Christian McCaffrey was an excellent college football player. The Stanford running back was a Heisman Trophy candidate two years back, and proved dynamic rushing and returning in his career as a Cardinal.
That hasn’t shut up the skeptics. Some question his ability to excel at the professional level, an issue that bothers McCaffrey to no end.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder always,” McCaffrey said in a Thursday press conference at the NFL scouting combine. “I feel like a lot of people don't give me credit for my skills and talents. That's just the way it is. But I also don't really 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.”
The Raiders are one team McCaffrey won’t have to convince. He was scheduled to meet with the Silver and Black at the scouting combine, though a major decision maker already knows him well.
Head coach Jack Del Rio has known McCaffrey for years, dating back to his high school days. Del Rio’s son Luke – now a quarterback at Florida – played with McCaffrey at Valor Christian just outside Denver.
The Del Rios and McCaffreys became friends back then, when Del Rio was Denvers defensive coordinator. Del Rio has watched the son of former Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey on tape and from the bleachers, and believes he’ll excel in the NFL.
“First of all, Christian McCaffrey is an amazing young man,” Del Rio said. “He and my son Luke played together at Valor Christian (High School, in Colorado) before he went to Stanford. I’ve seen Christian, and I heard people question whether he’d be able to go from the high school level to the college level. Then he tore it up. Now there will be questions about his transition to the pro game. I think you’re going to see the same thing. This guy is a great football player, and I think he will have an impact in this league.”
He could make that impact in Oakland. McCaffrey is projected as a late first-round pick, and could well be available when the Raiders select No. 24 overall. They need help at defensive tackle, cornerback and inside linebacker, though running back might be an issue if Latavius Murray leaves in free agency and the Raiders don’t sign someone to rush with DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard.
The Raiders could use a strong, physical back. McCaffrey doesn’t fall into that category, but he’s a versatile talent that would intrigue an imaginative offensive coordinator. The Raiders could look to the draft for rushing help, though it’s a deep class at that position and Reggie McKenzie has proven adept mining running backs from the later rounds.
McCaffrey won’t last that long. He has detractors and plenty of fans, who should take him in the first two rounds.
McCaffrey believes he can be a three-down back for the Raiders or anyone else, though he’s an excellent return man and a quality receiver out of the backfield or in the slow.
“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 and not just a running back,” McCaffrey said. “I really try to pride myself on route running, catching and being able to be a mismatch anywhere on the field.”