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Christian McCaffrey taken by Carolina Panthers in first round of NFL Draft

The Carolina Panthers drafted former Cardinal running back and wide receiver Christian McCaffrey in the eighth position in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft (AL CHANG/isiphotos.com).

Former Stanford playmaker Christian McCaffrey was drafted eighth by the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. The running back was drafted shortly after teammate and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas went third to the San Francisco 49ers.

McCaffrey was the second running back taken in the draft after LSU’s Leonard Fournette went fourth. Despite not being the first to go, it seems the Panthers have forecast the former Cardinal as a highly valuable pick, as he was just the fourth running back in the last five years to be taken in as a top-10 pick in the draft.

McCaffrey projects as an extremely versatile weapon with the skills necessary to play both running back and slot receiver in the NFL. His explosiveness and unparalleled field vision made the Cardinal a show-stopper for Stanford the past three years. A two-time Heisman Trophy candidate, McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ record for all-purpose yards in a season his junior year with 3,864 yards. Scouts expected McCaffrey to do well in the running back drills but were astonished at McCaffrey’s sharp routes and soft hands as he worked out with the wide receivers at both the NFL Combine and Stanford’s pro day.

Leading up to the draft, the scouts were very concerned as to McCaffrey’s “fit” with particular teams. Their concern was that McCaffrey, at only 203 pounds, would be too undersized to stay healthy and make an impact as the feature back in the NFL.

However, the Panthers already have a big, physical back in Jonathan Stewart who excels at running between the tackles. Stewart shines in the areas where McCaffrey could potentially struggle, making him a perfect complement. With Stewart handling the more physical work, the former Stanford star will be able to grow and develop into his own role as a dangerous offensive weapon without having to shoulder a burden that could limit his explosiveness and durability.

Over the course of his record-breaking 2015 season, McCaffrey had 30.3 touches per game, significantly more than any other FBS player. It remains to be seen what McCaffrey’s role on the Panthers will be, but none can question his toughness. McCaffrey’s football savvy and big play ability will surely entertain NFL fans on Sundays for years to come.

 

Contact Eric Gilliam at ericgillia3 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Charles Vidrine at cvidrine ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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