McCaffrey ranked third on the Panthers with 117 carries as a rookie, while his 113 targets tied Devin Funchess for the team lead. Carolina signed C.J. Anderson as a replacement for Jonathan Stewart (Giants) this offseason, and while CJA may actually be an upgrade, that doesn't mean he'll take on all of Stewart's 198 carries from last year. Rivera and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner seem to think their second-year back is ready for a larger rushing workload, with Rivera pointing to McCaffrey's success running between the tackles at Stanford. Anderson and Cam Newton seem like better bets for goal-line and short-yardage work, but it won't come as any surprise if McCaffrey pushes for 10-15 carries per game without sacrificing many targets, if any. There is some cause to doubt his efficiency, considering he managed just 3.7 yards per carry last year and the Panthers lost standout LG Andrew Norwell to Jacksonville during the offseason.
McCaffrey likely will have a new backfield partner in 2018, though he could see more touches as a result of Jonathan Stewart's recent release, Max Henson of the Panthers' official website reports. "I think you do need to have that in the NFL today," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "It's tough to have one guy that just dominates a game. You have to have guys that have similar characteristics but also do something special that can separate them."
McCaffrey had nearly as many targets (113) as carries (117) in his rookie season, with 59.9 percent of his 1,086 scrimmage yards and five of his seven touchdowns coming through the air. His mark of 3.7 yards per carry may not seem to beg for an expanded role in the rushing attack, but he at least was more effective than the recently-released Stewart, who managed just 3.4 yards per tote. The Panthers likely want McCaffrey to take on a portion of Stewart's vacated carries, with the rest going to Cameron Artis-Payne, a draft pick or a free-agent signing. The No. 8 overall pick from last year's draft figures to take on more work in Year 2, but a regular three-down role shouldn't be assumed.
McCaffrey finished with six rushes for 16 yards and caught six of eight targets for 101 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 31-26 NFC wild-card loss to the Saints.
McCaffrey was kept under wraps until he exploded for a 56-yard, catch-and-run touchdown during the fourth quarter. That play marked the longest gain of McCaffrey's rookie season, giving him a second career 100-yard receiving game in the process. Overall, McCaffrey's biggest impact this term came through the air, where he finished the regular season with an impressive 80 receptions on 113 targets for 651 yards and five scores. In comparison, he managed just 435 yards and two touchdowns on 117 carries. So while last year's eighth overall pick has already emerged as one of the league's best receiving tailbacks, in his second season he'll aim to improve his efficiency on the ground to become even more dynamic. Although quarterback Cam Newton and veteran Jonathan Stewart still figure to consume carries, McCaffrey could take his stock to the next level by making more use of his, which despite any durability concerns linked to his size, should only increase going forward.
McCaffrey rushed six times for 14 yards and brought in five of eight targets for 40 yards in Sunday's 22-10 loss to the Falcons.
The first-round pick was theoretically poised for an expanded role with Jonathan Stewart (back) a surprise inactive, but the additional opportunities didn't really come to fruition. McCaffrey's 11 total touches matched his Week 16 tally, and they paled in comparison to the 18 he'd logged in Week 15 against the Packers. The rookie finishes his first regular-season campaign having posted a single-game high of 66 rushing yards and topping out at 101 yards through the air. The latter total came against the same Saints squad the Panthers will face next Sunday in an NFC wild-card road tilt, infusing some optimism into McCaffrey's fantasy outlook for those playing postseason contests.
McCaffrey is typically the lead back in Carolina, but has conceded anywhere from 20 to 30 snaps to Stewart in every game since the Week 11 bye. With a NFC South title on the line Sunday, McCaffrey will now presumably get to showcase his skill set as the feature back. Though Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker are waiting in the wings, McCaffrey is the most dynamic of the three, and should be given every opportunity to build upon his effort of 39 rushing yards in Week 16.
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