Even though I usually want to spend the entire offseason constantly tweaking my rankings and challenging my perspectives on players, I am not doing that on this topic. Yes, the 2019 fantasy season ended yesterday, but Christian McCaffrey is the only person that deserves to be on top of the 2020 dynasty rankings, or that should be taken with the first pick on draft day.
Am I bold on this claim? Absolutely not. But you and I both know people will try to overthink this and argue for Saquon Barkley. We saw the same song and dance last year when Barkley was coming off his historic rookie campaign, and there were questions about how Cam Newton’s health would affect McCaffrey. I was on the outside of the consensus amongst experts and had McCaffrey above Barkley, but I could see their points and understood where their thought process was. However, McCaffrey’s performance in 2019 ended that conversation for the foreseeable future.
A fantasy season for the ages
In 2019, McCaffrey proved that his versatility is second to none amongst his peers in the NFL. Thanks to his 403 combined touches, he became the 3rd player in NFL history to join the 1,000 rushing / 1,000 receiving yards group. His dominance of backfield touches and the ability to stay on the field played massive dividends into his stats. McCaffrey commanded a majority share that went unmatched in the NFL, garnering 94.8% of all running back touches for the Carolina Panthers.
Finishing fourth in the NFL in attempts, McCaffrey accounted for 287 of the Panthers’ 386 rushes for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns. As for his position group, Reggie Bonnafon was second in carries with 16. Just off rushing stats alone, McCaffrey would have finished as RB11 in PPR leagues for 2019.
Finding a true three-down running back that is not a part of a committee is becoming harder to find every year. As we all know, not all carries are the same, and ones inside the red zone are key to having fantasy success and dynasty longevity. Did McCaffrey see those? Oh yeah, he saw 54 of his teams 64 carries inside the red zone with 32 inside the ten-yard line and 17 inside the five-yard line. Only Ezekiel Elliott (59) had more red-zone rushes, but McCaffrey dominated total touches.
Speaking of total touches, we haven’t even hit on arguably his best attribute, his pass-catching ability. Catching 116 of his 142 targets for 1,005 yards and 4 touchdowns, McCaffrey is just as large of a threat catching as he is rushing. Not only did his targets blow out the rest of the running backs, he saw the eigth-most in the entire league. His 116 receptions, however, were 2nd-most in the NFL.
When the Panthers needed a first down to keep a drive alive, no one in the NFL was relied on more than McCaffrey. No one even came close to his combined 115 first down conversions. For those in dynasty or redraft leagues that had bonus points, this could have been the difference in a win or loss.
What to expect in moving forward
One of the best things we learned in 2019 was that McCaffrey proved to be essentially quarterback-proof. In reality, McCaffrey had a better year than ever due to the poor QB play. While there are plenty of questions surrounding the Panthers’ future, this is one that I am not overly concerned with. There is the distinct possibility that we have seen the ceiling as trying to duplicate this would take a herculean effort. However, I don’t think the floor is anything below an RB4 at worst. Out of 16 games, McCaffrey had less than 10 points only once yet went over 30 points eight times. Being able to draft a player with a 20 point floor with a 40+ point potential is as good as it gets.
I do expect to see players like Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley to have better years than they had in 2019, but the gap is still too large to justify them above McCaffrey. Only being 23 years old, he gives your dynasty team stability for years to come and that you can build around. If someone comes to you wanting him in a trade, whatever they offer, double it. Throw in a kidney while you’re at it. 2020 will be a year of running backs. Whether from players moving around in free agency, trades, or the incoming highly-valued 2020 rookie class, McCaffrey is far and away the leader of the pack.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.