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Christian McCaffrey intends to enter 2017 NFL Draft

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Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey intends to forego his last year of NCAA eligibility and apply to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.

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He released an extensive statement about his decision on the school's athletics web site.

McCaffrey, the son of former Denver Broncos WR Ed McCaffrey, rushed for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season for the Cardinal, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He closed the year with five consecutive games of 100-plus yards, including 284 against Cal and 204 against Rice. But the junior's NFL scouting evaluation will have to go far deeper than merely a look at his ability to run the ball. McCaffrey won the 2015 Paul Hornung Award as college football's most versatile player with a diverse arrray of skills as a rusher, receiver, kickoff returner and punt returner. He broke Barry Sanders' NCAA record for single-season all-purpose yardage as a sophomore that year (3,864) and earned a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks believes former Philadelphia Eagles RB Brian Westbrook to be a strong comparison for McCaffrey's skills.

College underclassmen face a Jan. 16 deadline to apply for early draft eligibility. McCaffrey's final game for the Cardinal will be against North Carolina in the Sun Bowl Dec. 30.

NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah reviewed three games from McCaffrey's 2015 season earlier this year, and came away with the impression that McCaffrey's versatility can translate to the NFL, but noted a need for improvement as a pass protector. More recently, Jeremiah wrote that McCaffrey played especially well over the second half of the season. NFL scouts indicated to College Football 24/7 earlier this year that they see McCaffrey as more of a puzzle piece in a committee backfield than as an every-down workhorse, but nevertheless see significant value in his skill set. Their comparisons for McCaffrey included the Atlanta Falcons' Devonta Freeman and Gio Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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