Usually with high-risk, comes high-reward and in Christian McCaffrey
that is most assuredly the case. McCaffrey can be the best fantasy
running back in the entire league Ö or the best running back
watching from the press box while you struggle to make the fantasy
In 2019, McCaffrey led all running backs with a stunning 29.3
FPts/G average. He rushed for 1,387 yards and 13 touchdowns and
caught 116 balls for 1,005 yards and four more scores. CMC played
all 16 games, amassed 469.2 fantasy points and likely led whoever
drafted him to a fantasy championship.
That was more points than the record-setting Cooper Kupp produced
last season and more points of any running back since LaDainian
Tomlinson put up 474.3 points in 2006 (1,815 yards, 28 rushing
TDs, 56 rec for 508 yards, 3 TDs, 2-for-3 passing for 20 yards
and two touchdowns).
In 2020, he started the season right where he left off, producing
90.3 fantasy points in the first three games. Then disaster struck
and CMC didnít play another game that season due to multiple
Still, fantasy owners assumed it was a one-time fluke issue as
he has started 16 games in each of his first three seasons and
the Panthersí running back was still a top selection on
2021 draft days. He started off strong averaging 26.2 against
the Jets and Saints, but again lightning struck early in Week
3. He wouldnít play until Week 9, averaged 25.5 FPts/G in
Weeks 10 and 11 and then in Week 12 was once again back on the
sidelines and didnít play another down.
Two years, averaging 26.04 FPts/G when playing an entire game
(8 games), but missing 23 complete games and two partial games.
So what are fantasy owners to do?
Heís elite when playing, but he missed 75.8% of the games
First letís look at the type of injuries he suffered. Were
they possibly career-ending? Did they require major surgery? Does
he suffer the same injury over and over again? The answers are;
no, no and no.
In 2020 he suffered a right ankle sprain, a right shoulder AC
joint sprain and a thigh injury. No surgeries were needed. The
following season it was a right hamstring injury and a left ankle
injury. Again, no surgery needed and none was a repeat injury.
But can he stay healthy in 2022?
Your guess is as good as mine, but injuries are a part of the
game of football and particularly at running back. And sure, Jonathan Taylor played all 17 games last season, but Derrick Henry played
just eight games after back-to-back 1500-yard, 15 TD seasons.
Alvin Kamara missed four games too. Joe Mixon missed 10 games
in 2020 and Nick Chubb missed four games that year. Itís
just a fact - running backs get hit by very big guys with ill-will
in their hearts and they get hurt. The best running backs average
playing 83.4% of their games. I actually thought that number would
10-Year RB Missed Game Analysis
T* Based on FPts/G
But injuries are a part of the game, so you must take precautions.
If you are planning on drafting McCaffrey, you better have DíOnta
Foreman (free agent signed in March) on your roster as well. When
Henry missed time last season, Foreman produced three 100-yard
rushing games and averaged 4.3 ypc. He caught 81.8% of his targets
and averaged 13.7 per catch. That must be why the Panthers got
him in the offseason. They obviously werenít satisfied with
Chuba Hubbardís rushing production (3.6 ypc) or passing-game
work (67.6% catch rate, 7.0 ypr).
But even if you are ready to choose McCaffrey, how high should
he go? Does he go before any of last seasonís top running
backs? Higher than Taylor, Austin Ekeler, Najee Harris or Henry?
Thatís the million dollar question? Hereís my answer.
Not ahead of Taylor. The Colts star running back is getting better.
He averaged 17.0 in his rookie season and 22.2 points last season.
Heís played 32 of a possible 33 games. The running back
depth chart looks similar to a season ago with Taylor and Nyheim Hines at the top. The OL is solid, not No.1 anymore after losing
two starters, but still ranked No.10 in the latest PFF preseason
list. Newly-acquired quarterback Matt Ryan does not steal many
short-yardage touchdowns from his backs. Taylor should be elite
But I would slot him in the No.2 spot.
Ahead of Ekeler. In April, before the NFL draft, the Chargers
running back proclaimed heíd like to limit his touches to
remain healthy. The GM said something similar last January. The
Chargers then drafted Isaiah Spiller out of Texas A&M, who
rushed for over a 1,000 yards the past two seasons. The team is
going to limit Ekelerís ceiling, not his ability.
Ahead of Harris. Sure, Harris is a workhorse, but can a mediocre
quarterback room keep opposing defenses from keying on the second-year
running back? Harris averaged 17.4 FPts/G from Week 1-9 and 15.7
from Week 10-18 with Ben Roethlisberger (yes, a fading one). He
had three of his four worst games in the second half of the season
and a horrible playoff game against the Chiefs. It is possible
defenses have figured him out. Can journeyman Mitchell Trubisky
or rookie Kenny Pickett change the narrative? I think not.
Ahead of Henry. Henry is another workhorse, but unlike Harris
isnít hugely involved in the passing game. He returned from
a foot injury in time for the Divisional Round playoff loss to
Cincinnati, so he should be physically ready. But his game is
one-dimensional and the loss of threats like A.J. Brown and Julio Jones could lead to tough running against more overloaded fronts.
Whether Treylon Burks and Robert Woods (when he returns to full
form following his ACL injury) can distract defenses is key and
we likely wonít know the answer until after our draft and
the season begins. As a fantasy owner, I try to avoid unknowns
at the top of the first round.
Bottom line; Iím ready to draft McCaffrey as the second-best