance on display:

Christian McCaffrey did not have a strong day against Washington last year, but this is a heck of a run against a heck of a defense:

Feet, Open Field Work

I’ve showcased the patience and vision at this point, two of the more obvious traits that McCaffrey possesses in spades. While the balance is there as well, and he’s clearly able to handle work between the tackles, his feet complete the trifecta. The cuts and shifty footwork regularly have McCaffrey working in and around the second level of defenses, despite the size “disadvantage”. Y’all see a trend here, right?

Little bit of everything with this run: patience, vision, quick cut (cuts?), finds the lane between the tackles, burst and finish.

Really active feet, working up the field:

One of my favorite runs from 5, this Iowa game was a massacre. You can tell he’s athletic, just bouncing around defenders:

For the most part, size doesn’t matter in the open field. Not when defenders can’t get near the runner. McCaffrey routinely shakes would-be tacklers; embarrassing linebackers, defensive backs, whoever’s in the way.

Slips one arm-tackle and proceeds to freeze the corner, who’s knees no longer with us.

More from Iowa, where every single defensive back got clowned that afternoon:

I know it’s “just Kansas State”, but not many linebackers are going to be able to square up with McCaffrey one-on-one:


If you’re not sold on McCaffrey as a runner at this point, I don’t know what to tell you.

I’ll try and sweeten the pot anyway.

While he’s obviously not a wide receiver for me, but he could easily play one at the next level. To me, given his talent as a runner, the route-savvy and sure hands he brings to the table only adds to his stock. His routes, for a full-time running back, are incredibly precise.

We can start with something routine. Easy grab, but the move after the catch is what stands out of course:

This is the route-work we were talking about…

And now, out of the slot. Nifty little move on the corner post-catch, too.

He can hurt you from anywhere…

The ball was overthrown, but the corner was certainly put in the mix:

Again, just really impressive after the catch. He is a nightmare. You need 10, he’ll get you 14 or 15.

Special Teams

I won’t spend much time here, but he wins on special teams as well.

Just wanted my pals to be aware.

Christian McCaffrey isn’t an Ezekiel Elliott-level runner, but he really isn’t too far off, either. That’s high praise, and probably the best compliment I could pay him. I think it’s fair to say that McCaffrey wins in different ways, and one could argue that he (McCaffrey) brings more to the table given his pass-catching prowess. We also know Elliott was no slouch in that regard either, so I’m not about to go back and forth with anyone on this topic.

Anyway, I understand the strength concerns. I understand how “different” it is in the NFL. But I just showed you how he wins, five or six different ways, and that skill set certainly will move with him. We saw the Combine and he checked (nearly all) those boxes, too. He’s an athlete. He’s well-spoken. He’s a winner. He even has the #bloodlines.

Oh, we can also address the “tread on the tires”.

He’s been on the mend since late-last year, opting to skip Stanford’s bowl game. You take a look at the production throughout his career and realize that the “Injury Gods” have been kind. Despite the workload, he’s coming in healthy by all accounts.

I know I have a crush, you guys. I might not be alone…

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive