One of the most intriguing players I’ve been able to study over the first month of the season is Rice wide receiver, Luke McCaffrey. If the last name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. He is the son and brother of former and current NFL players. We know all too well in the Devy community that the last name holds some weight when it comes to college athletes with an excellent chance to make plays on Sunday.
Luke McCaffrey is the son of former three-time Super Bowl Champion Ed McCaffrey and brother to both Max McCaffrey and current dynasty fantasy football stud running back Christian McCaffrey. There’s no doubt that being an athlete is synonymous with the McCaffrey name. The family’s accomplishments run deep, including a silver medal in the 1960 Olympics, a state wrestling championship, and even a National Championship in basketball with the Duke Blue Devils.
Luke McCaffrey is the youngest of the boys from his talented family. Luke has wanted to be a quarterback since he started playing football. He was the starting quarterback of Christian Valor High School in Littleton, Colorado, for one year. That season would end in a state championship. McCaffrey was rated as the number one quarterback in the state. He would receive offers from Michigan, Ohio State, and UCLA before committing to Nebraska to start his college career.
One thing I’ve learned is never to doubt the McCaffrey name. However, Luke struggled to adjust to playing quarterback in the Big Ten while splitting time at the position. He would only appear in 11 games from 2019-2020, throwing just three touchdowns and six interceptions. His struggles as a passer did not shake his confidence, he’s still a playmaker, and during that time, he was able to rush for 530 yards and four rushing touchdowns with the Cornhuskers.
The Transfer Portal
After the 2020 season, Luke McCaffrey would enter the transfer portal and decide to play for the Louisville Cardinals. That was very short-lived after just four months. In the same off-season, he would transfer again, this time to the Houston, Texas area, to play for the Rice Owls. The McCaffreys have a strong connection with Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren who was an offensive assistant at Stanford when Christian McCaffrey was putting dynasty managers on notice as to just how good he was, culminating in a Heisman runner-up finish in 2015.
After appearing in 9 games and splitting quarterback duties again in 2021, it became evident that his dream of becoming a full-time college starting quarterback may be just about dead. Entering the 2022 season, he was offered the opportunity to switch to wide receiver. A challenge he met head-on and has looked comfortable in through his first four games.
When I looked at the numbers, I didn’t include passing stats because I truly believe if Luke McCaffrey is going to be playing at the pro level, it won’t be as a quarterback. His athletic ability shows why he was among the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2019 class. He can create yards with the ball in his hands, which is evident by his nearly six yards per carry average in three of his four college seasons. McCaffrey has averaged 0.3 rushing touchdowns per game. Just imagine if he was a full-time running back in an offense.
The youngest of the McCaffrey boys has made the full-time switch to wide receiver this season with Rice. I’ll be honest he’s far from a stud at the position. He’s still learning, but there’s a lot for future dynasty managers to like. The newly converted wide receiver for the Rice Owls is averaging 6.2 receptions per game and 72.2 receiving yards per game, and he’s averaging 11.6 yards from scrimmage per play. Luke McCaffrey can be used in multiple ways to create offense for the team. Players like this don’t come around often, so dynasty managers should take notes. Savvy dynasty managers should be finding a way to potentially make a move to get him on their Devy rosters.
First, let’s take a look at a 3rd and 8 for the Rice Owls offense against a good USC defense. This is a nice drive route from McCaffrey starting from the slot. The USC defense has a good idea of who would be getting this ball. The defense has a slot corner in man-to-man coverage and a linebacker undercutting a potential down-and-out route run from the wide receiver.
The thing I love here about this route is he made up his mind because of the coverage that he was going to give the corner a jab step inside about three steps into the route. That gives the illusion he was coming inside. That step created separation and made the undercutting LB turn his head. This would allow McCaffrey enough room to become a viable option for his quarterback. The depth of the route is perfect, as is his concentration to make the catch. He makes the reception in a tight zone with four defenders around him and a hit imminent. This is the type of play you regularly see NFL wide receivers make.
The second play I wanted to show you is from the same game against USC. Now Luke McCaffrey didn’t have a huge game with 5 receptions for 51 yards. However, he made a big impact on the game. For reference, they lost the game 66-14 versus a team they were very overmatched against.
We come to another third down, and manageable for the Rice offense. Luke McCaffrey doesn’t get the ball on this particular play, but the motion creates an opening in the defense. This allows his teammate to find enough room in the zone to make a catch and move the chains. As you can notice, the safety comes down in the box to the heavy side of the formation. Once McCaffrey goes in motion, he instantly retreats to play deep. This action puts the USC defense in a tough spot to account for the potential of a swing pass to either side of the field. That gives the Rice offense an easy completion with a wide receiver and tight end both running crossers for a first down.
There’s a special ability to impact the game without ever touching the ball. Luke McCaffrey is one of those players because of his ability to run, catch and throw the ball effectively. The ability to use his knowledge of playing quarterback in his new role as a wide receiver is fun to watch. He’s still learning the position but has an amazing teacher in his dad Ed McCaffrey. That will make this transition as painless as possible.
When your dad averaged 13.1 yards per reception over his NFL career, it would only be right to show Luke McCaffrey hitting a big play. This was one of my favorites while watching the film on him. I did watch a good amount of this game live. Luckily, I created the clip for all the Nerd Herd members to see.
Luke McCaffrey has lined up almost as a flex-tight end in this formation. As motion occurs from the only WR on that side, this forces the defense to freeze. The motion coming across is a fake jet sweep that, if handed off, will likely gain enough yards to get the first down. The inside wide receiver on McCaffrey’s same side runs an odd route. However, it’s effective and pulls up both safeties just enough to allow a one-on-one matchup. The newly converted wide receiver gets the cornerback to bite on a potentially shorter route, then uses his speed to get on top of him and beat him to the post. The rest, as you can see, is history, and McCaffrey hauls in his third touchdown grab of the season.
From a dynasty perspective, I get the feeling this won’t be the last time someone is hyping up Luke McCaffrey. Over the years, we have seen the likes of players like Hines Ward, Julian Edelman, and Anquan Boldin. I’m not planting a flag saying Luke McCaffrey will be this type of player. However, I think there’s a good opportunity to significantly increase his chances of getting drafted now that he’s a true wide receiver. Those dynasty managers that play in deep Devy leagues or even campus to canton formats should be looking to acquire McCaffrey if they can. He’s not a polarizing player by any means. Which makes it more likely to pry him away from the current manager, given he’s already on a team and not readily available.
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