Count Mike Mayock among the many NFL draft experts who believe Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey would look great in a New England Patriots uniform.
Mayock, an NFL Network analyst who specializes in draft coverage, told Peter King of The MMQB he can envision McCaffrey thriving in coach Bill Belichick’s system — though he doubts the 20-year-old still will be on the board when the Patriots are scheduled to pick at No. 32.
“I would be surprised if he lasted that long, but I am in 100 percent agreement with you,” Mayock said when King asked whether the Patriots would be “a perfect landing spot” for McCaffrey.
“The NFL’s become a matchup league, and Christian McCaffrey is a matchup player. You can line him up anywhere: the I, slot, all the way out wide, sidecar to QB, he becomes a chess piece for a smart offensive mind. He will run 4.5 (40-yard dash) or better, and I’ve never seen him get caught from behind. He’s going to be a very good NFL player.”
King’s line of questioning showed he feels similarly about McCaffrey, who possesses the type of versatility Belichick covets. In three seasons with the Cardinal, the 6-foot, 200-pound back racked up 6,987 all-purpose yards — 3,922 on the ground, 1,206 through the air and 1,859 on kick and punt returns.
The Patriots already boast two talented pass-catching backs in James White and Dion Lewis, but if LeGarrette Blount signs elsewhere in free agency, they’ll have a need for more depth at the position. McCaffrey, who left school after his junior season to enter the draft, certainly would be an option if he’s still available at the end of the first round or if New England acquires a higher pick via trade (looking at you, Jimmy Garoppolo).
It’s debatable whether drafting a running back in the first round would be the best use of the Patriots’ resources, though. We’ll have a better handle on that conversation once we see how they proceed with their nearly two dozen impending free agents.
If Dont’a Hightower or Martellus Bennett leaves, for example, linebacker or tight end would shoot to the top of the Pats’ list of priorities. Cornerback and safety also could be areas of need depending on where Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon end up this offseason.
That topic will be debated plenty in the month leading up to draft night. For now, McCaffrey will spend this week trying to separate himself from the rest of this year’s loaded running back class at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
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