Christian McCaffrey: The Case for 1.01
The consensus is that Saquon Barkley is the 1.01 in all formats this year. This includes Superflex leagues. While Barkley did finish as the RB1 in PPR formats last season, Christian McCaffrey could have easily surpassed him had he not had just four carries and one target in Week 17. The case can certainly be made that an investment in the soon to be third year running back at the 1.01 is warranted.
Some of the reasons to consider McCaffrey over Saquon Barkley that we will explore are the offensive line investments made by the Carolina Panthers, an insane amount of targets and snaps for McCaffrey and overall opportunities. Let us get right to it.
Offensive Line Investments
Both the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants had offensive lines that ranked in the bottom half of the league last year. However, the Panthers made a more significant commitment to improving the position in the 2019 offseason than the Giants did. This is reason number one why McCaffrey could be considered over Barkley.
Carolina Panthers Notable Moves
The front office of the Panthers selected Greg Little with the 37th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Little profiles more as a zone-blocking lineman than a power rushing mauler. Also taken in the draft was Dennis Daley with the 212th overall pick. One of Daley’s strengths notated in his combine profile is the ability to get out in front on screen passes. Both of these selections fit McCaffrey’s game as he is not a power runner and does his damage in the passing game.
The Panthers started to rebuild their line even before the draft by signing Matt Paradis away from the Denver Broncos. Paradis was brought in to be their starting center, replacing the retired Ryan Kalil. Also returning to Carolina is right tackle, Daryl Williams.
New York Giants Notable Moves
The Giants line came in ranked lower than the Panthers last season. The only draft capital spent by them was selecting George Asafo-Adjei with the 232nd overall pick. Asafo-Adjei only started one year in college and needs improvement as a run blocker.
Similar to the Panthers, the Giants started their offensive line revamping before the draft. They traded for Kevin Zeitler in the Odell Beckham deal, but he is known more for his pass blocking prowess. The Giants also brought in Mike Remmers from the Minnesota Vikings who is recovering from back surgery.
Advantage Carolina Panthers and McCaffrey
From a quick Google search, you can find the Panthers frequently ranked near the top-10 as a unit for 2019, while the Giants still rate near the bottom of the league in the offensive line metric. This bodes well for McCaffrey and raises some red flags for Barkley from a pure football standpoint. This advantage should translate to a fantasy boost for the Stanford grad.
Targets and Snaps
McCaffrey played a ridiculous 91.3% of the offensive snaps for the Carolina Panthers last year. The stud running back hardly ever came off of the field, playing 965 snaps. Compare this to 83.0% and 855 for Saquon Barkley.
The targets were similar in 2018 between the overall RB1 and RB2. McCaffrey came in just three targets ahead of Barkley despite playing 113 more snaps. You might think that this makes Barkley more of a sure bet for targets in 2019. A closer look at target distribution shows a considerable gain for McCaffrey in total team targets.
You can see that McCaffrey was well above league average for the position and even out targeted his teammates most weeks. McCaffrey led his team in targets by a wide margin. The bonafide stud checked in with 124 targets, second on the team was DJ Moore with 82 targets.
Greg Olsen will be back in 2019, and Curtis Samuel is likely to play more. The aforementioned Moore will be in his second year. This all may add up to snake some targets away, but the usage is to hard to ignore.
Saquon Barkley also enjoyed a similar target share as for the Giants. Barkley was second on the team to Odell Beckham in targets with 121 to Beckham’s 124. Gone is Beckham, but the Giants brought in the reliable veteran Golden Tate to man the slot this year. This coupled with a healthy Evan Engram, and Sterling Shephard likely means fewer targets for Barkley as well.
Even if McCaffrey surrenders some targets to Olsen, Samuel, and Moore, he is likely to be targeted heavily again in 2019. McCaffrey just does not come off of the field. Barkley’s outlook is a little less bright with the addition of Tate and some more targets likely going to the healthy Engram and Shephard.
McCaffrey has 187 receptions in his first two seasons, good for an average of 93.5 catches per year. Do not expect that number to drop much if at all this coming season.
As mentioned several times already, McCaffrey does not come off of the field. CMC out snapped Barkley 965 to 853. However, the versatile back made better use of his opportunities than the rookie phenom Barkley did. Despite being on the field more, McCaffrey saw fewer opportunities. The result was a 1.11-to-1 point per opportunity ratio.
In PPR formats, McCaffrey appears to be the better option. He does not rely on rushing attempts to score his points, rather he gets them via targets and receptions. You can see the former did just as well point wise with 42 less rushing attempts and 39 less total chances.
Both backs are ridiculously consistent. Barkley was one game better in this category, finishing as an RB1 in 12 of 16 weeks, compared to 11 of 16 for McCaffrey. They both also scored in double-digit points in all but one of 16 games in 2018. The big shift came in Week 17 when Barkley saw 17 rushing attempts and eight targets to just 4 and 1 respectively for CMC.
It is really difficult to discern an advantage here as both running backs were incredibly reliable, durable and consistent across the entire season. A look at their weekly point per game finishes reinforces this point.
First a look at Barkley.
Here is McCaffrey.
It is really hard to go wrong with either of these running backs as the 1.o1. The opportunity and offseason tea leaves point to maybe a better situation for McCaffrey. Couple that with the fact that McCaffrey added some more muscle this past year to go with the five pounds of muscle he put on before the 2018 season. Do not expect durability to be an issue. Surprise all the owners in your draft and be bold. Draft CMC. THE 1.01 for 2019.