McCaffrey should be one of the top running backs drafted in all formats and has an argument to be a top-three pick in one-QB leagues. McCaffrey made 10 starts for the 49ers in the 2022 season and averaged 20.1 touches, 114 yards from scrimmage, and 23.2 Fantasy points per game. He was the No. 1 running back in Fantasy by more than three Fantasy points per game. When he is at his best, there is no running back better, in real life or Fantasy. The concerns about McCaffrey are that he missed a combined 23 games from 2020-21 and that there are too many mouths to feed in San Francisco when everyone is healthy. Those concerns are not enough to knock McCaffrey out of the first round in any format.
McCaffrey was traded to the 49ers last October and, not surprisingly, was a fantasy monster in HC Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
In nine regular-season games with a full allotment of snaps, he led all RBs in PPR points per game and ranked third in non-PPR points per game.
His usage took a hit when RB Elijah Mitchell was healthy, though. His scoring averages in five games with Mitchell would have ranked seventh in PPR and 12th in non-PPR.
Mitchell’s return adds some risk to McCaffrey’s 2023 fantasy profile. But we’re ultimately expecting him to see more work after a full offseason to settle into the 49ers offense.
We’re taking a few WRs and maybe a RB or two ahead of McCaffrey, depending on your scoring system. So you might not draft him much if you’re following our rankings.
What We Learned Last YearMcCaffrey spent the first six weeks of last season with the Panthers. He racked up 393 rushing yards, 277 receiving yards, and three TDs over that span, ranking fourth among RBs in both PPR and non-PPR points.McCaffrey was traded to the 49ers on Oct. 20 in exchange for second, third, and fourth-round picks in the 2023 draft, plus a 2024 fifth-rounder.He made his 49ers debut three days later, although he totaled just 10 touches on 23 snaps.McCaffrey was a full-go for the next nine games. (He was limited in the regular-season finale, with San Francisco having little to play for.)His averages across those nine games:15.7 carries73.7 rushing yards0.7 rushing TDs6.7 targets5.2 catches45.1 receiving yards0.3 receiving TDsMcCaffrey led all RBs in PPR points per game over that span. He ranked third in non-PPR points per game.In terms of expected fantasy points per game, McCaffrey ranked second in PPR and first in non-PPR.His usage took a hit when RB Elijah Mitchell was healthy. Including playoffs, McCaffrey had five full-go games with Mitchell and seven without. Here are the per-game splits:
McCaffrey still out-carried Mitchell 6-2 inside the 5-yard line in their five games together.McCaffrey’s scoring averages in the five games with Mitchell would have ranked seventh among RBs in PPR points per game for the season and 12th in non-PPR.Perhaps more importantly, his average expected points per game with Mitchell would have ranked fourth in PPR and sixth in non-PPR.What to Expect in 2023With a full offseason in HC Kyle Shanahan’s offense, it’s fair to expect McCaffrey’s role to expand. Consider the usage he got with Elijah Mitchell last season his floor. We’re projecting him for more work.There are questions at QB in San Francisco. Brock Purdy is working back from March surgery on his throwing elbow. If he’s not ready for Week 1, it’s not even clear if Trey Lance would start over Sam Darnold, who signed a one-year deal with the ‘Niners in free agency.The 49ers lost RT Mike McGlinchey in free agency. Outside of LT Trent Williams, this offensive line looks very weak on paper.Shanahan’s scheme has a way of masking deficiencies, though. The 49ers have ranked top-15 in rushing yards in six straight seasons – and top-8 in three of the last four.McCaffrey turned 27 in June. Our aging-curve research shows that elite RBs produce, on average, at 93% of their peak at age-27.McCaffrey showed no signs of decline last year. His 2022 Pro Football Focus rushing grade was actually the best mark of his six-year career. His 2.90 yards after contact per attempt was his third-best mark. And his PFF receiving grade and 1.83 yards per route run were the second-best marks of his career.
McCaffrey is entering his first full season with the 49ers after he was acquired from the Panthers early last season. After injuries derailed his 2020 and 2021 campaigns, McCaffrey got back on track in a big way in 2023, appearing in 17 games and ranking no lower than fourth among RBs in touches, yards, TDs and fantasy points. A healthy Elijah Mitchell could limit McCaffrey's fantasy upside a bit this season (the two split carries when Mitchell was healthy last season), but CMC's massive receiving role in a good offense should allow him to finish top five at RB in fantasy PPG for the sixth straight season. The 27-year-old should be off the board early in the first round.