When mock draft projections meet first-round reality, there’s a reason — an obvious, indisputable reason.
In the case of Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey landing in Carolina with the No. 8 pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday evening — as so many predicted — the reason is this: ‘Superman’ needs help.
Cam Newton is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in history, but his offense stagnated last season (15th in the league in scoring at 23.1 ppg) as the Panthers failed to reach the playoffs.
They need help in the running game, the passing game and the return game. McCaffrey all three better than any player in the draft.
“You saw him do everything – line up as the tailback, line up as the halfback, line up as the quarterback in the Wildcat, motion out and run a wheel route, return kicks,” coach Ron Rivera said, via the team website. “This is a guy who you can get the ball in his hands many different ways and quickly …
“We feel like (McCaffrey) is going to be able to get on football right away and help make an impact.”
NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter gave the Panthers an A grade for the selection and noted they “got their guy and didn’t have to move up to get him.”
Others weren’t as complimentary. CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco gave the pick a D — not because of McCaffrey’s talent but because drafting running backs in the top 10 is a risky business.
But the Panthers are desperate to help Newton, who completed just 52.9 percent of his passes and was 28th in the league in quarterback rating. This, one year after an unstoppable season in which he carried the Panthers into the Super Bowl.
What’s more, starting tailback Jonathan Stewart is 30 years old — he had hamstring issues last season — and their top receiver, tight end Greg Olson, was just 20th in the league in receptions.
As an offense, the Panthers ranked in the bottom third in yards-per-play.
They need help everywhere, and McCaffrey does everything.
“He’s going to take a lot of pressure off (Newton),” Rivera said. “Moving him around and watching how defenses react to him is going to be a big thing that’s really going to help our quarterback and help the rest of our offense.”