STANFORD (AP) — After gaining more than 6,000 yards the past two seasons, setting an NCAA record and finishing as the runner-up last year in the Heisman Trophy balloting, Christian McCaffrey was ready for his next challenge.
McCaffrey announced Wednesday that he will skip his senior season at Stanford and enter the NFL draft.
“I’m ready,” he said. “My body is in the position it needs to be in to go out there and play at the next level. I’ve had some success in my college career.”
McCaffrey, the son of longtime NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey, talked extensively with his father and other family members, as well as coach David Shaw, before making his decision. He announced it by releasing a long statement on Stanford’s website titled “My Next Step ,” before holding a news conference.
McCaffrey said he made the announcement now so the decision wouldn’t overshadow Stanford’s upcoming Sun Bowl appearance against North Carolina on Dec. 30. McCaffrey said he plans to return to school to get his degree.
He said he’s dreamed of playing in the NFL ever since he was the age of 6 and he believes his all-around talents will suit the NFL game well.
“I think I put a lot out there and I think I’m ready for everything,” he said. “I think I can run between the tackles, run outside, line up in shotgun and run the ball there, along with running routes and doing all the special teams stuff. I’m excited to translate that to another level.”
Despite his prolific numbers in college headlined by breaking Barry Sanders’ record for all-purpose yards in a season with 3,864 yards in 2015, some doubters have questions about whether the 6-foot, 200-pound McCaffrey can handle the rigors of the NFL as a featured back.
Shaw, who coached in the NFL as an assistant for nine years and has served as a draft analyst for NFL Network, finds that laughable, pointing out the numerous times McCaffrey ran through tackles in college and used his strength routinely to turn 4-yard gains into 8-yard runs.
Then there’s the speed and elusiveness that made McCaffrey such a big-play threat in college and has Shaw comparing him to stars like LeSean McCoy, LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk.
Shaw said he’d be surprised if McCaffrey was not taken in the first round.
“There are a lot of teams right now that are licking their chops for a guy who is a Swiss Army knife of a human being,” he said. “There’s just not much he can’t do, and not just do it but do it extremely well.”
McCaffrey rushed for 2,019 yards and eight scores, added 645 yards receiving with two more touchdowns and had 1,200 yards and two TDs as a returner in 2015 when he narrowly lost the Heisman to Alabama’s Derrick Henry and was selected as AP Player of the Year.
McCaffrey was not as prolific this season as he was slowed in October by an injury. He still rushed for 1,596 yards and increased his yards per carry from 6.0 to 6.3 despite a less accomplished line and passing game. He also scored 16 touchdowns overall this season for the 16th-ranked Cardinal (9-3).
“What he’s done here at Stanford is awe-inspiring, it’s jaw-breaking. It’s up there with Andrew Luck, John Elway and Jim Plunkett, guys who have done phenomenal things,” Shaw said. “He’s done all you can do at the college-football level. He’s physically and emotionally prepared and we are excited for him.”
The Cardinal will now turn to Bryce Love to fill McCaffrey’s role next season. Love has averaged 7.5 yards per carry in two years as McCaffrey’s backup and rushed for 129 yards on 23 carries in a win at Notre Dame this season when McCaffrey was hurt.
“Bryce Love will be one of the most dynamic running backs in college football,” Shaw said. “He’s proven that he is. He just hasn’t had the amount of touches.”