We are now entering the fourth week of the 2022 NFL season. Daily practice reports are becoming longer and longer as injury updates pour in. Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday due to a quad issue. What is the latest on McCaffrey’s status, and should fantasy football managers be concerned about whether he will play on Sunday?
Update: Christian McCaffrey is officially active and will play today against the Arizona Cardinals.
Christian McCaffrey injury update
Injuries are, by far, the worst part of fantasy football. Much like 16-year-old me playing Madden, I wish we could just turn them off. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t work that way. Heading into Week 4, the injuries keep piling up, with more and more fantasy-relevant names banged up — with McCaffrey among them.
After playing all 48 games over his first three seasons, McCaffrey has become a punch line amongst fantasy managers due to his inability to stay on the field. From 2020-2021, McCaffrey played in just 10 total games. He then entered the 2022 season committed to staying on the field. A couple of very minor, insignificant issues have already popped up, but so far, McCaffrey has been completely healthy. That all changed on Wednesday.
Christian McCaffrey missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday
Over the past several years, Wednesday practice reports have become somewhat meaningless, as veterans frequently get the day off. If any player is even slightly banged up, coaches will hold him out, especially later in the season.
McCaffrey did not practice Wednesday due to a thigh/quad issue. It’s unclear when exactly this injury occurred, but according to The Athletic’s Joe Person, head coach Matt Rhule “Didn’t know about it until after [the] Saints’ game.”
Rhule declined to speculate on McCaffrey’s status for this week’s game. That doesn’t necessarily mean McCaffrey is in danger of sitting out a week (or more), but if this injury were a complete nothing burger, Rhule would likely have said as much.
We know this because ahead of Week 2 — when McCaffrey suddenly popped up in the injury report with an ankle issue — we quickly found out it was a cut and nothing to be concerned about. That was not the case with McCaffrey’s quad.
McCaffrey has been a fantasy RB1, but not an elite one
When fantasy managers made McCaffrey the consensus second overall pick in fantasy football, they expected more than what he’s provided thus far. Granted, it’s only three weeks, but McCaffrey’s 15.3 PPR fantasy points per game isn’t going to cut it.
Fortunately, there’s no real reason for concern when it comes to McCaffrey’s productivity. Despite rumors that the Panthers would reduce his workload this season, nothing of the sort has occurred.
McCaffrey’s 88.7% opportunity share leads all running backs. The volume is not the problem for McCaffrey. His issue is receiving work and touchdowns.
McCaffrey’s 17% target share is fine, but Baker Mayfield just isn’t throwing enough. As a result, McCaffrey is averaging just 4.3 targets per game, which isn’t going to cut it. He’s also scored just once in three games. However, that is something we can reasonably expect to positively regress as the season goes on.
Will McCaffrey play this Sunday?
Typically, quad injuries are not overly serious. I’m not concerned that McCaffrey will miss an extended period of time with this issue.
Just two weeks ago, Michael Pittman Jr. sustained a quad injury at a Wednesday practice. He sat out the following game but was fine the very next week. With that said, I do have significant concern he won’t play in Week 4.
CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones said, “It’s my understanding there’s more concern around this quad injury than the previous nicks that landed him on the injury report this month.”
Between Rhule’s tight lips and Jones’ source, fantasy managers should prepare to be without McCaffrey this week. However, there’s at least someone more optimistic out there. In his Friday notebook, PFN’s Aaron Wilson reported that according to league sources, there is optimism that McCaffrey can suit up in Week 4.
How should fantasy managers handle the Panthers’ backfield this week?
Hopefully, McCaffrey can get in a limited practice on Friday. If he doesn’t, he could struggle to play this week. If he does miss Week 4, I don’t anticipate McCaffrey missing more than one game, two max. If McCaffrey does play, it does without saying that you put him in your lineups.
If McCaffrey is out this week, we are left to guess as to whether it will be the aforementioned Hubbard or D’Onta Foreman as the superior fantasy option. One of them will score more points than the other. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have any way of knowing which one it will be.
My guess is Hubbard and Foreman will split snaps relatively evenly. They will share early-down work with Hubbard as the primary passing-down back and Foreman as the goal-line back.
Foreman is more likely to fall into the end zone twice and give you a ceiling week. He’s also more likely to have something like 10 carries for 42 scoreless yards.
Hubbard should have a solid mix of carries and targets. He could potentially score as well, but he would need to do so from a little further out. Hubbard would be my preferred choice if you don’t have a superior option on your roster already, but we’re mostly guessing out here.
Fantasy managers should be keenly monitoring Friday’s practice report. See what beat reporters are saying about McCaffrey’s status, and prepare for all contingencies heading into the weekend.