Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey is one of the best and most impactful players in pro football…when healthy. As a team Carolina won just five games last season, and he was active in four of those. Still just 26 years old, McCaffrey played in only 10 games over the previous two seasons. In 2020 he was limited to three games due to a combination of ankle and shoulder injuries. Then, last year, he played in only seven games thanks to ankle and hamstring issues.
In those seven games, McCaffrey averaged 12.9 FPTS/G, which placed 12th among running backs. He was on the field for 40+ snaps in only four games, but in those contests he averaged 4.8 YPC and 150+ yards from scrimmage per game. It was all the proof we needed that he still is an elite air and ground threat.
Heading into 2022, the quarterback room in Carolina is congested. Sam Darnold had his fifth-year option picked up, but they traded for Baker Mayfield, who was taken two spots ahead of Darnold in the 2018 draft and has proven he can win games. On top of that, they drafted Matt Corral in the third round. For McCaffrey (and the rest of the Panthers offense) to be most effective, he will need a competent quarterback. Of those three, Baker seems like the easy choice, at least for now.
He will also have a new practice regimen ahead of the 2022 season that will seek to minimize injury risks. The Panthers will be “taking a lot of the reps off him during the week in the hope that the lightened workload will help him get through the season.” He also will not appear in any preseason games, either.
It’s unfortunate how much uncertainty surrounds CMC, but it’s the reality of his situation and will play a role in how he should be approached in upcoming fantasy drafts.
CMC is one of the few players who comes with a High Injury Risk and Peak projected performance. When healthy he has the potential to be the top fantasy performer each and every week, but over the last two seasons he just hasn’t been able to stay on the field. There isn’t one specific injury that’s the biggest concern going forward, but his body as a whole has just been through a lot. If you take the risk on him, make sure you have some more reliable RBs on your bench.