Our analysts are constantly talking to NFL and college sources about players in the college game. Each day this week, we'll share some of what NFL and college folks are discussing in their circles when it comes to five of the game's top prospects. We'll continue today with Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
The scoop: "They love him over there (at Stanford). Love how hard he works. Great college back but I see him as a committee running back in the pros and not a lead back. I want to see him break more tackles and become more of a slasher. Here is one for you: Keep an eye on him as a receiver. He's got sick potential as a big slot (receiver), in my opinion." -- NFC scout who covers Pac-12
The skinny: McCaffrey shows plenty of ability as a slasher, but his yardage after first contact last season was much lower than other top college backs, which backs up some of the scout's concerns about his tackle-breaking ability. While McCaffrey is an excellent pass-catcher and shows a plus ability to open up against coverage, it's hard to imagine him not getting his shot as a running back well ahead of any move to wide receiver. His vision and foot quickness appear to transcend the "great college back" knock.
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The scoop: "How did this guy not win the Heisman Trophy last year? What more did he need to do? It's time for people to throw away the stereotypes -- he is fast, runs with tremendous vision, and balance, and packs some punch when he runs it inside. Pass-catching is a forte (prior to last year, I thought he was destined to play in the slot), and his kick-return ability would make me do everything possible to not kick it to him. People will find ways to poke holes in his game, and downgrade him for various reasons like his size, but I trust my eyes, and his production against the best teams they played, and both tell me that if we have a chance to grab this kid, I will stand and stomp on the table." -- NFC North scout
The skinny: McCaffrey (6-foot, 200 pounds, per school measurements) has spoken about his own frustration with stereotypes when it comes to the perception of his game, and count this scout as one firmly in the Stanford RB's corner. It's interesting that this scout echoes the scout who said he thinks McCaffrey could be best utilized as a slot receiver, although this scout indicates he no longer feels that way. As you can see, opinions vary about McCaffrey's potential at the next level heading into the season, which makes him one of the most fascinating prospects to track this year.
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The scoop: "Ideal change-of-pace back. Going to test really well. Tough, but (has) some short-yardage limitations. (He'll be a) Devonta Freeman type in the NFL." -- AFC scout
The skinny: Our Daniel Jeremiah has used the same comp for McCaffrey. An NFL team will have to be creative with how it uses him whenever he enters the league. His versatility as a rusher-receiver-returner is a huge asset.
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The scoop: "Everybody wants to cut him short. You hear comparisons to guys like Danny Woodhead. I think that does him an injustice -- his athleticism is on par with other top backs. I see more of a Gio Bernard. He doesn't have exceptional power, but he can be a three-down back, and it will help him that he's coming out of a pro-style system." -- NFC West scout
The skinny: The aforementioned pro-style system should help NFL scouts project McCaffrey's potential as an NFL player more easily than a back in a spread scheme, which often relies heavily on stretch plays and draws. He has the all-around game to play on every down, but pass protection is one area where he needs to improve.
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The scoop: "Not quite sure if he can be a workhorse at the next level." -- AFC scout
The skinny: McCaffrey has been successful behind a big offensive line that consistently gets him to the second level, but here's another scout who questions whether he can handle a "grind-it-out" approach as a pro. An NFL team could allow him to play like Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles -- a complementary back that makes plays as a runner-receiver out of the backfield.