Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey brings necessary speed

The selection of Christian McCaffrey adds a valuable playmaker that the Carolina Panthers can use in multiple ways.

The Carolina Panthers went into the 2017 NFL Draft with playmakers on their mind. It’s clear that the team needed weapons on both sides of the ball as the offseason lurched on. So, with their first pick in the draft, the Panthers selected running back Christian McCaffrey from Stanford.

He’s a name that shot up the draft boards and surprised many as one of the best options at running back. Now, he’s a member of the Panthers offense and expectations are going to come quick and fast for this rookie.

Versatility is an aspect to McCaffrey’s game that made him a strong option for not only the Panthers, but any team looking for a multi-dimension athlete. Look back to McCaffrey’s time at Stanford and it’s clear that he has the skills to impact a game in a variety of ways.

In three years he put together 3,922 rushing yards, 1,206 receiving yards, 1,859 return yards and a total of 33 touchdowns. That’s quite a resume regardless of what conference a player is in — but McCaffrey happened to play in a Power 5 conference in the Pac-12. It’s those abilities to play multiple positions that made McCaffrey jump off the board as a player that Carolina could not pass up.

It’s clear that Cam Newton is one of the best playmakers in the NFL. His ability to throw the ball or take off for a big run is a major part of the Panthers’ recent success. But opposing defenses are better prepared to deal with Newton’s playmaking ability. Defenses took shot after shot on Newton this past season which hampered his long-term health and ability to consistently perform at a high level. On paper, the Panthers possessed a powerful offense, but it was limited throughout much of the year.

McCaffery is a potential long-term solution to that problem. When paired with Jonathan Stewart he adds speed to the rushing game. Cameron Artis-Payne hasn’t panned out, but adding McCaffrey to that combination creates a dynamic group who can attack in different ways. When paired with the moves to release Mike Tolbert and sign Stewart to a one-year extension, it’s clear that Carolina is looking for a player that can become their primary weapon on the ground.

What’s more, McCaffery can also impact the Panthers’ passing game. McCaffrey’s 4.48-second 40-yard dash time at the Combine shocked a lot of people and really started his rise up everyone’s draft boards. Though there are questions how often he’ll be used as a wide receiver given the Panthers’ selection of Curtis Samuel in Round 2, McCaffrey adds speed to a receiving corps lacking it.

Picking up McCaffrey in the first round is the right move for the Panthers at this time. He gives the team the opportunity to bring in a player and line him up in multiple places to give opposing teams confusing looks. Carolina has historically been a run-first team, but faltered in 2016. Adding McCaffrey gives this offense a player that can add a sudden burst to their performance and become a long-term solution for that vital position.

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