Over the years, there’s been plenty of criticism toward NFL teams electing to take a running back in the first round. There has also been much stigma regarding the belief the position has a short shelf life and is one of the most replaceable spots on the roster. That topic of conversation has continued to linger whenever that situation has arisen over the years. In light of all that, Carolina Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey has fired back at those doubters that hold that belief.
Christian McCaffrey’s career
Since entering the league as the eighth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, McCaffrey has put together an impressive career.
He has become arguably the NFL’s best running back behind his all-around skillset as a dual-threat option out of the backfield. McCaffrey is coming off a career-best year that earned him some strong MVP consideration as he finished third with 1,387 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns along with being second with 116 receptions for 1,005 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
That also saw him set the single-season record for a running back with 116 catches, which surpassed the previous mark set by him the season before (107). McCaffrey also became the first running back to post multiple 100-reception seasons, while his 2,392 total scrimmage yards are the most in Panthers history.
All that has earned him a historic four-year, $64 million extension that has made him the highest-paid running back in NFL history. There is much for the 23-year-old to be thrilled about, but there is one conversation that still irks him.
Christian McCaffrey’s strong stance against running back criticism
Through his first few seasons, McCaffrey hasn’t voiced a strong stance concerning a matter in the league.
However, it appears the belief around running back not being selected in the first round has struck a chord with him. During a recent interview with 610 Sports Kansas City, McCaffrey blasted at the criticism from that stance by calling it “an asinine statement. (H/T Steven Taranto of 247 Sports)
“To me, that’s an asinine statement. I think when you look around the league and you look at what the running back position has meant to certain teams, I don’t know when that narrative started happening. Because it used to be the running back and the quarterback position were the highest-tier guys on the field. I look at guys who I looked up to, guys like Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson – Emmitt Smith played 12 plus years. These guys played long years and were at the forefront of the team’s most-important players.”
Beyond McCaffrey being a former first-round pick himself, there are many instances where teams have found a franchise cornerstone in the first round. There are players such as Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson, and Shaun Alexander that all had extremely successful careers.
Like any position, there will be those players that don’t exactly pan out, but avoiding a star talent because of that stigma has no credence in McCaffrey’s belief.
Christian McCaffrey is on the right track
There may be much of the way that shows that an NFL running back’s career is typically shorter-lived due to the physical wear and tear. However, there are often franchise-changing talents that position that come about.
McCaffrey falls into that category as he has become the centerpiece of the Panthers’ long-term future that helped him garner a historic extension this offseason. There is a risk involved with every first-round draft pick, and the running back position is no different.
It’s a stigma that will continue to gain traction with players such as Todd Gurley, who has struggled with injuries over the last couple of years. There will always be those that doubt that pathway, regardless of the success of running backs like McCaffrey.