Woody Paige: The Broncos should draft Christian McCaffrey No. 1

Posted at 4:59 PM, Mar 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-03 18:59:40-05

DENVER -- After the 5A Colorado high school championship game, and after talking with the MVP, I wrote a column suggesting a name change for the winner:

"Valor Christian McCaffrey High School."

I doubt that any school in the country ever has or will change its name while the student hasn’t graduated yet.

McCaffrey, the Gatorade Player of the Year in Colorado (for the first of consecutive seasons), was only a junior. He would come back the following season and repeat the feat, as Valor won its six straight state championship.

Wow. McCaffrey was the best high school player I’ve ever seen in Colorado, and I’ve been covering prep games in the state since 1974. (I wasn’t around when Whizzer White was a high school player here.)

McCaffrey set records that never even existed. He’d already announced before we did the interview he was committed to Stanford, where his dad and mom had gone. He was an Olympic world-class athlete, and he was a great receiver for years with the Giants, then the Broncos. The McCaffreys would become the first family of Colorado high school football. Older brother Max went off to play wide receiver at Duke. Even though he was not drafted, Max, at the end of 2016, was on the Packers’ roster.

Dylan McCaffrey was Valor’s senior quarterback this past season. He has signed with Michigan and, in fact, was the only high school quarterback the Wolverines were interested in giving a scholarship to.

And, if that’s not enough, the youngest McCaffrey, Luke, also has agreed to go to Michigan, where he will be a wide receiver.

Some family, huh?

Interesting that the youngest is named Luke. The quarterback that Christian played was Luke – Luke Del Rio.

On that chilly day late in November of 2012, I talked with Christian’s father for a while, then stood on the sideline with Luke’s dad, Jack.

Jack Del Rio was the Broncos’ defensive coordinator. "What do you think about the two boys?" I asked Jack. "I think they both have chances to be really good college players," he replied.

Jack bounced around to a pair of schools (including as a walk-on in Alabama) before finally settling in at Florida, where he became a starting quarterback last season – before separate injuries sidelined him for the rest of the schedule.

That day I talked to Christian at mid-field -- he was quiet, unassuming and humble. "I didn’t play very well, but we won, and that’s all that matters," he said as he held the championship trophy.

I thought he was a bit small to become a big-time player. He was fast and elusive and smart and versatile. He played running back, wide receiver, quarterback, defensive back and as punt and kickoff returner.

The opposing team was so afraid of McCaffrey as a returner they choose to punt every time out of bounds. The last one was so short Valor got great positive, and McCaffrey would score the winning (and only touchdown). The next season McCaffrey went wild, and Valor won with a blowout.

He would go on to become Stanford’s best player – and runner-up – after his sophomore year for the Heisman Trophy. With a new quarterback and injury problems as a junior, McCaffrey, who had been a favorite for the Heisman, slipped back. Still, he turned pro.

And on Thursday at the Combine, Christian was not as quiet and unassuming as the 16-year-old kid I met. He said in interviews he didn’t get the respect of other running backs. "I feel like a lot of people don’t give me credit for the skills and talents I have. It’s just the way it is." He ran the 40 in an impressive 4.49 – after bench-pressing an unimpressive 10 times. But his stock may have risen. It’s thought he could be drafted from 20th in the first round to early in the second round.

And there’s a lot of people in Denver who want the Broncos to draft him at 20th. And a lot of people around the NFL believe he could go to the Patriots with the last pick in the first round.

I’d been somewhat less than overwhelmed about the Broncos picking McCaffrey. But my lukewarm attitude has turned hot.

Baseball talks about five tool players – run (baserun and speed), catch, hit, hit for power, throw.

McCaffrey could be seven-or-eight tool player, almost as he was at Valor Christian.

He was a running back with the Cardinals, but he also played shotgun as a quarterback on occasion. He was a potent blocker. He lined up as a slot receiver and an outside guy. He returned punts, and he returned kickoffs. And I’m sure he could play defensive back if asked.

The 5-foot-11 McCaffrey won’t be a 25-play running back, but he could be change-of-pace second-or-third back for the Broncos, a first-string slot receiver, an outside receiver and, of course, a returner of punts and kickoffs. And he’ll play on defensive special teams, or run out of the punt formation as an up-blocker. It’s not often, or ever, that teams can get such a multitasker or all-purpose player like Red Grange (look him up) or Gale Sayers (who had six touchdowns in one game – catching, running, returning).

The Broncos should draft Christian McCaffrey No. 1. And Valor Christian can change its name, and add McCaffrey.


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