Two years ago, Christian McCaffrey stepped onto his podium at the NFL Scouting Combine fully prepared to be peppered with questions about his controversial decision to skip Stanford’s bowl game with his sights set on the NFL.
“One of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” McCaffrey told reporters in Indy.
The questions about that decision kept coming from different angles, and McCaffrey navigated it well.
“It was a career decision, it was a man decision to try to protect my dream of playing and succeeding in the NFL,” McCaffrey said. “Whether it gave me an advantage or not, I stuck with it. I'm here now moving on, that's probably all I'll talk about that anymore. I'm moving on to NFL football now.”
Despite McCaffrey's unbelievable success at Stanford – he posted more than 5,000 scrimmage yards and 32 total touchdowns in three seasons – the masses were far from convinced he would be able to transfer his skills to the NFL.
“I wish I knew,” McCaffrey said when asked why those questions persisted. “I have no idea.”
McCaffrey admitted he “definitely” felt disrespected in the 2017 running back class – one that featured some real star power with Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and James Conner vying for positioning on draft boards.
“I feel like a lot of people don't give me credit for my skills and talents. That's just the way it is,” McCaffrey said. “But I also don't really care too much. I don't feel like I'm crazy disrespected. I have a chip on my shoulder at all times. That's been my whole life.”
NFL decision makers love a player with a chip on his shoulder. But McCaffrey’s versatility is what teams loved most.
That versatility was on full display when McCaffrey took field at Lucas Oil Stadium for his highly anticipated workout.
He ran crisp routes. He was explosive. He caught the ball every which way – over the shoulder, behind him, out of the backfield – and made it look easy.
In short, he made a statement.
“Something I really pride myself on is not just being a running back that can catch the ball but if I move out to the slot, I become a receiver,” McCaffrey said. “If I move out to X or Z, I become a receiver and not just a running back. I really try to pride myself on route running, catching and being able to be a mismatch anywhere on the field.”
McCaffrey was viewed as a late first-round pick before the combine began. He left Indianapolis with top-10 buzz, which should have been the case all along.
We all know the Panthers were convinced, selecting McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick. And after posting 1,965 scrimmage yards in 2018 – a Carolina franchise record – we can all safely say McCaffrey’s skills have translated to the next level just fine.
View photos of running back Christian McCaffrey taking part in the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.