It may have taken longer than they would have liked, but Christian McCaffrey is quickly becoming who the Carolina Panthers wanted him to be when they drafted him with the eighth overall pick. The result has been two consecutive solid offensive performances, and that probably is no coincidence.
McCaffrey is transitioning from mainly a receiver to more of a balanced back who is also effective at running the ball. Over the past two games, McCaffrey averaged 4.5 yards per carry, and that has been a key contributor to the resurgence of the Carolina Panthers run game.
But has McCaffrey done enough to be in the same Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion? Maybe. Deshaun Watson was a shoe-in for the title until his unfortunate injury. Now, it looks like the winner will be a running back.
Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt is far and away the favorite so far this season. I won’t try to make a case for McCaffrey to win the title over Hunt, because as of today he should not. That said, there are still plenty of games left on the schedule and anything could happen. McCaffrey is on the rise and could conceivably catch up to Hunt. Time will tell.
But in terms of the next tier of offensive rookies, I believe Christian McCaffrey should be in the discussion along with Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette and New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara. For my money, these are the three players most likely to compete with Kareem Hunt during the second half of the season.
McCaffrey is currently trailing Fournette and Kamara in all-purpose yards mainly due to a Carolina Panthers anemic offense during the first half of the season. Now that the Panthers appear to be on the right track, I suspect these margins will get more narrow as time goes on.
Another statistic worth noting is receptions. McCaffrey is currently ranked 6th in the entire NFL. He is ranked above players like Julio Jones, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. That’s not bad company for a rookie, is it?
So here is the deal. Currently Christian McCaffrey is teetering on the edge of the Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion, but he is not quite there yet. However, if the Carolina Panthers are truly on an upward offensive trend he could be very soon.