Christian McCaffrey’s season was cut short in 2019 due to injuries, but he was his superhuman self in the three games he played. McCaffrey scored five touchdowns and one in the air. He also rushed for 224 yards on 59 attempts and caught 17 passes for 149 yards. McCaffrey averaged a league-leading 30.1 points per game, which was five points higher than Alvin Kamara.
The offense is going to continue to revolve around McCaffrey. Another 300-touch season is in the cards, but he is rushing behind a below-average offensive line. However, he is a true workhorse and is averaging over 100 receptions in his three full seasons. He will also have Sam Darnold throwing him the ball, raising the question: how will Darnold perform on his new team?
McCaffrey runs behind a below average offensive line, but he will be the same player with an elite passing option out of the backfield. He will make defenders miss the open field and continue to get goal-line touches as all six came from within the 10-zone. Look for McCaffrey to continue his typical workload, and he should be the first player off the board.
Christian McCaffrey, aka ‘CMC,’ has been like a cheat code for fantasy football fans for the past couple of years. He has been amazingly durable throughout his entire football career, dating back to high school. McCaffrey was a monster in every sense of the term in high school, accounting for over 8,800 all-purpose yards, 141 TDs (!!), playing RB, WR, CB and punter. Oh he also played basketball and ran track and field. In his 2nd year at Stanford he broke Barry Sanders’ record of all-purpose yards, with a mind-boggling 3,864 (that’s 276 yards/game). Drafted with the 8th pick in 2017 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, after running a 4.48 second 40-yard dash at the Combine, and was the second RB taken after Leonard Fournette.
CMC demonstrated his potential in his rookie season by rushing over 115 times and also catching 80 passes. His 2018 and 2019 season were absolutely bananas. In 2018 he rushed for almost 1,100 yards and caught 107 passes. The following season he had one of the greatest seasons for an NFL running back ever, rushing for over 1,350 yards, and then adding in over 1,000 yards receiving on 116 catches. Oh and he had a combined 19 TDs. The craziest part about this insane 6+ year run spanning college and the NFL? He only suffered one injury (a groin strain), and only missed 1 game. That’s over 1,300 carries and 400 catches. Impressive would be an understatement.
McCaffrey takes care of his body. He powers through smaller injuries and knows when to let off the gas, and when to push it. That’s the only way to explain his durability. Unfortunately his good fortune came to a crashing end quickly in 2020. After signing a 4 year contract extension, at $16M per, making him the highest-paid RB in NFL history (rightfully so), McCaffrey lasted 1.5 games before suffering the dreaded high-ankle sprain. The same injury that derailed fellow elite RB Alvin Kamara in 2019, and Kamara’s teammate Michael Thomas in 2020. An injury that regardless of how elite your talent level is (CMC, Kamara, MT, LeBron), they don’t heal quickly. Ever. Think minimum 4 weeks, sometimes up to 8, and realistically that tissue is likely not close to 100% until 6-8 months later. So CMC gets a pass in 2020.
CMC suffered the ankle injury in Week 2; he returned in Week 9. Like I said they don’t heal quickly, and I bet he was around 80% when he returned. His return was short-lived, as suffered a shoulder injury (AC sprain) in his return in Week 9. Sounds like it was a ‘Murphy’s Law’ type season for CMC. AC sprains vary in severity and type (the higher the number, the worse), and his was probably a Type 2 or 3 (Type 4+ go to surgery). Type 2’s usually take at least 3-4 weeks to be able to do all the things that CMC would ask his body to do. To add insult to injury, McCaffrey sustained another new injury while he was attempting to return from his shoulder injury, this time a quad strain. With the Panthers out of the playoff race, it simply wasn’t worth it for the Panthers to rush their stud RB back for a meaningless game. Done for the season. The RB1, and the consensus 1.1 in drafts played in a total of 3 games in the 2020 season. Ugh.
So what to do with CMC in 2021? Great question. We finally have an injury-riddled season from CMC and potential future injury concerns are now realistic. Am I overly concerned with him going forward? No. I’m not super concerned about any of these injuries lingering. I still think there’s plenty left in the tank for McCaffrey and when he’s on the field, just sit back and relax, dude’s a beast. Should he still be considered a top 3 RB going into 2021? Yes. There’s only one other player on his level right now, and his name is Alvin Kamara. That’s it. That’s the only RB I would draft over CMC.
Injury Risk: Low. 4/10.
I don't expect you to know about all the crazy injuries that these athletes suffer. You (likely) didn't go to medical school and endure several years of grueling training to understand how the body works and how to fix it. Then proceed to apply that knowledge and experience to hone those skills to treat people's injuries every day. That is what we are here for. There is a good chance there is a player you’re watching on Sundays that we took care of in the past.
Our goal is to explain what the injury is, how it happened, how serious it is, the treatment plan, how long it will take for the player to return, their effectiveness upon returning (after the injury), and whether or not they are at increased risk to suffer the same or similar injuries as a result of this injury. So it’s not just a simple one line description.
When reviewing players' profiles, it is important to start at the beginning, from where the players grew up. From this, it forms a determination of motivational factors, injury history, learning whether or not the athlete was a highly-scouted talent, or did he seem to come from nowhere? All of these details help to give an idea of how much the wear and tear are on his body.
For instance, an athlete who played four years of high school football, then four years of college football in addition to contributing his talents while running track & field, will wear down the body quicker than one who is only focused on football. It's all relative—for example, Todd Gurley.
Gurley's knees began to wear out at the young age of 25. He ran track for several years and played football starting at a young age. Add in a significant ACL tear and meniscus tear/damage and surgeries, and his knees are at a more advanced age, probably similar to a 50-year-old. Learning the player's history helps give us the best evaluation of his true talent as well as his overall risk.
- Dr. Jesse Morse, MD, MBA, CAQSM (@DrJesseMorse)