After workhorse running back Jonathan Stewart signed an extension to keep him under contract through 2018, the Panthers selected the dynamic Christian McCaffrey in Round One of the 2017 NFL Draft. Veteran Mike Tolbert was released after five seasons in Carolina, opening the door for Darrel Young or rookie Alex Armah to step in at fullback.
1. How will the Panthers use McCaffrey?
This is one of the most intriguing questions concerning the 2017 Panthers. McCaffrey brings so much to the table. He's got terrific instincts to run between the tackles, can produce big plays in the screen game, has experience operating out of the wildcat and can even line up at wide receiver spots with his polished route-running and natural pass-catching ability. How much is too much for a rookie? How much is not enough for a player with this unique skill set? These are things the coaches will have to carefully evaluate as the offensive plan is put into place.
2. How will McCaffrey's arrival impact Stewart?
Everyone from head coach Ron Rivera to running backs coach Jim Skipper has insisted that Stewart's role will not change. And Stewart himself has made it clear he's not at all concerned. The punishing 240-pound runner will continue to see the bulk of the carries. But McCaffrey, while not nearly as big and strong as Stewart, could be effective as a ball-carrier in a power scheme – something he showed throughout his career at Stanford. It'll be interesting to see how the carries are divvied out week to week.
3. Where does Fozzy Whittaker fit?
Like Stewart, Whittaker's contract was also extended through 2018. The shifty change-of-pace back is coming off his most productive NFL season, a year in which he posted career highs in rushing (57 carries for 265 yards) and receiving (25 catches for 226 yards). But McCaffrey is here to, among other things, provide that electrifying change-of-pace. So where does that leave Whittaker? The depth he'll provide is a positive, but it could prove challenging to find Fozzy touches.
View photos of the running backs and fullbacks on the roster entering training camp.