Scout compares Christian McCaffrey to Brian Westbrook
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Those are two of the primary questions NFL scouts will face in evaluating the former Stanford star running back, whose versatility as a receiver and return specialist will make him an attractive option for NFL clubs in search of a multi-skilled player at the position. Comparisons for McCaffrey are plentiful, as NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks learned in asking various scouts and personnel executives about him.
An NFC area scout, in fact, worked two McCaffrey comparisons into the same sentence.
“You know (he’s going to be compared) to Marshall Faulk, but I see him more like Brian Westbrook,” the scout said. “He is a change-of-pace back and a returner. He will make some plays, but I don’t think he can be your No. 1 guy with cheap jerseys.”
Like McCaffrey, Westbrook wasn’t especially big (5-feet-10, 203 pounds) but fashioned a highly productive nine-year NFL career, mostly with the Philadelphia Eagles. Westbrook’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield generated nearly 4,000 career receiving yards. McCaffrey won the Paul Hornung Award as college football’s most versatile player as a sophomore in 2015, amassing an NCAA record-breaking 3,864 all-purpose yards.
Brooks offered New England Patriots RB Dion Lewis as his own comparison for McCaffrey. An AFC senior personnel executive described McCaffrey as a bigger, faster version of Los Angeles Chargers RB Danny Woodhead, while an NFC senior personnel executive warned of a bad comparison that might also be made.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins joined GameDay First on Saturday ahead of the divisional playoff games to answer that question.
“I’d rather play against Tom Brady, because at the end of the day I know he’s going to be three yards from that center and he’s not moving from that spot,” Jenkins said. “You can get after him and try and get pressure on him. He’s obviously going to still make plays but the one thing about playing Aaron Rodgers is, if you want to get after him, he’s good at beating you no matter how he does it.
“Whether he’s mobile, you get him out of the pocket and he’s just as accurate. He can buy time. He’s smart enough to change the plays at the line of scrimmage and get ’em in advantageous plays, get the ball out quick. He does it all. He’s Russell Wilson and Tom Brady combined. And he’s the hardest player, for me in terms of a quarterback, to play against.”
For now, this argument will be reserved for the bar stool as we wait for both of these players to weave their way through their respective divisional brackets. Rodgers will be taking on the Cowboys in Dallas Sunday while Brady and the Patriots take on the Texans Saturday night.
Jenkins’ perspective is interesting because, as a safety, he is often the player a quarterback keys on to unlock the defense. As we saw on earlier in the same GameDay First segment, Brady can capitalize on the slightest misstep from a deep safety and turn it into a 79-yard bomb to wide receiver Chris Hogan.
For some players, the combine is a confirmation that a player will be a top pick. Mayock recalled Calvin Johnson wasn’t going to run at the 2007 combine. However, his competitive juices got flowing after seeing other receivers run the 40-yard dash. He borrowed a pair of shoes and ran a 4.3. The Georgia Tech product was second pick by Detroit in the draft.
“I pulled him aside and said, ‘You know you’re faster than that,'” Mayock said. “He cleaned it up at his pro day and ran a 4.4. The point being that Joe is a good reason for a kid to work out at the combine. If you don’t like what you did there, you get a second bite of the apple in your pro day. If you do like what you did, you don’t have to run the 40 again.”
This week, Mayock is looking forward to getting a deeper perspective of this year’s draft class. He said he wants to see how the quarterbacks “spin it in person” in passing drills.
Mayock thinks it will be fun to watch the drills of solid running back class that features LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.
Mayock, though, says the combine also is about shining a spotlight on the lesser-known players who have a chance to move up on draft boards this week. He points to Lorenzo Jerome jersey, a safety from St. Francis. He had two interceptions and a forced fumble in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January.
“We were going, ‘Who is this guy?'” Mayock said. “Then you watch his tape, and you see he can play. But I don’t know how fast he is. I am anxious to see what he does at the combine.”