There may have been an NFL game played last night, but the football world's biggest story on Thursday didn't happen on the field. After days of rumors and speculation, the Carolina Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers.
Fantasy football managers were largely celebrating the move as a definite upgrade for McCaffrey's fantasy outlook, but while the move certainly changes his outlook drastically, not all of the changes are necessarily positive ones.
Here's what the move means for McCaffrey and the 49ers' backfield in fantasy football.
Christian McCaffrey Fantasy Outlook
It's easy to see why the first reaction for CMC managers was to celebrate. The Carolina Panthers' offense was absolutely terrible to start the season, and now he's playing for an offensive coordinator who has turned relative nobodies into productive fantasy assets at running back.
But part of McCaffrey's fantasy value over the years has come because the Panthers' offense is so bad. This unit that can rarely push the ball downfield and is often forced to go pass-heavy while trailing in games has made him an absolute outlier at the position in terms of receiving volume.
In the last three games alone, McCaffrey has seen 29 targets (9.7 per game) and caught 23 passes. In the entire 2021 season, 49ers' tail backs saw a combined 61 targets across 17 games (3.6 per game).
Of course Shanahan is likely to scheme more passes to his running back now that he has an elite receiver at the position, but the types of passes that McCaffrey would see overlap pretty heavily with Deebo Samuel. Samuel has just a 5.1-yard average depth of target on the season, and his 9.9 yards after catch per reception rank No. 4 in the NFL. McCaffrey has never faced that kind of competition on screens and short passes.
With that concern out of the way, however, McCaffrey does get a couple of huge boosts here. His potential for touchdowns goes way up playing in an offense far more capable of actually getting into scoring range than Carolina, and his rushing efficiency should also go way up. Kyle Shanahan's offenses have only ranked below 16th in rushing yards per attempt once in his last seven years as a head coach or offensive coordinator, cracking the top-10 twice in that stretch. That was never with a back as good as McCaffrey, so he should thrive in what is always a well-schemed rushing attack.
So is this ultimately an upgrade for McCaffrey? In PPR league's I'd say at best it's a lateral move, but probably a slight downgrade. In standard scoring, however, increased efficiency and more touchdown upside makes it a clear-cut upgrade.
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Jason Schandl is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Jason Schandl also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jaymun. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.