Christian McCaffrey ‘Hopeful’ To Return Sunday: Here’s What It Could Mean For His Fantasy Outlook

Christian McCaffrey ‘Hopeful’ To Return Sunday: Here’s What It Could Mean For His Fantasy Outlook article feature image

Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) seems like a coin-flip to make this official return this Sunday against the Patriots — we don't know if he was a full or limited participant in practice this week since teams don't have to make that designation for players coming off IR.

Below, I review the latest updates and analyze what fantasy football managers could expect if CMC is active.

Click the dropdown to expand more details on his injury

Christian McCaffrey Injury Report

Latest status (as of Saturday): Head coach Matt Rhule said on Friday that the team is "hopeful" McCaffrey will return this Sunday.

Earlier update (as of Thursday): The Panthers designated McCaffrey for return as of Wednesday after a five-week stint on injured reserve.  This opened a 21-day window for him to resume practicing, which he did in a limited fashion on both Wednesday and Thursday, according to The Athletic's Joe Person. (Note that teams are not required to assign an official practice designation to players returning from IR.)

McCaffrey missed all but three games in 2020 with ankle and shoulder injuries, and we haven't seen him since the first half of the Panthers' Week 3 contest in Houston this season. He exited that game due to injury after recording nine touches for 40 all-purpose yards.  He finished as  RB1 versus the Jets in Week 1 and RB3 versus the Saints in Week 2 in half-PPR scoring.

The Stanford product could make his return as early as Week 9 at home versus New England's middle-of-the-road defense, which ranks 15th against fantasy running backs. His absence has been palpable for the Panthers and fantasy managers alike: The team is 1-4 and is averaging just 19 points in the five-game stretch without McCaffrey.

Worry-o-meter: 5 out of 5.

Fantasy Outlook If Active

He is a must-start if he plays and would immediately vault back into the RB1 conversation.

Editor's note: While McCaffrey is still likely a must-start in fantasy if he's active, head coach Matt Rhule did say on Friday that CMC wouldn't take on his typical workload.

Fantasy Outlook If Inactive

If McCaffrey is not ready in time for this week, Chuba Hubbard would continue to see the majority of the work out of the Panthers' backfield; Royce Freeman and Ameer Abdullah have been mostly non-factors and have combined for 108 rushing yards and zero touchdowns this season.

Since Week 3, Hubbard is the RB18 in half PPR, averaging 11.3 fantasy points per game. He is a mid-tier RB2 if McCaffrey is out.
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