Fantasy Football: The Business Spinoffs of Christian McCaffrey;  what this means for the 49ers and Panthers

Fantasy Football: The Business Spinoffs of Christian McCaffrey; what this means for the 49ers and Panthers

Rumors have swirled around All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey for the past few weeks, and the San Francisco 49ers launched a massive trade to acquire him from the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night, in exchange for second draft picks, third and fourth round. in the 2023 draft plus a 2024 fourth round. It’s a huge trade for the 49ers, giving Kyle Shanahan another elite weapon for his offense. However, while that takes McCaffrey away from the Panthers’ moribund offense, it may not be much of an improvement for his fantasy call going forward.

Let’s take a look at what this trade means for both sides, starting with the 49ers acquiring McCaffrey.

It’s not hard to see what the 49ers get out of this deal — another Swiss army knife weapon for Shanahan to field all over the field. The 49ers famously use Deebo Samuel as running back, but they’ll also field George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk in the backfield from time to time, and they also use fullback Kyle Juszczyk in tons of interesting ways. You can be sure they will find interesting ways to use McCaffrey.

That being said, while the 49ers offense is much better than the Panthers, it’s probably not a massive improvement for McCaffrey’s value. Sure, he’ll score more touchdowns — he’s only got three in the first six games — but the 49ers probably won’t make him the focal point of their offense the way the Panthers historically have.

McCaffrey is a great runner, and the 49ers are sure to max him out in that regard. McCaffrey managed to average 4.6 yards per carry on a Panthers offense that really can’t do anything right now, and the 49ers converted a series of late-round running backs like Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson in viable fantasy options. McCaffrey could put up huge rushing numbers in this offense.

However, he enters a much more crowded passing game, with Samuel, Kittle and Aiyuk combining for target shares of over 65% between them. That doesn’t necessarily leave room for McCaffrey to be in the 20% range where he’s been for most of the past few years. McCaffrey is an excellent runner, but it’s his pass-catching that makes him arguably the best player in Fantasy. And while the 49ers are sure to use him as a wide receiver more than they’ve used their running backs in the passing game in the past – they’ve only got 13 running back targets this season. — he almost certainly doesn’t have the same 90-strike advantage in this 49ers offense.

That’s not to say McCaffrey can’t still be Fantasy’s best player in this offense, of course. He’s a great player and Kyle Shanahan does a great job of getting the ball into the hands of his best players. He’ll get 15+ carries and 4-5 catches most weeks because Shanahan knows what he’s doing. And, if that 49ers offense is one of the NFL’s top five going the rest of the way, there’s likely to be enough touchdowns for McCaffrey to be one of the top five RBs. He just might not have the 30 PPR point advantage we’ve seen in an offense that might not characterize him as much as a wide receiver.

The math is getting a little wonky for the rest of the 49ers principles, especially Deebo Samuel, who has already seen his rushing play role diminish over the last month or so. Although I’m sure Shanahan is happy to put defenses in a bind by featuring McCaffrey and Samuel in the backfield at the same time if he’s been hesitant to feature Samuel recently – six runs in the last three games entering Week 7 – when Jeff Wilson is the alternative, is he really going to take chances from McCaffrey, especially near the goal line?

The cake wasn’t big enough for Samuel, Kittle, and Aiyuk to feast on each week already, and now they have another big mouth to share with. The 49ers are going to be a nightmare to play against on defense, but they could also be a bit of a nightmare for Fantasy. Samuel is still a WR1; Kittle is still a TE1; McCaffrey could be the RB1. But there may be times when you feel frustrated with the distribution of hits in any given week.

This may be a concern for the future, of course. The more immediate concern is whether there’s enough time for McCaffrey to get up to speed in time for the Week 7 game against the Chiefs. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that McCaffrey is likely to play but will likely focus on a red zone package, with his role increasing when he has more time in practice to get up to speed.

That makes McCaffrey a bit of a risky start to Week 7, though it also takes Jeff Wilson largely out of consideration to start this week. It could have 15 litters; he could have five. We probably won’t know just how much of a role McCaffrey plays this weekend until we see him, which makes it hard to trust either. I’ll still rank McCaffrey top 12 RBs while he’s active, but Wilson will look more like an RB3 for Week 7 – and that’ll probably be the highest he’s ranked the rest of the season, assuming McCaffrey stay healthy.

As for the Panthers side of this trade … we may have just seen the last reason to care about this offense at all shipped. We’ll see some sort of combination of Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman replacing McCaffrey, but I don’t think I’m telling stories out of school when I say neither are anywhere near the level. of McCaffrey as a talent.

And this Panther attack has been an absolute disaster so far. McCaffrey alone, playing 80% or more snaps each week and arguably serving as the No. 1 target in the passing game can overcome it, but a Hubbard/Foreman combination probably won’t.

Both Hubbard and Foreman should probably be registered in most leagues, of course, but I don’t think there’s anything to be excited about here. My guess is that Foreman handles most early downs while Hubbard handles most overrun situations, which would probably make Hubbard the better Fantasy option. But his cap is probably, like, a low-end RB2 — if the Panthers decide to feature him in the passing game.

Maybe DJ Moore can be more of a focal point and get going, but it’s hard to see how he’ll get even more defensive attention — the Panthers also traded Robbie Anderson earlier in the week. Moore is a talented player, but this situation has been impossible to overcome so far, and I don’t think it’s better now.

Maybe the Panthers will surprise us, but right now I don’t expect anyone in this attack to be worth starting for Fantasy in the future.


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