Draft Daily: How does Christian McCaffrey rank among RB class?

Jordan Plocher dives into Christian McCaffrey's spider chart and discusses upcoming pro days.

| 2 months ago
Christian McCaffrey

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Draft Daily: How does Christian McCaffrey rank among RB class?

Pro Football Focus’ Draft Daily will hit on a number of NFL Draft-related topics including recent news, scouting reports, PFF draft takes, and much more on a frequent basis.

How does Christian McCaffrey rank among the RB class?

PFF Draft Pass has launched, providing you with access to the most in-depth scouting reports and data available on this year’s top prospects. Included in each profile is a spider chart that compares an individual player’s ability to the average mark of his draft class peers. A particularly interesting spider chart is that of former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, seen below.

McCaffrey's Spider

Normally a player has some areas where they are better than the average, but will still have other facets of their game where they might be close to or below average. McCaffrey outperforms the average running back in the draft class in every category covered by the spider chart. In fact, his PFF overall and run grades are elite for the class, and his ability to make people miss tackles (elusive rating) is well above average. McCaffrey’s spider chart also shows that he is an elite receiver for his position, and his receiving grades and yards per route run are both outstanding marks.

It’s no wonder that McCaffrey plans on using his pro day on March 23 as an opportunity to participate in wide receiver drills and show off his full skill-set to NFL coaches and talent evaluators.

Pro-day season is here

Pro days are happening all over the country as NFL personnel staff and coaches rack up the miles criss-crossing the country for another chance to evaluate top college prospects. Here are two things to consider as you hear about pro-day workouts these next few weeks.

1. Are pro days a piece of the draft puzzle?

You’ll hear evaluators say that pro-day workouts are “just another piece of the puzzle” as they examine each player as a whole. The size of that puzzle piece depends on how favorably the prospect is viewed up until his pro day.

The pro day represents a big piece of the puzzle for prospects who were not able to work out at the combine, due either to injury or a lack of an invitation. For such players, the pro day can provide them with a chance to perform in front of a number of NFL scouts and coaches for possibly the first time. It also might represent their only chance to get their timings well-circulated within the NFL personnel community.

For players who were at the combine, the pro day is a smaller piece of their puzzle, because they will often stand on their combine performance if they were pleased with the results. Others might use the pro day as a chance to improve on a particular time from the combine, or to highlight a particular set of skills (as in the aforementioned case of Christian McCaffrey).

2. Why do a prospect’s times often improve from the combine to a pro day?

Players often put their best foot forward in pro-day workouts, as they are well-rested and they take place in familiar territory. At the combine, draft prospects are subjected to an extremely stressful week with often very little sleep, and then asked to perform on the field. The pro-day timings will be also be different due to the different running surface from the combine. So don’t be surprised if you hear that a player ran a bit faster or looked a bit crisper in their pro day workouts than they did at the combine.

PFF scouting report

Ohio State University’s pro day is an annual spectacle in the football world because they usually have a large number of NFL-caliber players to evaluate. Furthermore, Ohio State often has some of the elite prospects in each class, and blue-chippers bring out a crowd of NFL talent evaluators. The Buckeyes’ pro day on March 23 will be no exception, it will likely draw one of the largest pro-day crowds, with most eyes there to see a group of defensive backs. One of those talented players is cornerback Gareon Conley, whose scouting report can be found here:

PFF hot takes

This is a very bold prediction from PFF’s offensive line specialist, Taylor Wright. Moton didn’t allow a single sack on 427 pass-blocking snaps in 2016, and has only surrendered two sacks in the past three years. Wright believes that Taylor Moton can play tackle in the NFL, but will be even better at guard.

PFF Draft Podcast

Check out our latest PFF Draft Podcast, featuring Senior Analysts Steve Palazzolo and Mike Renner discussing top prospects. The two break down combine winners, Renner claims there are 40 first rounders, and Palazzolo checks Renner’s math. They discuss strong flippers and create the #DolphinBacker scouting term. While I’m still waiting for Renner to develop the “Chipotle Matrix,” this episode is still worth listening to.

Be sure to download and subscribe to the PFF Draft Podcast from your favorite provider.

From the PFF ‘My Guys’ list

There are multiple schools this year that will have more than one defensive back selected in the draft. One of those teams is Colorado, with Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Ahkello Witherspoon all warranting a draft selection. While I feel all three of the players will transition to the NFL successfully, I want to discuss the game of Ahkello Witherspoon.

Witherspoon offers elite length at the cornerback position with his 6-foot-3 frame and 33-inch arms. He uses his long arms to disrupt the receivers route and stay on top of him. Even if he is trailing the wide receiver by a step on a vertical route, his height, long arms and vertical leaping ability all combine to help him disrupt passes other cornerbacks might not be able to make a play on. His length also reduces the size of passing windows and allows him to still wrap his arm around and break up slants where he has already given up inside leverage. Opposing QBs only recorded a lowly 50.9 QB rating when throwing into Witherspoon’s coverage in 2016. Witherspoon is an outside press corner with impressive measurables, explosive athleticism and high football IQ. He’s a starting cornerback in the NFL who will likely get pushed down in the draft a bit due to the depth of the CB class this year.

  • rodrell green

    He’d be amazing in Atlanta if the Falcons could get over Devonta Freeman.
    Freeman is not patient nor quick enough for the zone scheme. That’s why he frequently gets stuffed behind the line. If you remember last year, he cooled off when, for multiple reasons the pass, became a liability. In the Superbowl, he frequently got stuffed in the 2nd half while Coleman hit the briefly open holes like lightning. If Freeman was patient he may be a better fit, but that’s not his style. It’s the exact opposite of the urgency he plays with and that is what makes him so exciting tbh. Throw in the fact that his “team” is dying to get paid now before his contract is up, the Falcons should be exploring how valuable some team that will draft a QB (or has a young qb already) will find a veteran running back. If they can get a 2nd for him, they should take it.

    • Phil

      He’s far better than Freeman IMO. Freeman is a quality runner and a high quality pass catcher but his pass blocking (ei Superbowl losing play) is below average to say the least. Freeman is an above average back but I think McCaffery has potential to be a high quality, if not elite back, given the right situation like Atlanta.

      • rodrell green

        He was an ok blocker before that play, I think he was to busy focused on being “the guy” instead of doing his job. The play changed the momentum of the whole game and other Falcons’ fans refused to criticize him. If Freeman makes that block, they’re calling Shanahan a genius with killer instinct who refused to let up on humiliating the Patriots. But now he’s all of a sudden an idiot because the players, not just Freeman, screwed up.

        • Phil

          Perhaps he was trying to do too much on the biggest stage but its not like hes been great at pass blocking his whole career and then dropped had a bad game. 3 years in the league and has never graded above average in pass blocking. “If Freeman makes that block, they’re calling Shanahan a genius with killer instinct who refused to let up on humiliating the Patriots.” If Freeman makes that block it would have closed the door on NE but no one would say that ATL was humilating NE if anything it was the opposite the whole second half of the game ATL didnt score and people would be saying that ATL got lucky as hell to escape with the win.

  • phil

    Honestly think McCaffery is the best RB in the class. Christian has been far more consistent than Cooks or Fournette over their respective careers and that’s key.
    Cook’s is an excellent runner and above average pass catcher but I have serious questions regarding his pass blocking.
    Leonard is a quality pass blocker but his pass catching is average at best and that raises questions. 2015 Fournette was an elite runner but in 2014 & 2016 he was only an above average back and that’s also concerning.
    McCaffery is an elite runner and elite pass catcher and that is what really sets him apart from the other two guys. His downside is that he’s average at best at pass blocking. If Christian can improve his pass blocking ability he will hands down be the best back to come out of this 2016 draft

  • Mike J.

    I am salivating at the idea of McCaffrey in Tampa. DC’s will lose their lunches at the sight of him going in motion when they already have to cover Evans, Brate, & Jackson.Christian’s feet in Combine workouts were a wonder to see.