Ask every NFL fan and pundit to make a shortlist for NFL MVP this season, and every single one would include the Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey. He’s having a historic year, so much so that one NFL coach compared him to another NFL legend. Just who was the legend the coach compared him to, and does the comparison hold water?
Christian McCaffrey’s 2019 season so far
The Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft out of Stanford University. The son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, the surprisingly underpaid McCaffrey has exceeded expectations since entering the league.
Here’s the damage McCaffrey has done so far this season:
- 881 yards rushing on 165 attempts
- 5.3 yards per attempt
- 10 touchdowns
- A league-leading 110.1 rushing yards per game
- 42 receptions
- 363 receiving yards
- Three receiving touchdowns
- A league-leading 1,244 total yards from scrimmage
McCaffrey has rushed for over 100 yards five times this season. He’s also had at least ten catches in a game on two different occasions.
Which Hall of Fame running back does one coach compare Christian McCaffrey to?
As an offensive guru who’s had lots of success as both an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL, Kyle Shanahan knows a thing or two about identifying solid offensive weapons. So it comes as no surprise that he thinks highly of McCaffrey and his abilities. But which player does McCaffrey remind him of? It’s a Hall of Famer who’s one of the greatest running backs ever.
“He reminds me of Marshall Faulk,” Shanahan said of McCaffrey, via NFL.com. “He can beat you in the pass game, he can beat you in the run game. They’re doing a great job on how to use him because they are using him as much as possible. You can tell he’s a very smart player, extremely talented, and that’s why he’s being mentioned with some of the best in the league this year.”
As good as McCaffrey has been, comparing him to Faulk is high praise. Faulk is one of the great running backs of all time. So how does McCaffrey stand up to the comparison?
Christian McCaffrey vs. Marshall Faulk: a comparison
It’s hard to compare players from different eras. But to get a good idea of how McCaffrey stacks up to Faulk, let’s take a look at Faulk’s best season in the pros: the 2000 season in which he won NFL MVP. Here are some of the stats Faulk was able to put up that year:
- 1,359 yards rushing on 253 attempts
- 18 rushing touchdowns
- 5.4 yards per attempt
- 83 catches
- 830 receiving yards
- Eight receiving touchdowns
- 2,189 yards from scrimmage
Christian McCaffrey is eight games through the 2019 season. If you double his totals, he’s on pace to equal or surpass many of Faulk’s numbers. That’s very impressive for a player only in his third year; Faulk’s MVP season came in his seventh season. Whether he surpasses Faulk or not, however, it’s clear that McCaffrey has the same versatility Faulk showed during his career. He can run the ball effectively but also catch passes out of the backfield.
One could even argue that McCaffrey’s season looks more impressive than Faulk’s at this stage. Faulk was playing for “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The St. Louis Rams had a high-powered offense led by quarterback Kurt Warner that also included wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. Carolina has a rookie quarterback in Kyle Allen without nearly the same offensive firepower at the skill positions that St. Louis had.
That’s why the McCaffrey-Faulk comparison is a good one. They have similar skill sets and have had similar statistical outputs. McCaffrey has a long way to go before he can achieve the same success Faulk had – Faulk finished as one of the all-time great running backs, and McCaffrey is only in his third year of dominance — but he’s well on his way to being right up there with him.