It’s not easy to rush for 1,000 yards in today’s pass-happy NFL. It’s also not so easy to log 1,000 yards receiving, not with the number of pass-catching threats teams like to line up on each play. To do both in one season is near impossible. Only three players in the history of the NFL have accomplished the feat: the 49ers’ Roger Craig, in 1985; the Rams’ Marshall Faulk, in 1999; and Christian McCaffrey, then of the Panthers, in 2019.
If one ESPN insider is correct, McCaffrey could be about to make history—the first player ever to record 1,000 yards receiving and rushing in the same season, twice.
“Don’t be surprised if running back Christian McCaffrey has 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving,” Graziano wrote in his annual bold predictions column.
He went on: “McCaffrey has already accomplished this feat once in his career, with Carolina back in 2019, his second year in the NFL. He was 259 receiving yards short of doing it last year despite being traded to San Francisco midseason and having to learn a new offense on the fly.”
McCaffrey Has Developed a Higher Comfort Level
Being more comfortable with coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense is a big key for McCaffrey this season. He was exceptional for the 49ers after he was acquired via trade last season, going for an average of 67.8 yards per game on the ground and 47.2 yards as a receiver.
He’d be well over 1,000 yards if he were to keep the same rushing average going for all 7 games this year (1,152, in fact), though he’d come up short on receiving (802 yards). But because the 49ers and McCaffrey will have more time to adjust with an entire offseason together, the expectation is that he’ll be featured more in the passing game.
Graziano wrote that McCaffreys’ teammates can sense a better understanding of the offense from him. “Left tackle Trent Williams told me when I was at Niners camp that it’s amazing to see how much better McCaffrey knows the offense now than he did last season, and the 49ers expect to see him take off like a rocket ship as a result,” he wrote.
McCaffrey said much the same thing last month in an appearance on the “Papa and Lund Show” on KNBR in San Francisco. Despite being a star with six NFL seasons behind him, McCaffrey made it a point to participate in the team’s OTAs this spring.
“OTAs were great,” McCaffrey said, “just to really understand the concepts and really, not just learn the running back position, but the whole offense, and understand timing with what the quarterback sees and what Kyle sees, and getting timing right with the O-line, and Jusz (Kyle Jusczyk), and the tight ends. So, coming into camp, you’re not playing catch up. So it’s been great to be able to kind of not just learn the offense, but master it.”
McCaffrey Learned WR Skills From his Father
Indeed, the Niners have even shown some occasional looks in which McCaffrey lines up as a receiver, which is not entirely new to him. His father, Ed McCaffrey, played for 13 seasons in the NFL, including one in San Francisco. He went to the Pro Bowl in 1998 and, along the way, imparted some receiving wisdom to his son.
Christian McCaffrey, then, was not brought up to be a running-back-only type. His father saw to that.
“Growing up, just being in the back yard, we were always being taught coaching points and I think some of it, we didn’t even realize we were being taught,” he said. “But, steps, body position, body lean, understanding route trees and timing and spacing—even just watching his highlights and watching guys like him and Rod Smith growing up, who were technicians when it came to route-running.
“Definitely we were groomed in a way to play football, whether it be running back or receiver, whatever it was. I also think just playing multiple sports growing up, being able to put your body in different positions and, even in high school—I played safety, I played receiver, I played running back. I was kind of all over the field.”