The San Francisco 49ers acquired Christian McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers on Thursday evening in exchange for several draft picks in 2023, as well as a fourth-round pick in 2024. As such, the 49ers have made a significant move by adding another top weapon to Kyle Shanahan's offense. It takes McCaffrey away from the Panthers' dormant offense, and it should bump up his fantasy value moving forward. Here we'll try to look at the three biggest Fantasy Football winners and losers after the Christian McCaffrey trade.
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McCaffrey was the main weapon on the NFL's least-productive offense this season. He accounted for 158 of Carolina's 203 total yards last Sunday, and he's now joining a run-first squad stocked with talent. CMC and Deebo Samuel are two of the league's most versatile offensive weapons, and they'll be lined up together for the rest of the season. That's a nightmare for San Francisco's opposition for the rest of this season.
It's difficult not to see this as a tremendous triumph for McCaffrey, both in fantasy and in reality. If you enjoyed his output in the Panthers' offensive wasteland, you're going to love the outcomes when he's tied to a squad that likes scoring points.
Having said that, the 49ers have completed only 19 passes to running backs this season. That is among the lowest totals in the NFL, but we should have faith that Shanahan and his staff aim to maximize McCaffrey's abilities. Keep in mind that over six games, CMC was averaging 111.7 scrimmage yards per game. That means he is on pace for over 1,900 for the season. There's no reason to believe he can't continue to gain yards at the same clip for the Niners, but now with the added bonus of a weekly touchdown.
Aside from McCaffrey himself, here are the three biggest Fantasy Football winners and losers after the Christian McCaffrey trade.
Winner: D'Onta Foreman takes Christian McCaffrey's spot
In terms of the Panthers backfield, we see D'Onta Foreman as the solid choice for the new RB1. Recall that Foreman was signed to a one-year contract this summer after showing promise with the Tennessee Titans in 2021.
While he will split some time with second-stringer Chuba Hubbard, Foreman is the bigger and more dynamic back. He also saw more snaps than Hubbard last weekend. Foreman carried the ball five times, while Hubbard had only two. That might indicate that he's the frontrunner to see the majority of the action for the rest of this season.
While neither Hubbard nor Foreman has seen any red-zone action this season, based on past use, Foreman looks to be a better fit for that job. Again, he is the somewhat larger of the two backs, which is where teams seek short-yardage and goal-line work.
In deeper leagues, Hubbard might be worth a look if coach Steve Wilks goes with a hot-hand style. Having said that, if your fantasy team is looking for a possible starting running back who can also serve as a weekly option, Foreman is the best choice right now.
Loser: Jeff Wilson, Jr. gets fewer touches
Of course, adding Christian McCaffrey reduces the worth of 49ers RB Jeff Wilson. If McCaffrey plays for the 49ers against the Chiefs in Week 7 (which we expect), we would recommend benching Wilson. If the team holds out CMC, managers can still use Wilson as RB2 or a flex option. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, McCaffrey is a contender to play against Kansas City on Sunday and may be used in a red zone package. In that environment, Wilson may continue to be active in his team's Week 7 running assault. However, his fantasy value should fall down in the coming weeks as McCaffrey's workload climbs.
Wilson will be expected to play a supporting role with CMC now in town. Though Wilson leads the 49ers with 81 carries after six games, once McCaffrey learns the playbook, he'll handle the majority of the team's backfield touches.
Wilson's fantasy value was originally projected to fall when Mitchell returned, but any remaining sell-high possibilities have basically vanished. The best-case scenario for Wilson's fantasy worth is if McCaffrey plays this week and he gets double-digit touches. Looking ahead, though, it's clear that Wilson's tenure as the premier running back in Shanahan's scheme is coming to an end.
Loser: Elijah Mitchell takes a backseat
Erstwhile 49ers starting running back Elijah Mitchell was a hip, cool player to choose in this year's fantasy drafts. When he returns from injury, however, he will see a vastly altered landscape awaiting him. In the post-CMC-trade era, Mitchell's best-case scenario appears to be eight to ten touches per game and goal-line work. That's if the 49ers want to preserve McCaffrey in such circumstances.
Again, when Mitchell returns, the expectation is that he will be the primary backup candidate to CMC. This is the caveat, though — given Mitchell's and McCaffrey's injury histories, it would not be surprising to see them share touches for the rest of the season.
If you had great plans for Mitchell in the second half of the 2022 NFL season, better seek alternatives. While the 49ers have a healthy McCaffrey, they will limit Mitchell to a rotating role. You can keep him on IR for now, but count on his rest-of-season prognosis to sink.