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Welcome to Week 8 of the 2022 Footballguys Roundtable. Our intrepid panel of fantasy pundits discusses and debates four topics every week. Topics are now split into separate features.
This week's roundtable features these four topics:
- NFL Trade Fallout: Old Faces in New Places (see below)
- Is the NFL's Passing Fest Over?
- NFL Trade Fallout: The Leftovers
- Four Veteran NFL QBs Walk into a Bar...
NFL Trade Fallout: Old Faces in New Places
I have questions lined up about each. Ignore the lame analysis about the value of running backs in managing NFL rosters. It's lame because I'm a running back guy, I'm moderating this joint, and I have no desire for slandering running back value this year while the league can't figure out how to throw against Cover 2.
The first question, McCaffery arguably is the most complete route runner at the receiver position in the NFL but hasn't been used as such. Can he be the next Marshall Faulk in 2023? What do you envision for him for the next three weeks, six weeks, and by season's end, and what's your recommendation for him in fantasy?
Jeff Bell: Judging by Kyle Shanahan's recent running back production, hitting a Faulk level looks bleak. Over the past four seasons, if you Frankenstein Shanahan's tailbacks, they have averaged a hair under 75 targets per season. Faulk's prime four-year run with the Rams saw him at 106 targets per season, while McCaffrey's breakout fantasy ascension put him at 126, with a peak of 142. Ultimately we are playing an accumulation-based game, and those numbers fall short.
But there are beacons of hope. First, flash back to 2015, and Shanahan schemed Devonta Freeman 97 targets in his second season, a number Freeman rode to an RB1 overall season. Second, in Shanahan's first year in San Francisco, Carlos Hyde got a shocking 88 targets. Hyde played 8 NFL seasons and never topped 34 in any other season, so coming in nearly three times as high as his second-best outcome raises eyebrows.
In making this move, we have to assume the 49ers took several factors into play. Their familiarity with McCaffrey's skillset is foremost, and Shanahan's willingness to adopt his offense to fit that skillset. My expectation for this season is McCaffrey combines his efficiency with enough volume to land in the top-five running back range but falls short of game-breaking production. I believe that's a tall ask to accomplish over the remainder of 2022; the 49ers sit at 3-4 and flirt with survival mode.
Moving into 2023 is fascinating. Trey Lance will presumably be back, and Shanahan has not been shy about utilizing his rushing ability. My expectation is a scheme heavy on RPO, the boots the Shanahan offense has relied on, and option elements that depend on Lance's athleticism and easy passes to McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, or George Kittle that lean into their ability to create after the catch. I expect a natural push / pull to occur on McCaffrey's pass game production, the diminishment that accompanies rushing quarterbacks doing the job themselves, and the reliance on his playmaking. We had glimpses of this very early in McCaffrey's career with Cam Newton in Carolina, though the 49ers' target environment is much fuller.
Ultimately, despite similarities in skillset between McCaffrey and Faulk, I expect McCaffrey to fall short of those heights. The deep crossing offense Faulk used to thrive in space is a bygone in today's two high NFL, and the rush factor with Lance will play in. But as McCaffrey advances in his career, less wear and tear and more availability may outweigh his supernova heights.
Drew Davenport: I don't think McCaffrey is going to end up as the next Marshall Faulk. I know that smart coaches are supposed to let personnel dictate their tendencies, but I'm not sure Kyle Shanahan can let go of his ego about his offensive system long enough to do that. In the last 2.5 seasons (2020 to present), San Francisco has not shown a propensity to want to throw to their backs, especially if they aren't named Kyle Juszczyk. McCaffrey should still be a strong RB1 for fantasy purposes, but he's no longer the only show in town. Deebo Samuel and McCaffrey may limit each other's upside, and I don't see his ceiling being wildly different in the bay area. A bump in efficiency will more than likely be offset by a drop in the overall number of opportunities.
Andy Hicks: If McCaffery can avoid the injury bug that has tainted his last two years, that will be a good start. As we have seen with Michael Thomas and D’Andre Swift, to name a couple, the bug is hard to shift for some players. On his merits, he should be one of the most dominant fantasy backs this year, but especially next year. We have seen Kyle Shanahan have great success with late-round and undrafted running backs and not so much with guys drafted higher. I have one foot in the wary camp and will assume he is out of my fantasy radars due to others having a higher risk tolerance.
Joseph Haggan: The outlook for McCaffrey is this: he will be the remainder of the season. He was with the 49ers for mere days and still played 22 snaps. As mentioned earlier, his ability to split wide and run routes matched with strong hands makes him another receiving threat for the 49ers. Kyle Shanahan's run scheme benefits most with athletic runners on his staff. We saw it with Matt Breida thriving and Trey Sermon falling flat. McCaffrey is athletic but with an elite running skillset as well. He has just become another safety blanket for Jimmy Garoppolo.
Jason Wood: I said in our internal chat when the trade was announced it would be malpractice if the 49ers target McCaffrey fewer than seven times per game. As you said Matt, McCaffrey isn't just an able receiver as an outlet, he's a legitimate receiver who could dominate as a full-time slot option if he also wasn't a punishing and creative running back in his spare time. No offensive position is more "plug and play" at the outset, which is why McCaffrey saw significant snaps just days after the trade. He'll learn the nuances of the playbook quickly, and we should expect McCaffrey to be the No. 1 fantasy back in all scoring formats -- if healthy.
Matt Montgomery: McCaffery, if healthy, should be the RB1 for the foreseeable future. The 49ers already had a running back-friendly offense, and they’ve now acquired arguably the best RB Swiss Army Knife the NFL has seen since the days of Faulk and Tomlinson. Get him if you can. He’s likely 1.01 for the next few years, but it all comes down to managing health which the 49ers haven’t had good luck with.
Kevin Coleman: The addition of McCaffrey excites me the most because he is a perfect fit in the Shanahan zone-blocking scheme, which is predicated on the offensive linemen blocking space rather than a specific defender. Shanahan uses his rushing attack to control the offensive tempo and uses outside-zone rushing concepts that benefit speedy one-cut running backs. Shanahan's prototype running back needs three main attributes: explosiveness, pass-catching, and long speed.
If you have watched McCaffrey play, you know he fits all three categories perfectly. He also goes from a line that ranks in the bottom half of the league to an offensive line that is in the top half of the league. Realistically this is the best roster that McCaffrey has ever played on. That should lead to plenty of fantasy points for the rest of the season, but there is concern about his target share. Kevin Cole from PFF had a fantastic thread where he explained that the 49ers have ranked in the league's bottom half in RB target share with Shanahan as head coach. Whether that was based on talent, not scheme, is still a big question but one to watch as the season progresses.
Waldman: The second question: Robinson gets underrated in terms of his skill set but my friend, former RSP writer, and longtime Footballguys subscriber J Moyer has over two decades as a running game coach and knows as much about the scheme as veteran offensive linemen. I've seen this play out as such on social media with the likes of Geoff Schwartz.
Moyer has broken down Robinson in the past, noting how refined he is as a decision-maker and has just enough athletic ability to do everything well. The data backed that up last year with him among the top three in EPA. How do you see Robinson fitting in with the Jets with Michael Carter? Is he being overrated or underrated?
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Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE