You are probably aware of the existence of Christian McCaffrey, the small but shifty Carolina Panthers running back who had a solid, if unspectacular rookie season after being drafted with the No. 8 overall pick in 2017. McCaffrey split the backfield work with Jonathan Stewart last year, but with Stewart having moved onto a new opportunity with the New York Giants, McCaffrey is expected to shoulder a much larger load in 2018.
In preparation, well, let's just say McCaffrey got swole. Check out this pictures from Panthers OTAs. The dude looks ripped.
McCaffrey says he's only gained five pounds of muscle, but that "I just got 'em out, I guess. I don't know. It might be a tan, I'm not sure," per the Panthers' official website.
Pivoting to a real explanation, McCaffrey explained that his new look is just a result of his maturing into his body, and that it's not necessarily that big a deal. "I just want to play where I feel fastest, where I feel most explosive, where I feel most comfortable," he said. "I don't want to be too heavy or too light. I just go off comfort. If I grow, I grow. I think I'm definitely still growing. I'm 21 still, so hopefully, as I get older and older, I'll continue to grow physically and mentally."
In an ideal world, McCaffrey's added bulk helps him improve at running between the tackles (3.7 yards per carry last season, per Pro Football Focus) without costing him any of the explosiveness that made him so effective on outside runs and catching the ball out of the backfield. The Panthers have added even more speed to their offense this season with the addition of rookie wideout D.J. Moore, so McCaffrey should have more room to operate, which could lead to his taking a step forward and becoming the kind of player Carolina envisioned when making him a top-10 selection a year ago.