CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The Panthers selected versatile running back Christian McCaffrey from Stanford with the No. 8 pick in the NFL draft, giving former league MVP Cam Newton some needed help on offense.
Along with his ability to run the ball, the 5-foot-10, 202-pound McCaffrey has the ability to play slot receiver and return kicks. He set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015, rushing for 2,019 yards along with 645 yards receiving and 1,070 on kickoff returns.
While some questions remain over McCaffrey’s ability to be an every down back in the NFL, he won’t have to fill that role in Carolina – at least not immediately.
He’s expected to split time with nine-year veteran Jonathan Stewart, who signed a two-year contract extension earlier this offseason.
Carolina’s offense took a step back last season after reaching the Super Bowl in 2015.
After combining for 45 touchdowns in 2015, Newton spent most of last season under duress, throwing 19 TD passes and 14 interceptions while completing a career-low 52.9 percent of his passes.
McCaffrey figures to help bolster that completion percentage by serving as an outlet for Newton on short slant routes and dump downs because of his abilities as a receiver. The Panthers were also last in the NFL in yards after the catch, an area the big play McCaffrey excelled at with Stanford.
This past season McCaffrey averaged 211.5 yards per game and led the Pac-12 with 1,639 yards rushing despite being hampered by an ankle injury. He averaged more than 30 touches per game over the past two seasons.
McCaffrey comes by his high football IQ naturally. He’s the son of former Denver Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist.
The younger McCaffrey has a knack for exploiting creases in the defensive with his shiftiness and explosive speed.
The Panthers have two selections in the second round and one in the third on Friday night.
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