The Carolina Panthers drafted a running back, slot receiver and kick and punt returner Thursday night – all with one pick.
The Panthers selected do-it-all Stanford scat-back Christian McCaffrey with the eighth pick in the first round, giving quarterback Cam Newton another offensive weapon with a history of making plays all over the field.
McCaffrey was the second running back taken Thursday, after LSU power back Leonard Fournette went to Jacksonville at No. 4.
McCaffrey, the son of former NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey, broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA’s single-season, all-purpose yardage record in 2015, when he also set the school’s single-season rushing record.
McCaffrey matches Tim Biakabutuka (No. 8 in 1996) as the highest selected running back ever taken by the Panthers.
Carolina has a couple of key connections to McCaffrey.
General manager Dave Gettleman was a Broncos scout in the mid-1990s when Ed McCaffrey was a Denver wide receiver. And recently hired Carolina receivers coach Lance Taylor was Christian McCaffrey’s position coach at Stanford.
“This is a dream come true right here. It’s is an unbelievable honor. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for the coaching staff for believing in me,” McCaffrey told ESPN. “I’m so blessed to be a Carolina Panther and can’t wait to grind every single day for that organization, for the team, for the fans, for everyone there.”
McCaffrey watched the draft from his home in suburban Denver rather than attending the festivities in Philadelphia.
Critics have questioned whether the 5-11, 202-pound McCaffrey can take the pounding of the NFL. But McCaffrey averaged 30 touches a game his last two seasons at Stanford, and figures to get the ball in space more than he will between the tackles.
The NFL Network pointed out that only the Packers had fewer receptions out of the backfield than the Panthers last season.
The Panthers’ choice of McCaffrey was all but sealed when Jacksonville took Fournette with the fourth pick. The Panthers liked Fournette, but team officials thought correctly that he wouldn’t make it to 8.
Cleveland took Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the No. 1 pick, and that’s about how long the draft followed form.
Minutes after Garrett was announced, Chicago packaged four picks to San Francisco to move up one spot and select North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky. It was a bold move for the Bears, who are gambling that a player who started only 13 games for the Tar Heels can flourish as a franchise quarterback.
Trubisky became only the fifth UNC quarterback to be drafted -- and by far the highest to be selected.
The 49ers, in their first draft with general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, then chose Stanford edge rusher Solomon Thomas.