Christian McCaffrey may be the most polarizing player in fantasy football heading into the 2022 season. Injuries have caused him to miss 23 games over the past two seasons combined, but he can also be a league-winning fantasy player when healthy.
McCaffrey’s supporters claim that his recent injuries were “unlucky,” while his detractors spotlight on how much time was missed due to ailments that were not considered “major” maladies. Ultimately, McCaffrey has been heavily banged-up over the last two years to the point where he has predictably lost his status as a consensus No. 1 overall pick.
Both the McCaffrey backers and dissenters have legitimate sides in the debate. If McCaffrey returns to his usual form, he could be the top running back in fantasy football again, or close to it. But if you don’t want to spend a first-round pick on a guy who has been largely unavailable over the past two seasons, that makes sense, too.
Christian McCaffrey: When Is The Right Time to Draft Him In The First Round?
In early 2022 drafts, McCaffrey has an Average Draft Position of 3.8 in PPR leagues, according to FantasyPros.com. That is third, only behind Jonathan Taylor and Austin Ekeler. It’s also a bold ADP given McCaffrey’s recent injury history.
Taylor is the consensus No. 1 overall pick in fantasy football after a huge 2021 season, while Ekeler is arguably the most prolific pass-catching RB in the game and finally became an effective goal-line runner last year as well. Meanwhile, McCaffrey could lose some goal-line opportunities to the likes of D’Onta Foreman this season, as fewer carries in big piles of bodies near the end zone could help preserve him more.
But who should McCaffrey be taken ahead of? Let’s look at the players being drafted just after him and provide our takes.
Cooper Kupp (4.0 overall ADP): Kupp could be one of the safest picks in all of fantasy football this season. Even with natural regression from last year’s gaudy numbers, his statistical floor is higher than the ceiling of most other fantasy WRs. He’s still playing in the same situation that produced his historic 2021 campaign.
The Game Day Call: Kupp over McCaffrey.
Derrick Henry (4.4): This is a tougher call because Henry is coming off a Jones fracture. He was able to make it back for the playoffs last year, however, and never missed significant time before last season. As such, he carries less risk than McCaffrey.
The Game Day Call: Henry over McCaffrey.
Najee Harris (6.2): Both running backs are versatile and could be busy bailing out mediocre quarterbacks as pass-catchers. But Harris is obviously fresher entering his second pro season and may be a more consistent goal-line presence than McCaffrey.
The Game Day Call: Harris over McCaffrey.
Justin Jefferson (6.6): He is the wideout most likely to challenge Kupp for No. 1 WR honors in fantasy football this season. The Vikings may pass even more this year, which makes Jefferson worth top-4 overall consideration.
The Game Day Call: Jefferson over McCaffrey.
Dalvin Cook (7.8): Cook is a durability risk as well, but he’s played at least 13 games in each of the last three seasons. This is another close call that McCaffrey loses because of all his missed time recently. Make any excuses you want for McCaffrey, but Cook has been more readily available.
The Game Day Call: Cook over McCaffrey.
Ja’Marr Chase (9.0): I just can’t recommend McCaffrey over a WR that had 1,455 receiving yards and 13 TDs as a rookie. Chase is going to be a superstar for a long time and doesn’t have any of the injury concerns that surround McCaffrey.
The Game Day Call: Chase over McCaffrey.
Davante Adams (10.8): He can still be a quality WR1 for fantasy purposes, but Adams gets a QB downgrade and will have to share targets with Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow in Las Vegas.
The Game Day Call: McCaffrey over Adams.
Other Considerations: Alvin Kamara vs. McCaffrey is a close call, but Kamara has less scoring potential in New Orleans’ post-Drew Brees era. Stefon Diggs is just a cut below Kupp, Jefferson, Chase, and maybe Adams. Joe Mixon is a solid pick, but McCaffrey is a bigger part of his team’s offense.
Conclusion: We are recommending McCaffrey at No. 9 overall. That is a fair compromise considering his recent injury history while also factoring in the tremendous impact he can make on your fantasy team if he stays healthy. McCaffrey is still worthy of a first-round fantasy pick, but we cannot ignore the number of games he’s missed over the past two seasons.