Stanford's do-everything RB Christian McCaffrey - Photo by: Getty Images
SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. McCAFFREY CHECKS A LOT OF BOXES FOR BUCS
Stanford’s do-everything running back Christian McCaffrey may not be drafted by Tampa Bay, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t interested in him. In fact, the Bucs are intrigued by his skill set and the amount of boxes he could check for the team if the 2015 Heisman Trophy finalist were to end up in pewter and red.
With Doug Martin’s future with the team in doubt due to drug usage and a three-game suspension to start the 2017 season, the Bucs will draft a running back to replace the 28-year old rusher, who is coming off a career-low 421 yards and 2.9-yard average last year. McCaffrey will get some consideration from Tampa Bay, but the biggest concern is that he’s likely not the 19th-best prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft worthy of taking with the Bucs’ first-round pick from a value standpoint, but he’s not going to be there in the second round when Tampa Bay is on the clock again – unless general manager Jason Licht trades up.
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey – Photo by: Getty Images
Of course, the Bucs could trade back from 19 and draft McCaffrey towards the end of the first round while picking up an extra selection or two to get better value. Tampa Bay could need a starting running back if it decides to part ways with Martin at some point this offseason as expected.
NFL scouts are eager to see McCaffrey at the NFL Scouting Combine where his size – listed at 6-foot, 200 pounds – and speed will be scrutinized. McCaffrey, the son of former Denver Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, is believed to be closer to 5-foot-10 and may be under 200 pounds. Of the top 10 rushers in the NFL last season, only two players – Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy and Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman weighed below 210 pounds.
Top 10 NFL Rushers In 2016
1. Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott – 6-0, 225 – 1,631 yards
2. Chicago RB Jordan Howard – 6-0, 222 – 1,313 yards
3. Tennessee RB DeMarco Murray – 6-1, 220 – 1,287 yards
4. Miami RB Jay Ajayi – 6-0, 229 – 1,272 yards
5. Pittsburgh RB Le’Veon Bell – 6-1, 225 – 1,268 yards
6. Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy – 5-11, 208 – 1,267 yards
7. Arizona RB David Johnson – 6-1, 224 – 1,239 yards
8. New England RB LeGarrette Blount – 6-0, 250 – 1,161 yards
9. Atlanta RB Devonta Freeman – 5-8, 206 – 1,079 yards
10. Houston RB Lamar Miller – 5-10, 220 – 1,073 yards
That’s not to say smaller backs can’t be successful in the NFL. Barry Sanders, who rushed for 15,269 yards, the third-most yards in NFL history, was 5-foot-8 and weighed 203 pounds. Tampa Bay’s own Warrick Dunn was 5-foot-9 and weighed 180 pounds, and rushed 10,967 yards in his NFL career, which ranks 22nd all-time.
The thinking around the NFL is that McCaffrey may be a situational, complimentary back at the next level due to the fact that he doesn’t have the size to withstand the pounding. That’s not necessarily the opinion in Tampa Bay, though, where the team believes he could be a starting-caliber running back. It should be noted that McCaffrey did have 19 games with 20 carries or more at Stanford, and six games with 30 carries or more.
After becoming Stanford’s starter in 2015, McCaffrey carried the ball 337 times for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns that season, in addition to catching 45 passes for 645 yards and five more scores. Factoring in his 130 yards and one touchdown on 15 punt returns and 1,070 yards and another score on 37 kick returns in 2015, McCaffrey broke Sanders’ NCAA all-purpose yardage record that season with 3,864 yards.
That’s 434 touches in one season from a 19-yard sophomore in 2015. And he didn’t miss a game due to injury.
In his three years at Stanford, McCaffrey rushed for 3,922 yards and 21 touchdowns on 632 carries (6.2 avg.) with 99 catches for 1,206 yards (12.2 avg.), 34 punt returns for 380 yards (11.2 avg.) and one touchdown and 57 kick returns for 1,479 yards (35.9 avg.) and a TD. That’s 822 touches in his Stanford career, an average of 22 per game.
The vast majority of McCaffrey’s touches – 748 to be exact – came during his sophomore and junior seasons where he averaged 30 touches per game.
That proves to me that McCaffrey could handle 20 touches per game in the NFL between carries, catches and returns. With his unique training regimen at Stanford, McCaffrey, who is a tireless workout warrior, is built to handle such workloads. In a story on SI.com, Cardinal center Graham Shuler said this:
“Christian has that special drive, that x-factor, the ‘it factor’ – every intangible that you can measure. My favorite story about Christian, that embodies who he is: We do this thing here called the Gator Run. It’s one of our most intense off-season training things. It’s when you load up one of those utility vehicles, like a Gator, with 600 pounds in the back and three coaches are riding in it. We push it all around campus, and it’s a sprint.
“It’s really, really tough. You rotate guys pushing it. A lineman will push anywhere from three to 10 times. A tight end will push it maybe 15 times. A running back pushes it somewhere between 10 to 20 times. It’s really rare for anyone to push it over 20 times. When we did it this summer, Christian pushed it 43 times. He took 43 turns. No one told him to do that; it wasn’t the expectation. But when guys were getting tired, Christian was always right there, in the front, waiting. I hope you can imagine the chaos of 60 guys chasing a small vehicle around campus. That’s Christian in a nutshell.”
You don’t think the Bucs could use a player that amassed 6,987 yards against Pac-12 competition? Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter has expressed the team’s need for speed and playmaking ability. Well McCaffrey delivered.
In 2015, McCaffrey had 369 all-purpose yards against Takkarist McKinley and UCLA. He had 389 all-purpose yards against Cal. And McCaffrey had an unbelievable 461 all-purpose yards in the Pac-12 title game against USC. Against the Trojans, McCaffrey rushed for 207 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries and had 105 yards receiving with another touchdown while adding another 149 yards in the return game.
He also set a Rose Bowl record in the Cardinal’s 45-16 rout over Iowa with 368 yards. McCaffrey rushed for 172 yards on 18 carries (9.6 avg.) and had 105 yards receiving to become the first player in the 102-year history of the Rose Bowl top 100 yards rushing and receiving in the bowl game. McCaffrey added 91 yards in returns, including a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown.
His best punt return at Stanford, a dramatic 96-yard touchdown against Kansas State, was called back due to a penalty, but it’s worth a look as his showcases his vision, his tackle-breaking ability, his acceleration and his speed.
The Castle Rock, Colorado native had 19 games of 100 yards rushing or more and five games of 200 yards rushing or more at Stanford and five more with 200 yards between rushing and receiving yards. In three of those games McCaffrey topped the 100-yard mark as a receiver, too.
McCaffrey, who is expected to run 4.5 or faster in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine later this month, had five runs of 50 yards or longer in his career with five catches of 50 yards or longer, too. He’s also had four games with at least three touchdowns.
The Stanford star could help the Bucs as a running back to alternate carries with Jacquizz Rodgers and as a receiver out of the backfield in Charles Sims’ role. The problem with Martin has become his unreliability – compounded by his suspension for drug usage. In five NFL seasons Martin has had two 1,400-yard rushing campaigns that ended with Pro Bowl acclaim. But he’s also had three seasons in which he has rushed for less than 500 yards, including a career-low 421 yards last year.
The same could be said of Sims, who had a great season in 2015 with 529 yards rushing and 561 yards receiving and four touchdowns, but missed half the season in both 2014 and 2016 due to injuries. Sims averaged a career-low 2.9 yards per carry last year while rushing for 149 yards and a touchdown and catching 32 passes for 190 yards and another score.
Like Martin, Sims has become unreliable. If McCaffrey doesn’t end up making it as a three-down running back in the NFL, he could be a very important weapon out of the backfield in Koetter’s offense and become a better version of Sims, who produced nearly 1,100 yards in that role when healthy for a full 16 games in 2015.
McCaffrey can be an effective receiver out of the backfield on swing passes, screen passes and down the field lined up as a slot receiver and down the sidelines from the backfield on wheel routes. McCaffrey has sensational hands, which is an essential trait for a running back in Koetter’s offense.
In addition to the production, McCaffrey has the intelligence and the work ethic to succeed in the NFL. According to an article on SI.com, he was an Academic All-American at Stanford, and turned down Duke, Ohio State, Oregon and UCLA coming out of Highlands Ranch Valor Christian where he broke several state records by scoring 141 touchdowns and averaging 9.8 yards per carry. McCaffrey had a 3.65 GPA and chose Stanford because it recruited him as a running back and graduated 99 percent of its football players where the other schools recruited him as athlete and not a running back.
In the SI.com article, McCaffrey said, “The secret behind success isn’t as much of a secret as people think. It’s pretty simple. It’s working as hard as you can to accomplish what you want.”
The article went on to report: “McCaffrey embraces the Stanford mentality. The locker room bears slogans such as GREATNESS IS THE RESULT OF REPEATED INTENTIONAL ACTIONS and HOME OF INTELLECTUAL BRUTALITY. He walks through, pointing out a screen with drill times and the schedule for body-fat testing, and noting the wall murals of Cardinal All-Americans and alumni in the NFL. He talks about ‘playing pissed off’ because ‘people think we’re cushy or just nerds’ and about becoming ‘a new being’ when he walks onto the field. ‘It’s about finding that animal inside of you, finding that beast that can go 60 minutes of fast, physical football.’”
McCaffrey is fast and he is physical for his size. He’s willing to bang it in between the tackles and then has the speed to run to daylight when he finds a crease.
McCaffrey is smart and has a great work ethic. And he’s also white, which is a stigma today in the NFL for a running back. All of the top 10 rushers in the NFL are African-American. In fact, all top 40 rushers in the league last year where African-American.
In the SI.com article, McCaffrey and his father discuss the discrimination he faces due to the fact that he’s a white running back.
“There are immediate stereotypes about a white running back who grew up in the suburbs of Colorado,” Ed McCaffrey said. “When we’ve gone to camps or all-star games, he walks on the field and people look at him like he’s nothing.”
That pisses off Christian McCaffrey.
“When you read about white athletes these days and white skill possession receivers specifically, one word you’ll always find is tough. You’ll rarely see explosive, athletic, stuff like that. … You get a little bit upset. ‘I ran the same 40 as this guy, and you’re calling him …’” He trails off. ‘People do the eye test and underestimate me, so I do play with a chip on my shoulder.’”
White, black, brown, green – whatever color McCaffrey is – the kid can flat out play. And his skills to run and catch would be emphasized and utilized perfectly in Koetter’s offense.
Need a jolt to the Bucs’ stagnant return game, which ranked dead last in kickoff returns? Put McCaffrey back there, too. The guy can do it all.
“The year (2015) I sat out with my injury he really gashed us,” UCLA defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes said, noting McCaffrey rushed for 243 yards and four touchdowns, including a 70-yard jaunt in Stanford’s 56-35 victory. “He really killed us. We really focused our game plan on Christian McCaffrey this year and we did a much better job when I returned.”
That’s true. McCaffrey was held to only 138 yards rushing and 13 yards receiving in Stanford’s 22-13 win at UCLA. And he was held out of the end zone this time, but Vanderdoes realizes how fortunate the Bruins defense was.
“He’s a very dynamic player,” Vanderdoes said. “You can’t let a guy like that get loose. You can’t let him get out in the open and create plays or he will single-handedly destroy you. He’s a home run back. He can hit a home run at any time. You can’t take a single play off against him because he’ll take it 90 yards to the house.”
A tough back with home run ability? Check.
An athletic pass-catching back out of the backfield? Check.
A halfback pass thrower? Check, he tossed two touchdowns at Stanford.
A dangerous return man? Check.
A smart player with a great work ethic and character? Check.
McCaffrey could check a lot of boxes on Tampa Bay’s wanted trait list for running backs.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
Scott – I am guessing, the team has fully boughten into, Tyler Oberly, the team’s Manager of Analytics, Elitics Model, that uses his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) index to help determine a price point for each of the teams free agents based on, the following snippet from you Fab 5 column……. “This is typically done through statistical analysis of a player’s stats with his age, previous contract and overall value to the team (leadership, work ethic, locker room character, age, etc.) factored in.” – in essences, it gives the team a singular grade or point scale – which is then used as part of the equation – and formulated as a percentage of the cap number to determine a player’s financial value or price point for contract negotiations purposes.
Below is a link to the Elitics model that Oberly dicusses his PER rating index….
I get It, you get it! But we got some work to do at home with poppa Koetter. You know he’s the boss! lol.
Been a fan of McCaffrey for a while now. He’s my draft crush. I’d love to see him in Pewter and Red, but I don’t know if they pull the trigger at 19.
Personally, I don’t think he makes it out of the first round.
Loving this RB centric Fab 5. I for one am in for cook if he falls to us of course, which would be a small miracle. It all depends on free agency at this point. I am not for trading up too far to get him either as we need picks. If he’s still there like two spots ahead of us, make a move and get him. As for McCaffrey, I’m not a big fan. I wouldn’t mind getting him if we traded back, but not at 19. He’s too small for my liking. He’ll end up going to New England and becoming a star because that is a system that would utilize him perfectly. We don’t need a gimmick back, we need a 3 down back.
I do like Hunt the more I hear about him and the zero fumbles is incredibly impressive. And agree on the Rb from Tennessee. There’s always 1 or 2 players not rally known who get blown up before draft time. His lack of production is pretty eye opening though.
We should bring back Rogers as a veteran presence and bring in a RB in the 1st or 2nd. I Am starting to like trading back a bit too. We’ll see, we all know Licht is a gambler, and it sure makes the draft interesting.
CG- saying ” I want Cook” doesn’t surprise me since this would be 3rd yr in a row you wanted a Nole in the first round ha I will have to watch FSU Games next yr to see who you want for us in first round next yr, lol Mark Cook will have a whole article dedicated to this as well, I rather get wr Corey Davis who is a beast and is a do it all wr. or I can be on board with OJ Howard as well
Jon good to see you take a break from the Arizona team site to pay us folk at pewter report a visit. Haha
As for wanting Jalen Ramsey last year, look at any sites rankings and he was the best rookie DB taken last year.
Look at Jameis’ rookie season, it speaks for itself. As for cook, there’s a reason he’s number one back in some boards ahead of Fournette. If he’s there at 19 it would be complete stupid not to take him.
I’ve stated a couple times I would take Corey Davis all day if he’s there. But that wasn’t probably one of those weeks you’d didn’t pop on here.
Maybe just maybe I want these noles on the team because they are good?
JonnyG: The FSU players we would like to see in red and pewter is because they are good, not because they wore garnet and gold. Maybe if you observed the aforementioned trio during their college careers you too would have trumpeted their virtues. There once was this little LB who some saw as a Safety. He was a “tweener”. Those of us fortunate enough to watch #10 play knew whichever position he was given he’d be a star. He settled at LB, was given #55 and was pretty good. Sometimes, even though you live in the desert, you come off like some sophisticated New Yorker looking down us Floridians. We homies know what we see.
Given the way the “Flying Elvises” seem to end up with a disproportionate number of white skilled position players, there’s little doubt that McCaffrey will be joining the Boston Celtics of football this April.
SR another GREAT fab 5. thank you. I love MacCaffrey and would not be upset if we take him at 10 even though that might be a reach. The guy can flat out play. I like hunt as well and agree with your comment on Jones. Thanks again Scott.
I feel like McCaffrey is going to be overdrafted. He should be a nifty utility player, but I don’t see him as an NFL bell cow back (despite the number of college carries listed in the article). Unless Dalvin Cook or Fournette fall (they won’t), I don’t think there is a back worthy of taking at 19.
I read an extended piece on Obi Melifonwu recently and this kid is intriguing. Incredible size/speed and good production. I think if Mike Williams and Corey Davis are off the board and an elite DE doesn’t fall, this guy should be the pick. Has the size to play SS and speed to play FS. Should have a similar impact as Kam Chancellor.
Sad for the kid, but kinda glad to hear the medical concerns on John Ross make him unlikely for the Bucs first round pick. I get that the team desperately needs speed, but it doesn’t seem like he has the build to be a true #2 outside receiver and i would hate to use a first round pick on a slot receiver.
With talent at R.B. deep in this draft, seems no doubt we will up grade an area of need. Why not McCaffery in the first, Hunt in the third? That would be a young cheep dynamic duo moving forward. You could even play them together, moving McCaff all over the field. Draft a good receiver in the second, and we got some fire power.
I think the Bucs would be crazy to take any running back in the first round, the position simply doesn’t merit a first round pick. In this particular draft which is heavy on talent at several offensive positions, including running backs, I’d prefer to see the Bucs wait til Day 3 to take any RB.
I know that PR writers and quite a few commenters here seem to be seriously intent on digging Martin’s grave, but I am still not convinced the Bucs are going to just cut him. His NFL career is not over til it’s over, he’s still not that old, and if his health seems restored during the offseason, and if he is willing to negotiate a new contract that is heavy on performance incentives, then he’s still a valuable member of the offense. Those are two big ifs, but we know his upside – the ability to lead the league in rushing production when he’s healthy. His health concerns are mitigated with an incentives-based contract.
I agree. Keep Martin at a fair contract based on incentive. I think McCaffrey is more at his ceiling than OJ Howard and Corey Davis, they have way more upside.
By the way, I saw a report today on si.com by Alan Schechter that Roy Cummings was told by the Bucs they intend to hold on to Martin for the foreseeable future. They are not required to make any decisions on him until he completes the third suspended game of the 2017 season … they can void his contract at any point until then and he won’t count against the cap.
So basically, they can have him practice and play in the pre-season, no matter whom they draft of pick up in free agency, wait and see who’s actually performing in the first three regular season games, and then decide whether to keep or cut him.
That’s great news! I still hope we keep him and he makes a comeback though.
That is exactly what I’ve said the Bucs will do with Doug Martin. No need to break up with your girlfriend until you’ve secured another date to the Prom.
Scott you really make me wish Tampa would draft every player you feature on the Fab 5. I still think Corey Davis will be a gem in the NFL but will be unavailable when the Bucs pick. I think the best mix would be: OJ Howard, Budda Baker, and Kareem Hunt.
IF Cook is there at 19, I’d be for taking him. But I’m torn between that option and trading back, getting McCaffrey AND an extra pick. Lucky for us, the Cook option will likely be off the table by the time we pick.
I could also see us grabbing a DE, but with the depth of this draft BPA seems like our best route either way. We have enough holes right now that just about any position we hit will fill a need.
Licht will get us some good pieces again this year and push us closer to being consistent playoff contenders.
I agree with you 100 percent about Martin, Naplesfan.
I am so tired of the media and fans screaming for the team to cut a valuable resource every time a player does something worse than get a traffic ticket in public.
Generally it is the same people who whine and cry about Buc management letting the player go and calling them stupid when the player returns to his All Pro level of a play less than a year later.
Martin is doing all the right things to return to the Bucs including checking into a rehab facility. If ASJ had done this he would probably still be with the Bucs today. From what I know about Adderall, it isn’t a very addictive drug, if at all.
If the Bucs cut Martin, or try to cut his salary to much, he will no doubt be playing in New England, Green Bay, Oakland or Kansas City next year. Any of those teams would be ecstatic to have a player of Martin’s exceptional skill set.
Instead, some of you Einstein’s want to draft a Davin Cook who has also had injury problems in college and is also reported to like to drink to much and hangs out with gangbangers. Brilliant!
With a healthy Martin and Rogers, this team would be set at tailback for another couple of years and we can draft players at other positions which this team sorely needs.
I don’t disagree with your point about retaining Doug Martin through Training Camp and then making an evaluation of him just like any other hopeful trying to make the roster. I know this much, a repeat of his poor 2016 season this August would be disastrous if Licht doesn’t have a viable replacement to be the lead back.
I don’t think RB is one of our top 3 needs on offense. WR, OL and TE in that order. WR is the obviouse no.1 need. OL is second because we have to protect Winston and we have to open holes for the RB’s. Last year our line was exposed as mediocre. Especially in our losses we were unable to run block and pass protect adequately. No matter how good the skill players are, if we can’t run block and pass protect the offense is going to be inconsistent at best. I think that describes the 2016 Bucs offense. Tight end is a need because Koetter wants to run 2 TE alignments and we do not have a good second TE. So I am hoping for either John Ross or OJ Howard in the first and an OL in the second.
Don’t get the love for Druggie Martin. Even if they kept him, he wouldn’t be able to play until week four. Then he would need time to get into playing shape. This draft is loaded with young cheap legs, the Bucs will draft at least one back, resign Rodgers, and have Barber compete with at least one undrafted walk on. Guy’s like a lost love, let Martin go.
Good Fab 5 as usual.
Why do people think that a new running back will suddenly turn the running game into the juggernaut we fielded 2 years ago.
What the difference was and still is one player. Logan Mankins. If Sweezy is as good of run blocker as advertised all our current players can gain big yardage. I can’t see McCaffery lasting more than a couple of years as the bell cow back. NFL linebackers and safeties will make mincemeat out of him.
Our #1 pick should be a slam dunk, not some “I hope this works” pick. I’m now starting to believe that we should entertain thoughts of actually moving up to secure either Mike Williams or Corey Davis. I know it’s most likely a bad idea though, but look how Julio Jones trade turned out. I do know this, if anyone of those guys are there run the pick up.
Also warming up to picking Howard from Bama. If he blocks as well as advertised take him.
Here are some thoughts on our current roster.
why is everyone assuming Vincent Jackson is out of here. If he is healthy and wants to give it another year at a show me price, go for it. He’s a quality player and human being, good for the young guys and we all know he loves Tampa.
Why is everyone assuming that Dougie is finished here. Same thing with Martin, sign him at a show me price and let him prove it. I don’t know what drugs he was ingesting but that was one expensive habit he had.
Plus, it’s time for his “good” year. It’s time for JL to make a big ass splash in free agency.
Eric Berry, Dontari Poe, JPP, Trumain, Kwan short, Calais Cambell, Desaun Jackson, Kenny Britt, Alshon Jefferies, Latavius Murray and some others who could provide an immediate impact.
It’s time to pull the trigger one a superstar.
RB’s are a dime a dozen. I would draft 1 or even 2 and move on from the aging injury prone Martin and Sims. We need to get some young blood in here at rb
You are spot on about the loss of Makin’s resulting in our porous offensive line last year.
Surferdudes is the exact type of “fan” I was talking about.
He will be the first to call Bucs management stupid if they cut him and he goes on to excel elsewhere.
Don’t think for a minute Martin is going to take a huge pay cut from the Bucs in order to run behind an offensive line like last year.
He has his pride.
Would you take $3 million from the Bucs to run behind last years offensive line or $3 million to run behind New England’s, Kansas City’s, Green Bay’s or Oakland’s. All Super Bowl contenders and all in need of a RB of Martin’s skill set.
After Martin serves out his suspension next year he will make $5.7 million, a figure the Bucs can well afford.
I repeat again, quit trying to save the Bucs money. They have plenty of it and it’s not even yours to save.
Unless they are going to cut the ticket prices due to the money it would save by slashing his salary (which Is a laugh) then quit worrying about how much money he makes next year. It doesn’t affect you.
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