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Christian McCaffrey traded to 49ers: Panthers deal star RB in blockbuster for multiple draft picks

With the Nov. 1 trade deadline on the horizon, the NFL has its first major blockbuster. The Carolina Panthers have agreed to trade star running back Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers for multiple draft selections, according to NFL Media and confirmed by CBS Sports NFL insider Josina Anderson. In return for McCaffrey, the Panthers receive 2023 second-, third- and fourth-round picks, plus a fifth-rounder in 2024.

Following the firing of head coach Matt Rhule, the Panthers reportedly began listening to offers for McCaffrey as they look to rebuild. Along with the 49ers, the NFL Network notes that the Los Angeles Rams were also deep in talks to acquire McCaffrey, but he ends up with their NFC West rival. While there was some speculation that the Buffalo Bills, a fellow Super Bowl contender, may be in the mix for McCaffrey’s services, that was reportedly not the case.

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This ends a six-year run in Carolina for McCaffrey, who was selected No. 8 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Stanford. In that time, he blossomed into one of the best all-around backs in NFL history. He became the fastest player in league history to reach 3,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards. The 26-year-old is also tied for the most consecutive games with a reception by a running back with 57.

The deal was able to get done with help from the fact that the 49ers had six extra third-round compensatory draft picks. The picks were from sending Robert Saleh to the New York Jets, Mike McDaniel to the Miami Dolphins and Martin Mayhew to the Washington Commanders over the last few offseasons.

The only thing that has stopped McCaffrey from reaching even higher marks throughout the initial stages of his career has been injury. After playing in every game through his first three seasons, he was limited to just 10 games between 2020 and 2021 due to injury. That said, McCaffrey has been spry coming into the 2022 campaign and has played in 85.1% of the offensive snaps thus far.

Not only does McCaffrey’s elite talent as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield make him an attractive trade target, but he’s also under team control for the foreseeable future as he’s currently under contract through the 2025 season, so he could be part of Kyle Shanahan’s backfield in San Francisco for the foreseeable future.

The Niners needed a talent boost in their backfield after Elijah Mitchell sprain his MCL in Week 1. Where he may specifically help is via the receiving game. So far this season, Niners backs have just 19 receptions, which is tied for seventh-fewest in the NFL. McCaffrey will now headline a group that also consists of Jeff Wilson Jr., Tevin Coleman, and Tyrion Davis-Price.

As for what his addition may mean for this season, CBS Sports research analyst Stephen Oh sees San Francisco moving from a 67.9% probability to make the playoffs to 71.3% in his latest projections. As for the NFC West, their chances to win the division jumped to 52.5% from 49%.

The 49ers take on the Chiefs at Levi’s Stadium this Sunday and it will be interesting to see how much (if any) action McCaffrey sees given how late in the week he’ll be joining his new club. NFL Media reports that McCaffrey is set to fly to San Francisco on Friday. If he plays Sunday, he reportedly is expected to see a red zone package.

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