Why Christian McCaffrey is our No. 1 college running back

Sam Monson breaks down Stanford's elite back, and explains why he's our highest-graded RB through 12 weeks.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Why Christian McCaffrey is our No. 1 college running back

Christian McCaffrey has been at the root of everything good we’ve seen from Stanford this season, and is the best running back in college football. While the throng of dominant SEC rushers gets all the headlines, it’s a six-foot, 201-pound guy out west that’s dominating in all facets of the game.

He leads the nation in all-purpose yards — by more than 500 — and is averaging almost 50 per game more than anybody else. In fact, only eight players are averaging within 100 yards per game of the 255 McCaffrey has posted for the Cardinals this season.

What makes McCaffrey so great is that as a sophomore he is one of the most rounded players at his position, providing a threat to score and do damage as a rusher, receiver and return man.

Only two return men have a higher PFF grade this season, and he is averaging 31.4 yards per kick return despite multiple games in which the opposition has refused to kick to him. Washington state spent all game pooch-kicking to avoid it and as soon as he housed one against Cal this week, the Bears reverted to trying the same approach to avoid being stung a second time.

He now has nine-straight 100-yard games, and for a player of his size, he’s proven to be remarkably adept between the tackles and through contact. This season he is averaging 2.5 yards per carry after contact and has forced 53 missed tackles on 260 carries.

A receiver in high school, McCaffrey has the ability to really test defenses in the passing game. While Stanford don’t maximize that threat like they could, they have at least been getting big plays from him through the air as well as on the ground. He has gains of 20 or more yards in the passing game in nine of his games this season and has the instincts and feel for setting up down field blocks like few other players in football.

Take this simple pass against Cal which McCaffrey turned from nothing into a touchdown in a heartbeat:


Without a devastating passing game to lean on, Stanford often rides McCaffrey as far as he can take them, and the Cardinal rely on him to close out games and control the ball on the ground. He plays like a guy who is significantly larger than he is, and while players like Leonard Fournette will be the ones that set the draft community drooling, Christian McCaffrey has had the better season and is the player currently atop PFF’s running back rankings.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • Kvk

    Actually he’s not cause he’s white!!!!!

    • Tim Edell


    • https://www.lewrockwell.com ND52

      Not what………….?

  • Verbal

    McCaffrey is awesome! Don’t care what color he is. He was the most versatile and performing back in the nation.