Christian McCaffrey

Tarik Cohen and the NFL's rookie running backs had quite the Week 1

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USA TODAY

Tarik Cohen and the NFL's rookie running backs had quite the Week 1

Last year the NFL's two leading rushers, Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott and the Bears' Jordan Howard, were rookies.

That may not happen in 2017, but this year's crop of rookie running backs sure got off to a hot start.

That included Howard's backup, as Tarik Cohen made quite the debut in the Bears' 23-17 loss to the Falcons. The 5-foot-6 Cohen caught eight passes for 47 yards and a touchdown and rushed five times for 66 yards. It was quite the coming out party for Cohen and gives the Bears a solid young 1-2 punch in the backfield.

Here's how Cohen stacked up against some other rookie running backs who had stellar debuts (listed by round selected):

Leonard Fournette, Jaguars (1st round): The Texans knew the Jaguars had little to offer in the passing game, yet Fournette still ran with ease. The No. 4 pick rushed 26 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, while also catching three passes for 24 yards.

Christan McCaffrey, Panthers (1st round): Jonathan Stewart actually had a better Sunday afternoon, but McCaffrey still showed flashes. The No. 8 pick had 13 rushes for 47 yards and added five receptions fo 38 yards. He did lose a fumble but it didn't mean much in a 23-3 Panthers victory.

Dalvin Cook, Vikings (2nd round): Cook made Vikings history on Monday night, rushing for 127 yards on 22 rushes and adding three receptions. The rushing yards were the most for a Vikings running back in his debut, topping Adrian Peterson's 103 yards in 2007.

Alvin Kamara, Saints (3rd round): Kamara's numbers weren't great (seven rushes for 18 yards, 4 receptions for 20 yards) but he led the Saints in carries, rushing yards and snaps played (41). That includes Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram. The three-headed monster didn't mean much in their Monday Night Football thumping in Minnesota, but Kamara looked solid and Sean Payton clearly trusts him.

Kareem Hunt, Chiefs (3rd round): Whoa. The NFL regular season began with Hunt putting together one of the best debuts in NFL history. Hunt ran 17 times for 148 yards and a touchdown, and added five receptions for 98 yards and two scores. He lost a fumble on his first carry (after never doing so in college) but more than made up for it in perhaps the top performance of the week.

Marlon Mack, Colts (4th round): The Colts looked abysmal in their Week 1 loss to the Rams. Mack had an up-and-down afternoon, scoring on a 3-yard run but also committing a fumble that resulted in a safety. We'll throw him in here because he accounted for the Colts' only score in a 46-9 loss.

Chris Carson, Seahawks (7th round): In a backfield touting Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls (inactive) and C.J. Prosise, the rookie Carson looked the best in a loss to the Packers. he rushed six times for 39 yards, playing more snaps (26) than Prosise and Lacy combined (23). A terrible performance from Seattle's offensive line prevented Carson from doing much else.

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 100 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

5'11" | 202 lbs.

2016 stats:

253 attempts, 1,603 yards, 13 touchdowns; 37 receptions, 310 yards, 3 touchdowns

Projection:

First round

Scouting Report:

"Multidimensional runner with flex appeal for teams looking for a player who can carry the ball 20 times or catch it 10 depending on the game plan. McCaffrey's size, power and speed are just average, but he is able to create yardage for himself with his vision and elusiveness. McCaffrey's ability to return punts and kicks could be the value sweetner that pushes his name into the first round." - Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Video analysis provided by Rotoworld and NBC Sports NFL Draft expert Josh Norris.

Click here for more NFL Draft Profiles

Perpetually looking to prove himself, Christian McCaffrey 'will do anything' in the NFL

Perpetually looking to prove himself, Christian McCaffrey 'will do anything' in the NFL

INDIANAPOLIS — Blink and you may miss Christian McCaffrey racing down the sidelines for a highlight-reel touchdown.

For the past three years, McCaffrey has made a living of making Pac-12 defenders look foolish on Saturdays. But for whatever reason, McCaffrey has had to fight to prove critics wrong since the day he strapped on football pads.

McCaffrey, the son of three-time Super Bowl champion and member of the Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary Team Ed McCaffrey, took center stage at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Thursday afternoon and was candid when talking about the outside perception of him as a running back at the next level.

"I always play with a chip on my shoulder," McCaffrey said. "I feel like a lot of people don't give my credit for my skills and talents. That's just the way it is. But I also don't care too much. I don't feel like I'm crazy disrespected.

"I have a chip on my shoulder at all times. That's been my whole life. I'm constantly trying to prove myself."

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why McCaffrey, somebody who holds Stanford's single-season all purpose yardage record and was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2015, has felt disrespected when stacked up against the other top running backs in the 2017 NFL Draft class.

[MORE: Ryan Pace and John Fox unlikely to place win-now mandate on Bears' draft plans]

While he may not be as physically imposing as LSU's Leonard Fournette and doesn't have the measurables as a prototypical three-down NFL running back, McCaffrey sees his versatility as something that can separate himself from other backs.

"Something I really pride myself on is not just being a running back that can catch the ball, but if I move out to the slot I become a receiver. If I move out to X or Z, I become a receiver not just a running back," McCaffrey said. "I try to pride myself in route-running and catching, and being able to be a mismatch anywhere on the field.

"Anytime I can get the ball in my hands I feel like I can do something dangerous and it's really why I love the return game. There's so much space in front of you. It's just another opportunity to make a play."

With his unique skillset, there's no question that McCaffrey will be an asset to any team that drafts him in April.

Does he have a preference?

"I'd be happy to play for anybody."

And if the whole football thing doesn't work out for McCaffrey, he's got a backup plan.

"I ordered a harmonica on Amazon about $15 and just started messing around with it."