Carolina Backfield

Who: C.J. Anderson | Christian McCaffrey | Cam Newton

What: A conundrum that if figured out could lead one to the Fantasy Football promised land: What will be Christian McCaffery’s usage be like in Norv Turner’s offense? What will C.J. Anderson have to say about it? Finally, will Cam’s rushing ability take enough away from the other backs to create a true committee in Carolina?

With Jonathan Stewart’s exit, Christian McCaffrey seemed poised to not only lead this backfield in touches but become a bell cow for the Panthers and a darling for Fantasy Football managers across the nation. We all know CMC was an effective pass catcher last year as he racked up 80 catches on 113 targets for 651 yards and 5 TDs last year. The problem was that his 3.7 YPC was about as ineffective as deploying the classic “What’s your sign?” or “You come here often?” to pick up chicks down at the local bar. The question remained, could McCaffrey become a more stout and effective runner. Well so far this offseason he has come into camp looking as if he bulked up and during preseason has flashed the explosiveness that he showed in his days at Stanford including a 71 yard TD run against the Dolphins.

Last year C.J. Anderson was the lone bright spot on a sputtering and vastly underwhelming Denver Broncos offense. He nearly hit the 250 carry mark with 245 for 1,007 yards last year. Just like the ending credits in a movie, Anderson’s career year was ignored by Denver has they released him. Carolina turned around and paid C.J. and the question now is why? Did they want depth and a complimentary back to add some punch to the run game? Were they trying to replicate last year’s style of rushing attack that saw CMC never eclipse more than 66 rushing yards in a game? There is no question that C.J. Anderson was a more effective running back than the man he is replacing: Jonathan Stewart was last year.

After spending all offseason saying he was going to make a concentrated effort to have him run less, Ron Rivera watched as Cam Newton ran for the most yards by a QB in the NFL last year with 754. The concern would be that Cam will continue to do Cam-like things and lead the league in rushing and be the goal-line back in this offense, capping McCaffrey’s and even Anderson’s upside.

As effective as Stewart was last year CMC is a weapon as evidenced in his college film and preseason swagger this year. What I see from CMC’s usage and effectiveness this preseason seems to echo what his coaches have said. Ron Rivera said he wants McCaffrey to get 25-30 touches a game and Norv Turner has said this is a reasonable number. This also plays right into a narrative that Rivera was preaching last year of wanting to take less off of Cam’s shoulders. Just because the lack of weapons last year didn’t allow him to, doesn’t mean Rivera won’t try again.

The tape is beginning to match the coach-speak and I expect CMC to be utilized early and often in this backfield.

Where: Christian McCaffrey ADP: 2.05 Cam Netwon ADP: 6.02 C.J. Anderson ADP: 8.07

When the preseason started ADP was similar to where it is now and Anderson looked like the value here, but I would argue that if the regular season usage matches what is being implied by the team this preseason then McCaffery can very well be a value at his second round ADP as he has top 10 potential! As for Newton this is a backfield themed article but I will say that he is presenting a nice value at his current ADP given that he has finished top 5 in scoring at his position in 5 of the last 7 years.

When: The 3rd preseason game will be our final chance to see if Carolina plans to use McCaffery as not only the primary back, but the bell-cow type weapon they keep screaming about. This will be the dress rehearsal for the season and will be played against the Steelers on 8/24 at 4:30 pm.

Why: The bottom line is that because of McCaffrey’s second round ADP it is imperative that any Fantasy manager feels as in tune with his usage as possible. Unless something drastically changes due to injury or sudden fumble issues or ineffectiveness Christian McCaffrey’s 2nd round ADP is a bit of a sweet spot for a guy with true limitless upside!