2017 Recruiting: Dylan McCaffrey

Submitted by Brian on August 15th, 2017 at 3:09 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, WR Tarik Black, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, FB Ben Mason, RB O'Maury Samuels, RB Kurt Taylor.

Littleton, CO – 6'5", 210


Scout 4*, #134 overall
Rivals 4*, #131 overall
#7 PROQB, #1 CO
ESPN 4*, #117 overall
#6 PROQB, #1 CO
24/7 4*, #204 overall
#6 PROQB, #3 CO
Other Suitors UCLA, LSU, Neb, Washington, Stanford
YMRMFSPA Also Andrew Luck because he's Brandon Peters 2
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Related to some guys.



Brief senior reel:

Yes, that McCaffrey. This one, Dylan McCaffrey, is a quarterback with a prototypical frame and a long way to go to maximize it. In most other ways he's as far along as anyone else in his class.

He sounds like a McCaffrey, basically. He's taken full advantage of his athletic legacy and arrives in college a technically advanced player. ESPN notes that he plays in a "multiple I-formation" offense with a lot of play action and timing routes—i.e., a high school manball offense. While this may be a bit exaggerated based on his highlights, there are some snaps from under center. He's "the rare QB who can go under center and take a drop," per Scout, and he performs in that context:

prototypical size … very lanky. … very polished player. …nice feel for where to go with the ball pre-snap. … Play-pass ball handling and quickness in his set-up is as good as any in the class. …calm, shows balance and good movement skills in the pocket to work through reads and deliver the football. Very heady and does a great job with feet and eyes under duress. … Anticipation and ability to throw guys open is very impressive. …very impressive tools and footwork … adequate-to-good arm strength and when sound with his footwork can make just about every throw. Compensates with timing and pacing with his feet, drops and delivery. …still blooming and has a high ceiling … will get stronger and thus be able to make deeper throws at the next level.

McCaffrey draw praise for his polish and general McCaffrey-ness in just about every evaluation. Clint Brewster:

…really sees the entire field. McCaffrey makes decisions that put his team in position to win. He is a smart player and really dissects coverage well, with precision accuracy and decisiveness. He makes a ton of advanced level throws and reads on film and can really pick you apart with his arm. His mobility is just the icing on the cake.

McCaffrey's mechanics in the pocket are very polished, especially for a player with his type of upside and mobility. His pocket presence and footwork really set him apart from others in the class.

Greg Biggins:

tremendous upside. … 6-5 but can move around in the pocket and has no problem escaping pressure and either making a throw down the field or running … can throw with heat or with touch, is accurate to all three levels of the field and shows poise and a calmness in the pocket beyond his years. … extremely bright quarterback with a high football IQ. … checks off every box you could want in a next-level quarterback. He has not only the physical tools but more importantly, the makeup required to lead a big-time program.

There are some disagreements about his physical abilities right now. McCaffrey does not have a Mallett/Morris cannon. Arm strength takes range from the generally positive ("velocity is already above average; McCaffrey can zip passes into tight windows with confidence") to the middling ("good arm, not a great arm"; "won't necessarily wow anyone with elite arm strength").

McCaffrey's motion produces similar disagreements. Drevno asserts that he "loves the way he throws the ball … he's got a quick release"; ND's 24/7 site praised his "clean, compact motion" and footwork. On the other hand, when 24/7 started moving him down from his near five-star status after the Elite 11 Barton Simmons said he "has a glaring technical flaw he needs to clean up," without any explanation as to what exactly that was. Rivals mostly talked about his option game in a post where they explained a move down; the scouting report sounds like a different player entirely:

McCaffrey was impressive in operating the option read in the game we attended earlier this season, tucking the ball when he could and making plays with his feet, but he struggled a bit throwing down field. He certainly has the athleticism and awareness that makes him a terrific game manager at this stage in his development, but he should probably be lower in the rankings until he proves he can be a top-flight passer.

Their take was very much an outlier, though Brandon Brown did note his "passing motion can look slow and deliberate."

This space is usually dubious about "intangibles" since they're typically nonsense feelingsball, but we'll make an exception for quarterback recruits since there are some actual attributes that get shoved in there. QBs can get shook in a way that doesn't really happen to running backs or wide receivers or anyone else who doesn't have to stand still and hope that a 270-pound man isn't about to barrel into his back. The ability to keep calm and carry on reading defenses, especially on the road, is a real skill. I'll also admit that I believe that QB leadership can have a tangible on-field impact. So too the invisible stuff that happens before the snap. Organization is a real QB skill.

So. One thing that the above scouting reports touch on are those intangibles, which McCaffrey appears to have in spades. Scout gave him a 10 in that department:

…pure pocket passer with good athleticism and a great feel for the game …very good footwork and poise. He's a natural leader with the arm strength needed to make all the throws and is able to escape pressure and make a play with his legs.

Tyler Donohue had an extensive McCaffrey breakdown with a detailed section on the brain stuff McCaffrey has going for him:

Family lineage and elevated football intelligence make Dylan McCaffrey one of the country's most compelling quarterback prospects. … Impressive mental aptitude in terms of digesting a complicated playbook; excelled in this facet at the Elite 11 Finals. A competitive athlete who commands his offensive huddle with authority. Selected by Elite 11 counselors as finalist with the strongest leadership attributes. Mental intangibles and potential for physical growth create high-ceiling projection. …presents the playbook diligence and mental fortitude coaches covet. His personality, athleticism and smarts suggest he'll be ready to follow family footsteps toward stardom when opportunities arrive in Ann Arbor.

And his high school coach provided some details on the way McCaffrey's abilities were already paying off for his team:

“…he got us into the right play so much with kills and alerts at the line of scrimmage, that really allowed us to be in the right play against the defense we wanted to run it against."

An early ESPN article on their then-junior 300 emphasized this aspect of his game as well:

"…this kid will be offered by every program that is taking the pro-style, multiple approach that requires a great deal of the quarterback at the line of scrimmage and to run the offense -- both in the run and pass game."

Simmons summed it up well: "the way he processes what's in front of him is elite."

A couple of those scouting reports mention McCaffrey's ability to move, which is significant. Rivals actually had him listed as a dual-threat QB for most of the cycle, and in crunch time last season his team started relying on his legs more than any other in their possession. His high school coach

“Especially in the playoffs, we relied a little bit more on his legs: he ended up being our leading rusher. He was able to get us 3-5 first downs a game with his legs in addition to what he could do with his arm."

In addition to completing two-thirds of his passes for nearly ten yards a pop, McCaffrey rushed for around 600 yards with ten touchdowns and even caught three passes. Other scouting reports that touched on his athleticism call him "very athletic," "mobile but a pure pocket passer," and the like.

Harbaugh himself said he's "very athletic and he's going to be able to move." With Brandon Peters possessing approximately the same level of mobility, Michigan's going to be able to design their offense with a half-dozen or so QB carries in mind no matter who emerges in a post-Speight world.

Speaking of, if all of this sounds barely distinguishable from Peters, yep. 24/7 called him another version of Peters, one "maybe even more talented," when he committed. A different analyst followed that up when they saw him at the Elite 11:

"a lot of similarities between McCaffrey and Brandon Peters. …similar calm to his game and seems to play without panic … really high release point … unorthodox route to get there. … just a guy that has a maturity about him."

At the level of specificity this series aspires to these guys are almost the same prospect.

They ended up at the same point in the rankings, eventually, but at one point McCaffrey was ranked the top QB on the composite not because any one scouting service was particularly high on him but because all four thought he was a top-50-ish prospect. He steadily dropped over the course of the cycle. His most precipitous drop came after the Army game. He was busy attending that award ceremony where he zinged his parents on the first day, and when he arrived he was naturally behind the other guys in attendance:

…looked a little out of sync … was late on some throws but he certainly flashed that major potential as well with some nice throws while also displaying he can be an RPO threat in Ann Arbor getting loose in practice with his legs as well.

struggled a bit on the first day, never really settling into a rhythm with his receivers.

He would settle in as the week went on, but criticism continued. Some of it gives off a whiff of Wormley Derangement Syndrome wherein a recruiting guy is talking about putting together a high school all star team instead of projecting to the next level:

… showed the most poise and accuracy but lacked the arm strength to make deep and tight throws.

McCaffrey is 6'5" and probably 30 pounds from the finished product. The arm strength will come. You can't make the same assertions about fireballers without any vision.    

The resulting drop was dramatic. 247 slid him almost 150 spots, and McCaffrey went from 51st in the composite to 123rd. And that's fine. If it's me, I'm not looking at a guy named McCaffrey who's going to play QB for Jim Harbaugh and knocking him down the list based on this amount of data

only got to lead the West offense twice in a scrimmage format, he threw a bad interception in one of them … being looked at based on (literally) a handful of throws

…mostly because he's not as far along physically as some other guys in his class.


Etc.: My man:

“It was Denard Robinson," he said. "I loved watching him! They were definitely tough to beat. I laid out all the options, so I really did look at all the schools that I was interested in. It just so happened that they fit me best."

There have been some doozies but this is the saddest MSU recruiting article of the cycle:

MSU DB target Cumber beats Michigan QB commit McCaffery

Cumber committed to Colorado State.

Why Also Andrew Luck? He's the same recruit as Brandon Peters so he gets the same comparison. Luck is a pocket passer with plus athleticism who was ranked in about the same range coming out of high school.

Guru Reliability: High. Heavily scouted QB, All Star and Opening appearances. More or less total agreement rankings-wise, but some scouting wobbles.

Variance: Moderate. Competition level and tendency to drop when put in those All Star appearances do give some pause, as does a certain amount of projection needed to get him to 230 and assimilate increased arm strength into his repertoire.

Ceiling: Vast. 6'5" guy with some wheels and an advanced ability to process information. McCaffrey's top end is bonkers.

General Excitement Level: Very high. I mean… McCaffrey QB coached by Harbaugh seems pretty all right.

Projection: Harbaugh QB means redshirt, especially when there are three guys in front of him. Assuming Speight maintains the job McCaffrey will be in a three-way competition for the job with Peters and Joe Milton in 2019. That competition could come a year early if Speight takes off and heads to the NFL.


Les Miles

August 15th, 2017 at 11:23 PM ^

I also remember seeing that on his espn recruiting page and assumed that was his sparq info. I think he must've had a bad jump and didn't finish the sprint on that run because espn now has a 4.87 listed for him which seems more realistic base on his tape. A .3 second difference is more than a few steps.

Espn must take the lower of your two runs because they had a higher time for Rashan than his best as well. I wish there was more transparency in how they publish their times or a database. Nico Collins had a 4.70 which is super adequate for a player his size but espn is no longer showing that on his profile. Not sure what they're doing over there


August 15th, 2017 at 3:35 PM ^

From his 'Hello' post:


McCaffrey's Hudl page lists a Nike-verified 40 time of 5.18, which gets zero FAKEs out of five. He's not his brother; he still has enough athleticism to break the pocket and pick up first downs."


August 15th, 2017 at 4:33 PM ^

I agree. This blog loves to hype up Peters, but I sincerely don't think he's going to do much at Michigan. I just can't bet against the McCaffrey family and think he will be our guy once Speight leaves.


August 15th, 2017 at 3:28 PM ^

so who would have seen this comment and not broken down in laughter of disbelief 2 years ago??

That competition could come a year early if Speight takes off and heads to the NFL.


August 15th, 2017 at 4:14 PM ^

He's also 6 inches taller than his brother and far less developed.  Give him a couple years in a college S&C program and I wouldn't be surprised to see that time drop to the 4.8 range which is plenty fast for the offense Harbaugh runs.  He certainly has the genes be a decent runner.


August 15th, 2017 at 4:57 PM ^

He is way faster than 5.2. Who comes up with this crap?. Love all the contradictions from the so called experts from the recruiting sites. Once again proving that one of them is always wrong about a recruit. Remember helmholdt and rivals has Ryan and Mayfield as to skinny to be four stars but 247 has them as top 100 in the country. Do any of these guys ever get called out for how wrong they are ?. 247 has Simms as the # 39 corner in the country and everyone else has him as a top ten guy so why are there recruiting sites in existence ?.


August 15th, 2017 at 3:55 PM ^

and I'm very excited about his future. He does need to improve his arm strength some, but that will come with putting on more muscle, I think listing him at 210 right now might be a bit generous, I would think more 195.  I think 220 would be a good solid weight for him to play at.

He has good athleticisim and enough speed to make things happen when a play breaks down. He reads defenses well and spins the ball nicely. A couple of years under JH and I think by 2019 he could have a great shot at the starting job.


August 16th, 2017 at 10:13 AM ^

IF Speight takes off.  If.  Last season, Speight at his best was a beast.  His stats were dragged down by regression to bad habits when he was rattled and/or injured.  If you extrapolate the games he was on -- not cherry-picking throws or stats, but the actual games where his mechanics were clean for better or worse -- you have one of the best QBs in the country.  Harbaugh uber alles.  Again, the attenuating factor here is his inconsistency.

I think it's unlikely that he leaves early, but it's not out the realm of possibility.  In the scenario where he cleans up his mechanics for good (I'm skeptical that'll happen but just saying), he'll be irresistible to the NFL.


August 15th, 2017 at 5:44 PM ^

Based on the trajectory of the 2018 & 2019 classes, it wouldn't surprise me if the resulting order would be something like:


2019 > 2017 > 2016 > 2018 > 2015


Overall a pretty damned solid haul.  Clearly the recruiting isn't about just getting one specific player, or even getting one incredible class. It's about stacking up a solid 3-4 classes in a row to fill out the roster & then create some continuity so you can get into a "reload" type of pattern rather than "reload".


Giddy up.


August 15th, 2017 at 4:59 PM ^

DCaff had 1,735 (HS) career rushing yards and 36 rushing TDs to go along with his impressive passing stats. I think he's closer (or will be) to the 4.8-4.9 range. He may not be explosive out of the blocks (like Christian) but he's got long strides (like his dad) that can get him past the markers.

He's got the genetics, tools, cast, and coaching to become a great QB. How fast he grows/develops has yet to be seen. Thankfully, it won't need to be rushed.

AA Forever

August 15th, 2017 at 6:28 PM ^

People were spewing the same nonsense about Gardner, and this is just as silly.  Speight will be good, but not great, and that does not qualify him for an early exit.  He is not a dual threat and he is not an elite passer.

Speight will be the starter here this year and next, no matter how good Peters or McCaffrey look.  Harbaugh will always put experience over talent at QB.  After that, the two of them get to fight it out, but it's a fair bet that one of them will never be the starter here.  Either McCaffrey will pass Peters for 2019, and Peters will grad transfer to get a year starting somewhere, or Peters will be locked in as starter his 4th and 5th years, and McCaffrey will leave rather than wait until he's a 5th year senior to get his chance.  


August 15th, 2017 at 10:40 PM ^

Ah, okay. I think I missed the word "here" previously. Of course that means we're basically talking about two seasons, one in which he went with the more experienced guy (Rudock) over guys with comparable or less talent, and the other in which he went with the less-experienced QB (Speight over O'Korn).

Stringer Bell

August 16th, 2017 at 7:34 AM ^

That's some real goalpost moving.  You said Harbaugh will always choose experience over talent, that clearly wasn't the case last year when he chose Speight, a guy who had no starting experience, over two guys who did have starting experience, one of whom was a starting QB for over a year.

AA Forever

August 16th, 2017 at 2:26 PM ^

There are no examples HERE of Harbaugh replacing someone who has started with a more talented player who hasn't. I stand by that. O'Korn was never Harbaugh's starter, and what he did before he stepped onto the practice field at Michigan has no bearing whatsoever on how Harbaugh grades him out. None. Zero.

AA Forever

August 16th, 2017 at 9:08 AM ^

You mean if it looks like he's going to be replaced as the starter in 2018? That's unlikely, but even if it happens, if he's not even the best QB on his own team, how is he possibly going to be good enough for early NFL entry? If it came to that, he'd grad transfer first.