Christian McCaffrey named a 2019 AP First-Team All-Pro

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 15: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers walks off the field after their game against the Seattle Seahawks at Bank of America Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 15: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers walks off the field after their game against the Seattle Seahawks at Bank of America Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

In a season marred by injuries to star players, controversial coaching changes and a litany of painful losses, halfback Christian McCaffrey was one of few bright spots in the 2019 season.

In an otherwise brutal 2019 campaign, Christian McCaffrey’s path to glory ended with him becoming one of just three players in NFL history to rack up 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season. This week, his season was capped off with another honor, as he was named to the Associated Press First Team All-Pro squad at two positions.

McCaffrey, completed his third season with the team after being selected eighth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, becoming the first Panthers halfback in franchise history to be selected to the first team All-Pro unit. He also earned a second selection to the All-Pro team as a “flex” player. The selection will certainly bolster McCaffrey’s case for further accolades as the league chooses its season-ending awards next month. Not to mention it will help his case for getting a mega-contract extension this offseason.

With 2,392 yards from scrimmage, the Stanford alum secured his place in the record books with the third-highest single-season yardage total ever.

McCaffrey’s 1,387 rushing yards places him third on the all-time rushing leaders list in Panthers franchise history in a single season, the most since DeAngelo Williams rushed for 1,515 yards in 2008 (Stephen Davis sits at second on the list with 1,444 yards). The accomplishments catching the football were almost as impressive given his position: though his 1,005 receiving yards were good for 17th on the all-time single season Panthers receiving yards list, he now holds the franchise record for receptions with 116 (breaking the record he himself set last season) and had the eighth-highest number of total targets for any Panthers player in a single season in franchise history.

These statistics add up to one immutable truth: McCaffrey was and is the heart of the Carolina Panthers offense. Between 287 rushing attempts on the season and 142 targets through the air, McCaffrey saw more plays designed for him or ran through him than any other Panthers player in a single season. Without McCaffrey’s offensive production, the team’s ability to win even a single game would have been highly questionable.

McCaffrey’s dependability and durability has made him an invaluable asset to a Panthers team in desperate need of production.

With the uncertainty surrounding Cam Newton’s long-term health and job security as the team’s starting quarterback, and the head coaching vacancy left by the December firing of Ron Rivera, McCaffrey’s value as a safety valve in the passing game could be made even more valuable in 2020 if long-time tight end Greg Olsen decides to retire this offseason.

Though his name became to wane in the league MVP talk as Carolina’s struggles became more pronounced, it could be argued that no team relied more heavily on an individual player than Carolina did with its star running back. His ability to remain on the field for almost every down provided an anchor that gave the team a brief respite following the end of Cam Newton’s season. Even as the team’s mid-season swoon deteriorated into a crippling eight-game losing streak, McCaffrey continued to produce at a steady clip, cementing his status as one of the league’s best overall players.

His historic 2019 campaign will have long-term ramifications for a team in flux moving forward.

Because of McCaffrey’s electric playmaking ability and his relative youth, the team must now weigh its options more carefully in the upcoming NFL Draft. With the seventh-overall pick, the team could be in a position to secure its long-term future at quarterback in what looks to be a historically deep draft for the position. Newton’s ability to remain healthy looms as a major question mark for the team’s next head coach.

Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

Aside from quarterback, especially with McCaffrey producing at such a high level, current GM Marty Hurney may elect to provide additional help to the run game in the form of much-needed offensive line depth. Injuries and inconsistent play from rotational linemen wreaked havoc on the team all season long: reason dictates that placing a premium on tackles or guards that excel in run blocking could maximize McCaffrey’s dynamic skillset and lead to an even bigger year in 2020.

Beyond the upcoming season, looming contract talks will soon become a pressing question; given the attrition rate on halfbacks in the league, McCaffrey will likely be looking to cash in on his success sooner rather than later. Add in his workload and production making him a top star in the league and an indispensable cog in the Panthers offense, one would assume that the halfback will command a King’s Ransom to continue supplying Carolina with its best offensive option.

For now, however the focus rests not on what the future holds for the young superstar, but on what he has accomplished.

Few could argue that McCaffrey’s historic 2019 campaign was anything short of miraculous given the team’s propensity to struggle against even the most feckless of opponents. With so little to hang their hat on in a dismal season, McCaffrey’s run on the record books will long be remembered as one of the single most impressive individual feats in team–or league–history. It will also be remembered as a sign of what could have been had the stars aligned for this star-crossed franchise in 2019.