The Christian McCaffrey trade officially kicked off the latest rebuild for the Carolina Panthers. Losing a player as great as McCaffrey is never easy for a fanbase, especially when there are so few good players on the roster. However, when looking at the return and the current state of the franchise, it’s clear that the Panthers got the better end of the deal.
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Christian McCaffrey Trade A Painful Win For Carolina Panthers
For those living under a rock, the Carolina Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers late Thursday night. In exchange for the running back’s services, the Panthers received second-, third-, and fourth-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft along with a fifth-round pick in 2024. While none of those picks seem like much on their own, they add up to quite the value.
If you’re curious how I got this. I took the 20th pick in the 2nd-4th round and added up the F-S draft value assigned to that. I discounted the 20th pick in the 5th round (2024 pick) to a middle of the round pick in the 6th round and added that value also. Comes out to 4th pick
— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) October 21, 2022
Christian McCaffrey is a phenomenal talent, but getting this type of return for a running back is a fantastic deal. It’s no secret that the running back position is largely plug-and-play, and you don’t need superstar talent to get impressive production. For example, McCaffrey missed most of the past two seasons, and the tandem of Mike Davis, Ameer Abdullah, and Chuba Hubbard were able to do an adequate job in his absence.
Most running backs are completely interchangeable, but losing McCaffrey will hurt the offense a little bit. However, the team is in a position where the short-term offensive losses are easily offset by the long-term needs of the franchise. McCaffrey is 26 years old, which means that he is getting close to the end of his career.
Running backs have notoriously short careers, and Carolina’s former first-round pick probably only has another year or two of elite play left in his tank. The Panthers are a long way away from being ready to compete, and it wouldn’t make sense for Carolina to waste McCaffrey’s final years on a team that doesn’t stand a realistic shot at a deep postseason run.
Christian McCaffrey Helping A Rebuild
The McCaffrey trade signals the official beginning of yet another era for the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback is easily the most important position in the NFL, and any successful rebuild begins with finding a franchise quarterback. After spending the past few seasons loading up on journeyman passers, the Panthers need to turn to the draft and invest in a true franchise passer.
The 2023 NFL Draft is supposed to be a good quarterback class, and the Carolina Panthers are on a collision course with a top-five pick. The team currently has the worst record in football, and it’s hard to see that improving any time soon with P.J. Walker leading the offense and D.J. Moore serving as the only reliable receiving threat.
As of this posting, the Panthers are set to enter the 2023 NFL Draft with seven picks. Of those seven, three will be in the first two rounds and six will be in the first four. The Panthers have an enviable amount of draft capital, thanks in large part to the McCaffrey trade.
Carolina’s first-round pick is their own, which will almost certainly allow them to select their quarterback of the future. Assuming this happens, the Panthers can use their remaining picks to bolster the rest of the roster and create an environment where a young passer can succeed. If, however, the Panthers accidentally win a few games, they have the draft capital to trade up and select their next quarterback without mortgaging their future.
Again, from an emotional standpoint, it hurts to see a player like Christian McCaffrey leave by way of a trade. However, from an objective standpoint, the Panthers weren’t ready to win and received a massive haul that should speed up their rebuild and put a competitive team on the field.