Christian McCaffrey 2020 Fantasy Outlook: Run CMC

2019 Recap

christian mccaffreyChristian McCaffrey was the NFL’s best fantasy player in PPR leagues after having the second-best fantasy season in NFL history. Throughout the season, McCaffrey accumulated 471.2 fantasy points, 1,387 rushing yards, 1,005 receiving yards, and 19 total touchdowns. He also became the third player in NFL history to record 1,000+ receiving and 1,000+ rushing yards in the same year.

As a result, McCaffrey led all NFL players in terms of yards from scrimmage, with nearly 2,400 total yards. Overall, McCaffery was the league’s most versatile RB because he led all running backs in terms of receiving yardage.

 Rushing yardsRushing TDsReceptionsReceviving YardsReceiving TDsfumbles lostFptsFpts/gm.
2020 Projection15641387108742450.128.1
2019 Stats138715116100541471.229.5

Team/Situation

A large extent of Christian McCaffrey’s success was due to the Carolina Panthers’ lackluster quarterback play for the majority of the season. After Cam Newton suffered a foot injury early in the season, Kyle Allen struggled as the Panthers’ main QB for the majority of the 2019 season. According to Football Outsiders, Allen finished with a -408 DYAR and a -22.7% DVOA which ranked second worst amongst all qualifying QBs.

In order to make up for Allen’s mediocrity, the Panthers needed to lean on McCaffery immensely to win games. This will probably repeat next season with Teddy Bridgewater taking over as the new starting QB for the Carolina Panthers. Even though Bridgewater is a quality game manager, he has never thrown for more than 3,300 or 15+ TDs in a single season. Therefore, Bridgewater and the Panthers will certainly rely on Christian McCaffery’s rushing production to move the chains in 2020.

Scheme

After playing for former head coach Ron Rivera, in every season of his career, Christian McCaffery’s new head coach will be Matt Rhule. This is important because it marks the first time in Christian McCaffery’s young NFL career, that his head coach will be an offensive-minded genius. Wisely, Rhule selected Joe Brady as his offensive coordinator, who helped orchestrate the sensational 2019 National Champion LSU Tigers offense.

While Rhule and Brady are still preparing a playbook for next season, there is a high likelihood that it will propel Christian McCaffery to another fantastic fantasy season. According to CBS Sports, LSU ran the ball approximately 25 times per game last season, which is nearly seven more carriers than McCaffery averaged per game last season. Therefore, McCaffery surprisingly has the potential to see his rushing output increase from last season. Additionally, he should receive a healthy target share in this new offense, given that RBs received nearly 20% of the total target share in Brady’s system last season.

Rushing Game

Matt Rhule’s scheme will likely feature a zone running scheme, similar to Titans OC, Arthur Smith’s, that is oriented around the skill-set of his elite ball-carrier. This scheme will be extremely beneficial for McCaffery, given his impeccable ball carrier vision. This will be especially true on outside zone runs, where Rhule often employs jet motion to spread the defense horizontally and open up rushing lanes. As a result, Christian McCaffery will be able to find holes relatively quickly and burst through them for some big plays.

In addition, Rhule has tended to heavily favor the pistol formation throughout his experience as a head coach. This formation was extremely successful for the Baltimore Ravens last season and helped them rank first in average rush yards/carry and total rushing yardage. Therefore the pistol formation can generate elite production for McCaffery as well as consistent efficiency in every single week of fantasy football.

Receiving Game

Barring a devastating injury, Christian McCaffrey will likely rank among the top five running backs in terms of receiving yardage again. Part of this receiving success will due to Teddy Bridgewater’s conservative playing style. According to ESPN, Bridgewater’s career pass yards per throw is the third-lowest amongst all qualifying QBs since 2014. Given Bridgewater’s extremely conservative playing style, it is likely that McCaffery will command a large number of check-downs.

Aside from Bridgewater’s check-downs, the Rhule/Brady scheme should provide McCaffery with an abundant amount of receptions. Unlike most college coach’s Matt Rhule was noteworthy for giving an expanded route tree to his running backs beyond screen and check-down routes. Also, as noted earlier, Joe Brady is well-known for integrating RBs into his passing game. In fact, Brady’s LSU offense passed the ball more to RBs than TEs last season, according to CBS Sports.

This could lead to an increase in targets for CMC, who has seen his targets increase every season. If this trend continues NBC Sports reporter, Josh Norris predicts that McCaffery could receive 150+ targets in 2020.

Upside

For fantasy owners who had Christian McCaffery on their roster last season, it’s difficult to imagine him having a better outing than he did last year. However, his ceiling is even higher than it was last season because of the situation he is in with Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. Without Cam Newton on the roster, McCaffery is head and shoulders above the other ball-carriers on the Panthers. If Brady decides to increase CMC’s carries, he could finish as the league’s leading rusher for the first time in his career. This will be coupled with a sharp uptick in TDs, which could make him extremely valuable in standard leagues.

McCaffery’s fantasy success also extends to PPR league’s, where he is undoubtedly the best RB to have on your roster. Throughout McCaffery’s last two seasons, he has recorded more receiving yards than any other RB in the NFL. Moreover, aside from Austin Ekeler, McCaffery was the only fantasy running back who was able to accumulate 900+ receiving yards by a large margin. Unless he suffers an unexpected injury, CMC will repeat as the best RB in PPR league’s and possibly shatter his last season.

Floor

For most running backs, there is a chief concern that prevents them from repeating fantasy success in consecutive seasons. For Saquon Barkley and Alvin Kamara, nagging injuries hindered their production and prevented them from suiting up for every game. While injuries also slowed down Todd Gurley, he also saw a sharp decrease in production due to the deterioration of the Rams’ run-blocking efficiency. Plus, even Derrick Henry is limited by his lack of receiving skills.

However, McCaffery is different from all these rushers because he doesn’t experience these issues. Throughout his three year career, McCaffery has played in every game, excelled with shoddy offensive lines, and been a consistent receiving threat. Therefore there is not a glaring problem that will lower his ceiling or give fantasy owner’s a reason to be wary of him. As a result, he can continue to rank as the league’s best fantasy player for a second straight season and break some historical records.

Value:

In 2020, McCaffery has a high probability of repeating as the league’s best running back because of his versatility. McCaffery is a threat in the red zone, as a receiver, between the tackles, and on outside runs. Surprisingly, McCaffery’s success last season came with a below-average offensive line, so that won’t likely be an obstacle for him in 2020.

Despite Cam Newton no longer serving as Carolina’s signal-caller, the Panthers are likely to have a rushing-based scheme that benefits McCaffery. Also, given that McCaffery has not missed a game due to injury throughout his career, it’s clear that he is the NFL’s most durable back. McCaffery is the safest RB option to remain an RB1 and is currently the top-ranked fantasy player for Lineups.com. Therefore it is safe to draft him first overall if you’re in a position to do so.

 

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