Christian McCaffrey – Looking Ahead

Christian McCaffrey Carolina Panthers fantasy football
Christian, you dead?

 

I am certainly not the first to write about the negative impact of heavy usage on running backs. Hell, I’m probably not even the 101st, but I don’t care. I’m doing it! In 2019, Christian McCaffrey became the latest member of the 400 touch club, logging 287 carries, and 116 receptions. The 116 catches set a new single-season record for running back receptions. He broke the previous record of 107 set by… 2018 Christian McCaffrey. What can we expect in 2020? Will more records fall or will we witness McCaffrey’s great fall?

Let’s take a look at some other recent 400 touch club inductees, and see how they fared in the season following their 400 touch campaign. McCaffrey is only the fourth running back in the last ten years to break that 400 touch ceiling. To secure some additional data points, I went all the way back to 2006, a year that saw three running backs reach 400 touches. For fantasy point calculation purposes, I used the half-PPR scoring system (0 .5 point per reception, 1 point for every 10 rushing/receiving yards, 6 points for TDs). And GO!

 

Le’Veon Bell – 2017

This is the year the Steelers fed Bell until he popped. Literally. He would never play in Pittsburgh again. In 2017, Bell scored 19 times, rushing for 1,291 yards, and had 655 receiving yards on 85 catches. The following year, Bell held out the entire season, and ultimately signed with the New York Jets in 2019. 

 

2017 Points 2018 Points Point Change % Change
303.1 0 N/A N/A

 

Demarco Murray – 2014

In Murray’s final year in Dallas, he racked up 1,845 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 392 carries. He also had 57 catches for an additional 416 yards. Murray’s 2015 season, with the Philadelphia Eagles, didn’t turn out quite as well: 702 rush yards, 322 receiving yards on 44 receptions, and 7 total TDs.

 

2014 Points 2015 Points Point Change % Change
332.6 166.4 -166.2 -49.9%

 

Chris Johnson – 2009

2009 is the year that Chris Johnson became “CJ2K,” after rushing for 2,006 yards on 358 carries, and catching 50 passes for 503 yards. He also scored 16 times. Johnson would never reach numbers like this again. He took a step back in 2010, scoring only 12 times, while rushing for 1,364 yards, and pulling in 44 receptions for 245 yards.   

 

2009 Points 2010 Points Point Change % Change
371.9 254.9 -117 -31.5%

 

Larry Johnson (457), Steven Jackson (436), Ladainian Tomlinson (404) – 2006

Ah, the glory days of the fantasy running back. I decided to lump all of these fellas into one table rather than bore you with more details. Bottom line: it’s not great!

 

2006 Points 2007 Points Point Change % Change
Larry Johnson 354.4 113.5 -240.9 -67.9%
Steven Jackson 374.4 182.3 -192.1 -51.3%
Ladainian Tomlinson 446.3 332.9 -113.4 -25.4%

 

Regardless of how much you believe in McCaffrey’s talent, you have to believe his touches, and fantasy production will go down in 2020. Especially with the expected return of Cam Newton, and what should be an offense with a bit more balance. Christian McCaffrey will still be heavily involved; he has to be. He’s undoubtedly one of the most electric weapons ever to see the field, and is a good bet to be a huge fantasy contributor in 2020. That being said, can a running back who is almost guaranteed to take a step back be the #1 overall pick in your fantasy draft? Only time will tell, but if I have the first pick next year, I may err on the side of caution, and pick someone whose arrow is pointing up. 

 

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(Header Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christian_McCaffrey_(31452665438).jpg, cropped under CC BY 4.0)