Christian McCaffrey

ESPN reassesses regrettable McCaffrey-to-49ers trade grade

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Almost one year ago, the 49ers swung a trade that altered the course of the franchise.

On Oct. 20, 2022, 10 days before the NFL trade deadline, San Francisco acquired superstar running back Christian McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for four draft picks.

The move gave the 49ers another elite offensive weapon and widely was viewed as a good trade for both teams.

However, not everyone thought so.

After the blockbuster trade, ESPN's Seth Walder originally graded the 49ers' move a "C-", citing McCaffrey's injury history and age as reasons why San Francisco might have made a mistake.

Walder revisited the trades from the 2022 season and now holds a much more favorable view of the 49ers' move for McCaffrey.

49ers received: McCaffrey
Panthers received: 2023 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick, 2023 fourth-round pick, 2024 fifth-round pick

Original grade for the 49ers: C-
New grade for the 49ers: A-

"Let's not bury the lead: I'm taking a huge L here," Walder said. "49ers fans on Twitter/X have been kind enough to remind me of that fact pretty much every day since the deal came out. And do you know what? They were right.

"But what really sold me was not McCaffrey's box score numbers, but the effect he had on the entire offense. Prior to acquiring McCaffrey, the 49ers faced man coverage 39 percent of the time last season, one of the lower rates in the league. After acquiring him, that jumped to 48 percent -- one of the higher rates.

"So why an A-? There are two elements to this grading process: the result thus far and the expectation of what's to come. And while I have little doubt that McCaffrey will remain excellent as long as he's on the field this season, there is that caveat: He's a seventh-year running back who has had injury problems. That heightened injury risk remains. Plus -- and this is not trivial! -- the draft pick cost of this deal was very high, though the 49ers did get 1.5 years of very affordable salary costs and contract control through 2025."

In 16 games with the 49ers dating back to last season, McCaffrey has 258 carries for 1,256 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground with 72 receptions for 632 receiving yards and five touchdowns through the air.

He also has scored in a franchise-record 14 consecutive games, and the 49ers' offense has averaged 30.9 points per game -- the most in the NFL -- since his arrival.

The addition of McCaffrey has taken San Francisco's offense to the next level and there remains little doubt the 49ers made the right move.

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